A large protest took place Sunday at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C., where demonstrators called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and declared: “Jews won’t be free until Palestinians are free.”
The protest of the powerful, pro-Israel lobbying group was organized by the Jewish anti-occupation group IfNotNow, which said in a press statement ahead of the action that the goal was to “to reject American Jewish support for 50 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and expose the near silence from AIPAC and other Jewish institutions on the discriminatory policies and harmful politics of the Trump administration.”
Yonah Lieberman, one of the co-founders of IfNotNow, told the Huffington Post that it was “the biggest ever Jewish-led protest of AIPAC.” A statement released Sunday from the group says that over 1,000 people took part.
The group dropped banners inside the conference reading: which read “IfNotNow Rejects AIPAC and the Occupation #JewishResistance,” and temporarily blocked off two of the main entrances to the conference.
Some of the protesters took to Twitter to provide photos and videos of the action:
“The choice has never been clearer for the American Jewish community: We cannot oppose the Trump Administration without also opposing the 50-year-long occupation. Trump and Bibi [referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,] are two sides of the same coin and we have a responsibility to resist both. We invite all Jews of conscience to be the leaders that our community needs,” said IfNotNow spokesperson Morriah Kaplan from New York City.
“Those of us protesting AIPAC and supporting the broader resistance to Trump are acting on the core moral values of Judaism: freedom and dignity for all,” she added.
The women-led, progressive group CODEPINK was also protesting outside the conference.
Outlining its opposition in a call-to-action, it wrote: “AIPAC demands billions of dollars and unquestioned support for Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine and crippling siege on Gaza. They oppose the Iran nuclear deal and lobby congress to fund the Israeli military at the expense of American communities who need safe water, quality schools, and mended infrastructure.”
CODEPINK members held banners reading: “Every settlement is an obstacle to peace” and “Free Palestine.”
Among the politicians speaking at the conference was Vice President Mike Pence, who told attendees Sunday: “After decades of simply talking about it, the President of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
That move, as CNN wrote, “would mean that the U.S. effectively recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That would overturn 70 years of international consensus, and, many argue, would effectively signal the end of moves to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The conference comes as President Donald Trump has signaled his “support for Israeli aggression,” such as his pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
Friedman, who was confirmed last week, “has been a fervent supporter of [illegal] Israeli settlements, an opponent of Palestinian statehood, and staunch defender of Israel’s government,” the Associated Press wrote. Politico also noted that Friedman, who lacks any diplomatic experience, has accused “the State Department of anti-Semitism and compar[ed] left-leaning Jewish activists to ‘kapos’—a reference to Jews assigned by Nazis to oversee prisoners at concentration camps.”
Human rights group Jewish Voice for Peace had opposed, Friedman citing his “dedication to advancing Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, his support for extremist Israeli policies, harsh attitude towards critics of Israel’s occupation, and anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia.”
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