On Saturday, April 20, some 75,000 rallied in Washington to promote a new state of Palestine.

I was in the thick of it.

No, I was not there to support Yasser Arafat’s terror state. I was there to address a counter-demonstration organized by the Washington chapter of FreeRepublic.com.

The Metro ride into the capital that day was alarming enough. At each stop leading into the city, more Muslims, Arabs and Arafat acolytes boarded the train. They wore Palestinian flags. They carried Israeli flags in which Swastikas replaced the Star of David. They spoke mostly Arabic.

But, I noticed upon arriving at the Mall, the most common placard was one that read, “Free Palestine.”

It’s hard to argue with that short slogan. I, too, would love to free Palestine. Specifically I would like to free it from its association with the terrorist dictator Yasser Arafat. I would like to free all Arabs from the tyranny under which they live everywhere except Israel.

However, I don’t think that was the intention of that banner.

The people carrying it obviously think Arabs would be freer under the leadership of Arafat than they have been under Israeli rule.

At several points during the counter-rally, some of the 75,000 pro-Arab demonstrators moved across the street and literally surrounded the freedom-loving, flag-waving, pro-American activists who still vividly recalled Sept. 11. It took action by Washington’s finest, including some on horseback, to drive back the Arafat lovers.

There were some tense moments.

It was an amazingly sad day in the nation’s capital. It came just seven months after Sept. 11 – and the rally was just a few miles from one of the terrorist targets.

America was denounced over and over again. President Bush was equated with a terrorist. Israelis were equated with Nazis.

Some of the demonstrators recognized me and approached me in conversation.

“You know, I used to read WorldNetDaily regularly,” one said. “I don’t read it much any more. It has become a mouthpiece for the Zionists.”

From there the monologue degenerated into a diatribe of condemnation replete with the most vile obscenities and anti-Semitic imagery you could imagine. I can’t even paraphrase what was said on a family-friendly newssite.

And that’s the key. What brought many of these characters out to the Capitol Mall was, quite simply, a vicious hatred of Jews.

While they talked about “ending the occupation,” it was disingenuous double-talk. Not one speaker, not one banner protested the only real occupation in the Middle East – the military occupation of Lebanon by Syria. Instead, they were referring to Israel’s defense of its own sovereign territory – land won in a defensive battle with its neighbors 35 years ago.

Freedom? It’s a concept the demonstrators didn’t even understand. It’s a concept sadly unknown in the Arab world. It’s a concept seldom raised in all the dialogue over the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Yet, it’s a concept that must be addressed. If we are ever to achieve peace in the Middle East, it must be accompanied – even preceded – by an explosion of freedom and liberty.

Former Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne Kirkpatrick explained back in the 1980s that self-governing nations or free republics seldom attack one another. You can check the historical records and judge for yourself. If you want peace, seek justice and freedom. Peace follows.

In the Middle East we are making a huge mistake by putting the cart before the camel. We won’t have peace – we can’t have peace – as long as the Arab world, and most of the Muslim world, lives under tyranny. The creation of yet another totalitarian police state under the lifelong rule of Yasser Arafat will do nothing for the cause of peace.

It won’t happen. It can’t happen.

So, what do all those “Free Palestine” banners really mean?

Unfortunately, they do not represent an acknowledgement that it is time for a truly free Arab state. From what I observed April 20, what the demonstrators really want is a Palestine free of dissent, free of opposition and, most of all, free of Jews.

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