Community and state leaders gathered Sunday at Synagogue Emanu-El in West Ashley to discuss their support for Israel as officials from the Jewish nation head to Cairo to begin talks for a lasting peace with Hamas and the Palestinian people.
More than 120 people attended the event, which featured speakers including South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach. The Charleston Jewish Federation sponsored the event.
"It's not an international or a national issue," Wilson told the crowd of the fighting between Hamas and Israel. "It's a personal issue. It's personal because if the United States turns its back on Israel, it will no longer be the great nation that it is."
Wilson and Clemmons have both supported pro-Israel laws in recent years. Wilson supported a bill signed into law in June that prohibits South Carolina businesses from investing funds or contracting with international companies that have invested at least $20 million in Iran's energy sectors. In 2011 Clemmons helped pass a resolution in the General Assembly that commended Israel on its relationship with the United States and South Carolina.
Clemmons on Sunday defended Israel's right to protect itself from the barrage of rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza.
"If 11,000 rockets had been fired from Canada into Buffalo, N.Y., would we have responded?" Clemmons asked. "If 11 rockets had been fired from Canada into Buffalo, N.Y., would we have responded? If one rocket had been fired? Yes ladies and gentleman we would."
The fight between Israel and Hamas began on July 7 with an exchange of rocket fire after Israeli planes damaged a tunnel dug by Hamas from inside the Gaza Strip. Nearly 2,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations. Three Israeli civilians have been killed in the conflict as well as 64 Israeli soldiers.
In recent weeks the two groups have engaged in a series of tentative cease-fires, and Israeli and Palestinian leaders are scheduled to engage in peace-talks in Cairo in the coming days. The latest cease-fire is expected to end late Monday.
Local groups in Charleston have held a series of prayer events and demonstrations over the past month supporting both sides.
Dr. Ghazala Javed, who was among more than 100 people from the local Muslim community who demonstrated last month in support of Palestinians, said on Sunday that the Palestinian people are "more or less unarmed" fighting against a well equipped Israeli army.
"The people are the judge and the facts are there on the table," she said.
Javed, who is a member of the Central Mosque of Charleston, hopes the fighting between the two groups can come to an end soon.
"We just want peace and justice," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.