KINGSTON >> A total of about 100 people on opposite sides of the current Israel-Gaza conflict raised their voices — and signs — Tuesday on a Broadway sidewalk in Midtown to state their positions.
The protesters, holding placards with such statements as “Long Live Israel” and “Free Gaza,” were in front of the Seven21 Media Center building, where U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, has a district office.
There was back-and-forth shouting at times, but the demonstrators remained relatively calm under the watchful eye of Kingston police officers.
Cheryl Qamar of Saugerties said she attended to bring attention to the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.
“I am here to protest the Israeli siege of Gaza,” Qamar said. “... Israel has declared war on the very people they are occupying. It is against international law and it is a crime against humanity.”
Israel supporter Bruce Tuchman, a member of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County, sees things differently.
“Right now, Israel is fighting for its survival, as they have been fighting for their survival since 1948,” Tuchman said. “They [Hamas] are the people who put their children in harm’s way just to get a headline. It is disgusting, and Israel gets blamed for everything.”
Tuesday’s gathering initially was advertised as a pro-Palestinian event sponsored by the groups Middle East Crisis Response and Hudson Valley BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions). Local pro-Israel residents then organized a counterdemonstration.
Israel on Tuesday unleashed its heaviest bombardment in a 3-week-old war against Hamas, striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that Palestinian officials said shut down the strip’s only power plant. The station’s shutdown further disrupted the supply of electricity and water to the 1.7 million people packed into the narrow Palestinian coastal territory.
The heavy strikes, a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “prolonged” campaign against Hamas, were a new blow to international efforts to reach a sustainable truce in the fighting.
Israel has vowed to stop the Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of tunnels that have been used by the militants to infiltrate the Jewish state.
For his part, Gibson said he hopes the two sides “come to the peace table” and resolve their issues.
“I think I join all Americans in praying for a peaceful resolution,” Gibson said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Gibson said he supports Israel’s recent actions, given the firing of rockets into the country by Hamas and its construction of underground tunnels.
“Israel has a right to protect itself, and I stand with Israel to do that,” Gibson said. “Hamas is committed to violence and has used terrorist attacks to advance its cause.”
Gibson also said he “welcomed” the protesters and “look(ed) forward to hearing their views.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.