Israeli conflict hits home with Tampa rally

Tampa, Florida -- In downtown Tampa today, hundreds of people gathered to rally in support of Israel.

The demonstration took place around the same time that a Tampa teenager, who had recently been beaten by Israeli police, was testifying on Capitol Hill.

Half a world away from the conflict in the Middle East, Tampa's Lykes Gaslight Park was buzzing with pro-Israel sentiment.

"This city, this state, and this country, will stand with our allies in Israel," said State Sen. Jeff Brandes.

See also: Bay area teen talks about attack by Israeli police

Brandes was among the estimated 300 people urging support for the Jewish state, as well as Tampa's sister city of Ashdod. Not far from the border with Gaza, the town has repeatedly been the target of Hamas rocket fire.

"In Israel, it's 1938 again," said Pastor Scott Thomas of the Free Life Chapel in Lakeland, "Hamas is one of the new Hitler's raising its head, and he must be decapitated."

During the rally, the sound of Sirens filled the air, giving people in downtown Tampa a small dose of the anxiety that organizers say Israelis live with every day.

"We want to see peace, we are not against the Palestinians, but we are against Hamas," said Colman Reaboi, a local Cantor taking place in today's demonstration.

Less than an hour after the Tampa rally, a much different take on the conflict was unfolding in Washington D.C.

Tampa teenager Tariq Khdeirr, 15, who earlier this month was beaten by Israeli police, was part of a panel of speakers taking part in a briefing on Capitol Hill.

Another take:PunditFact on impact Gaza conflict has on water

There, they raised questions of the legality of Israel's tactics, and the United States unwavering support for Israel.

"Nothing can justify restraining the hands of a child and beating him, after his hands are restrained," said Hassan Shibly, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.

"But nonetheless," said Shibly, "Israel has a history of blaming the victim and fabricating lies to do that, and we've documented that."

Asked whether there would be another rally in the Tampa area anytime soon, organizers of today's event offered a more optimistic answer.

Hopefully, they said, we won't need one.

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