Thousands Protest: Demand Palestinians be given homeland By SUZANNE ROZDEBA and GREG GITTRICH, Daily News Writers

Sunday, April 08, 2001

Middle East tensions spilled out on the streets of Manhattan’s East Side yesterday as thousands of protesters rallied outside the Israeli Consulate to demand that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homes in Israeli-occupied lands.

Waving posters with images of bloodied children and screaming words of protest in English and Arabic, Palestinian New Yorkers and supporters called on the U.S. to stop all funding to Israel and fight for the return of all refugees to their homeland.

Cops keep an eye on Palestinian rally outside Israeli Embassy in Manhattan.

“International law stipulates that we have the right to return,” said Arjan El-Fassed, co-founder of Al-Awda, the Palestinian coalition that called the protest.

“I don’t think U.S. taxpayers want to pay Israel to continue to kill children.”

The crowd, unofficially estimated at 5,000, began assembling outside the Israeli Consulate on 42nd St. and Second Ave. in the late morning and soon stretched more than three blocks.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the throng — packed with children and teenagers — marched to Union Square, where they listened to a passionate speech from Palestinian scholar Edward Said.

Protesters accuse the U.S. of sponsoring terrorism by funding Israel.

“This is a battle against an imperialist colonial power,” Said said, winning a roar from the crowd. “This is not Palestinian violence. This is Palestinian resistance.”

Many of the protesters, some of whom came from as far away as San Francisco, carried placards with anti-Israeli slogans including “USA: Stop Funding Israeli Terrorism,” “Down with Israel” and “Zionism = Racism.”

Before reaching Union Square, protesters wearing masks threw stones at a green cardboard representation of an Israeli tank.

Traffic was tied up along the route, but police reported no arrests, despite a few heated arguments between the demonstrators and a handful of Israeli supporters.

“The U.S. is just on the brink of understanding what is going on,” said Palestinian refugee Reen Abu Sbaih, 29. “People don’t see the human side of Palestinians. We want freedom. We want justice.”

The insistence that Palestinian refugees who fled Israel when it was created in 1948 be allowed to return is one of many longstanding issues that persistently stoke violence in the Middle East.

The refugees and their descendants are spread out in camps across the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

The Israeli Consulate was closed for the day, and its officials could not be reached. But Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn) blamed Palestinian leaders for the many failed attempts at peace in the Middle East.

Similar pro-Palestinian demonstrations were held yesterday in Canadian, Australian, Spanish and Palestinian cities.

With Michael O. Allen