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Stan Shulster is honorable, acted heroically

I'm writing this after reading Wednesday's Tribune story regarding my neighbor Stan Shulster. I have not spoken with Stan about this, but felt I must write because of the distorted and damaging impression conveyed by the story.

I've known Stan for a decade, and learned a lot about him. He is a retired attorney. He loves this country, and served proudly in the Naval Reserves on the JAG staff. He was born in The Netherlands before World War II. His parents escaped with him, avoiding a horrible fate in Hitler's death camps. Many of his close relatives, who did not leave, were brutally murdered by Hitler's minions.

Stan grew up loving America and its traditions of freedom and liberty. He also grew up loving the new state of Israel, and caring about its survival as a haven for survivors of the Holocaust, who wished to redeem the promise of an ancestral homeland. He traveled to Israel a number of times to volunteer in peaceful and supportive ways. In the U.S., he worked to strengthen ties between Israel and his beloved America.

For Stan, it was great happiness to attend the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, gathering in Washington, D.C., with thousands of supporters of Israel, from all backgrounds, who understood that the well-being of both the U.S. and Israel were intertwined.

I can only imagine Stan's excitement on learning that both President Barrack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to be honored speakers at the AIPAC gathering, and that Netanyahu also had been invited to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Stan received a coveted ticket to sit in the Congressional Gallery for the Netanyahu speech in recognition of his services to democracy.

This is a wonderful story of a constructive life. But Stan, like myself, remembers a terrible day in 1954 when four angry individuals from that same Congressional gallery, unfurled a banner, and began shooting our elected representatives below, wounding five of them. Here's Wikipedia's summary:

The United States Capitol shooting incident of 1954 was an attack on March 1, 1954, by four Puerto Rican nationalists who shot 30 rounds from semi-automatic pistols from the Ladies' Gallery (a balcony for visitors) of the House of Representatives chamber ... .

The attackers ... unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and began shooting at the 240 Representatives of the 83rd Congress who were on the floor ... .

Five representatives were shot in the attack. ...

The attackers were immediately arrested. All ... were given minimum sentences of 70 years in prison ... .

The moment that the woman charging Stan and others with assaulting her, suddenly stood up and began shouting and unfurling a large object (which turned out to be a banner), every instinct in Stan would have pushed him to protect our Congress and Netanyahu, and to prevent the danger of violence and injury to them. He could not know whether this angry, shouter was carrying a weapon or a bomb, He couldn't know if she had armed confederates elsewhere in the gallery.

Instead, his instincts as a good citizen led him, without thinking but with the impulse of a heroic American, to prevent yet another act of desecration at the heart of our government. Without premeditation, Stan reached out, at potential risk to his life and limb, and grabbed what this angry, boisterous person was attempting to deploy. That she then lost her footing and fell across the intervening row of seated guests was entirely her own fault.

Hopefully, many of us also would have acted to prevent a possible tragedy. In this case, one man did, and it was Stan Shulster.

The perpetrator of this event, Ms. Rae Abileah, was entirely in the wrong, and placed many people in danger by her actions. She seeks to make publicity in this case and to frame the event as a squelching of her free speech rights. It was nothing of the sort. The rules of Congress require order and decorum in its visitor galleries. Even a congressman on the floor of the Congress during a joint session is considered boorish and contemptible for shouting: "You lie." How much more contemptible is it for a guest to create a sudden disturbance and interruption in a crowded gallery where, if others panicked at her behavior, many might have been injured?

The gallery was packed. There were no police or ushers to stop a disturbance or violence against our representatives. Only alert citizens could place themselves between those representatives and potential danger. Stan did this and for this deserves our support and gratitude.

This was not a matter of suppressed free speech, but of a responsible citizen acting selflessly on behalf of all of us.

Al Silbowitz lives in Ashland.