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Protesters say no land for peace

January 04, 2000

ProtestersBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Israel's prime minister and the foreign minister of Syria Tuesday held a face-to-face meeting aimed at moving toward peace, but not everyone was pleased.

cont. from front page

Pro-Israeli demonstrators showed up to protest any deal in which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak might surrender control of the strategic Golan Heights, won by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Protests led by ultra-Orthodox Jews were held at a designated demonstration area at Morgans Grove Park along W.Va. 480 outside of Shepherdstown and outside Shepherd College's Butcher Center, where hundreds of journalists are covering the talks.

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Outside the Butcher Center, protesters chanted and carried signs reading "Peace for Peace, Not Land for Peace" and "Barak is a Traitor."

Relinquishing the Golan Heights, which Syria has set as the price for peace, would leave Israel's northern border unprotected, protest leader Levi Huebner said.

"The Golan is our security," Huebner said. "Peace will be in security and trust in our neighbors."

Barak initially supported Israeli control of the Golan Heights, but there are signs he is changing his mind, which has angered Israelis, said Evelyn Hayes, one of about 40 protesters who gathered outside the Butcher Center.

Hayes said she was one of 50 protesters who boarded a bus in Brooklyn, N.Y., and traveled to the talks Tuesday. Two additional busloads of protesters arrived in Shepherdstown Monday night, she said.

Lubavitcher Hasidic JewsHayes said there is a deep appreciation of the Golan Heights among Israelis. It is a serene area, dotted with wineries and other agricultural operations. In fact, she said, it resembles the Shepherdstown area, and asked how Shepherdstown-area people would feel if their home were taken away.

Hayes said her family is from Israel, and she hopes to return one day to live with her children there.

The protesters, many of them Hasidic Jews, sang, and one man strummed a guitar.

About 40 representatives from the New York-based group America for a Safe Israel and about 40 children from a Hebrew school in Silver Spring, Md., participated in an afternoon demonstration.

Police reported no problems during the demonstrations.

The activity attracted the curious town residents.

Shepherdstown resident John Lowe said he was playing golf at the nearby Cress Creek Golf and Country Club when he heard horns and other commotion coming from town. Some of the protesters used megaphones to get their point across.

Lowe and a friend decided to go to the Butcher Center when they realized some activity was centered there.

"My great-great-grandfather would have been surprised at all of this. This is just unbelievable for me," Lowe said, watching the crowd.

Philip Reeker, director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Press Relations, said the demonstrators' feelings show the complexity of the issues around which the talks are centered.

"These people really illustrate it," he said. "It's a topic that draws a lot of emotion."

The demonstrators' arrival heightened apprehension among some Shepherdstown residents who opposed staging the peace talks in the town because of feared security problems and inconvenience.

"There is a real concern people have that the way of life we all love here in Shepherdstown is somehow diminished by this sort of thing," said Steve Warner, owner of a local advertising agency.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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