Read Stephen's bio and previous columns
February 10, 2009
Opportunity for the Palestinians
The Palestinians, the old adage goes, never miss an opportunity to miss
an opportunity. One of those missed opportunities happened early last
month, when members of the rival factions Hamas and Fatah clashed on the
steps of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.
No, not in Ramallah or Gaza City. St. Paul.
The occasion, which was captured on YouTube and made the blogosphere
rounds a few weeks later, was a rally held on the steps of the capitol
to protest Israel's invasion of Gaza. At the rally, organized by
pro-Palestinian groups in the Twin Cities area, protesters chanted
slogans, waved Palestinian flags and listened to guest speakers, who
included Keith Ellison, the congressman from Minnesota's fifth district
and the first Muslim ever elected to the U.S. Congress.
As the 10-minute YouTube video (recorded by a group called "Minnesotans
Against Terrorism") shows, a schism soon developed during the rally, as
rival supporters of the Hamas and Fatah factions began shouting at each
other. When a member of one group burned an Israeli flag, the Fatah
supporters objected. Later, speakers loyal to Fatah were booed by Hamas
supporters, and vice versa.
But the most remarkable part came when Ellison spoke. The congressman,
who had been invited by the Fatah faction, spoke in favor of a peaceful
resolution to the conflict. In the face of demands that he condemn
Israel's actions, Ellison said repeatedly that "I'm not here to condemn
anyone," at which point the crowd booed and demanded that he leave.
When a Fatah spokesman took the microphone and asked them to stop, he
too, was booed and asked to leave. As Ellison left, he was shouted at by
the Hamas faction, who screamed "We are all Hamas."
After viewing this video, I have three observations:
1. I had no idea there were actual open, vocal Hamas supporters in the
Upper Midwest of the United States. It's one thing to be a peacenik, or
even sympathetic to the Palestinians' plight. But to support a full-on
terrorist militia? To paraphrase what an old professor of mine used to
say about the Communist Party, signing up for Hamas isn't like joining
the College Democrats.
2. If the Palestinians can't get their act together in a small protest
on the steps of the capitol in a free country, I don't feel so great
about their chances for reconciliation in the West Bank and Gaza.
3. The person who came off looking the best from this was . . . Keith
Ellison. As long as he's been on the scene, the right has been calling
Ellison an Islamic radical, with Glenn Beck going so far as to ask him,
live on CNN Headline News, to prove that he's not working with our
enemies. But one time he was near actual radicals they booed him off the
Sure, Ellison represents a unique district, in which there are large
numbers of both Jews and Muslims, so it behooves him to not lean too
much to one side. But still, he handled himself quite well in this
situation. Which is especially embarrassing for those gathered, because
if Ellison isn't the only member of Congress who would appear at a
public pro-Palestinian rally, there can't be more than three or four
Note: The video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/user/VoicesAgainstTerror
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column #
Request permission to publish here.