Washington Thousands of people gathered near the White House on Saturday, even though the president was out of town, to condemn U.S. and Israeli policies in the Middle East.
Speakers in Lafayette Park energized the mostly Muslim crowd with chants and speeches condemning Israeli involvement in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, U.S. support for Israel and U.S. involvement in Iraq.
"Occupation is a crime," the crowd chanted, equating the situations in the three areas.
"We all stand united against the violence and the killing in the holy land," said Esam Omesh, president of the Muslim American Society, a co-sponsor of the demonstration, along with the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee and the National Council of Arab Americans.
"There is no difference between Muslim life, Christian life or Jewish life," Omesh said.
In San Francisco, about 2,000 people marched in support of Lebanese and Palestinians and against the Israel military action.
"The occupiers are being seen as the victims, and I'm really ashamed of what is going on in the Middle East," said Alicia Jrapko, a member of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which organized the rally.
Several hundred counter-demonstrators gathered to show their support of Israel, waving American and Israeli flags. "Hezbollah out of Lebanon!" a protester's sign said.
The family-friendly crowd was filled with Muslims, but also contained many non-Muslims, including a handful of orthodox Jews. Yeshaye Rosenverg, 23, traveled form Monsey, N.Y., to "show the support for the Lebanese and Palestine people and to make clear that it's not a Jewish fight between Arabs and Jews."
A law enforcement official on the scene estimated that there were about 5,000 people attending the rally and subsequent march through the streets of Washington, which was sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition, the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation and the National Council of Arab Americans.