Masked members of the Jewish Defense League attempted to burn torn pages of a Qur'an torn as they counter-protested about one thousand young American Jews peacefully protesting the extreme Zionist American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) 2017 conference, in Washington D.C on Sunday, March 26, 2017.
It was the largest anti AIPAC protest in history. With 100,000 members, AIPAC is a pro Israel organization which “demands unquestioning allegiance to the state of Israel” according to Rob Bryan, who attended the conference last year. “AIPAC is far more of a political organization than a religious one, but its politics are based on a deliberate misreading of history that erases the Palestinian people and whitewashes Israeli crimes,” he writes.
Protesters were called Nazis and other slurs by pro-Israel JDL members for standing against thousands of new settlement homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and for the rights of the people around the world. The Israeli right wing has hailed his election. The Trump administration closely aligned itself with Israel and supported the settlements with a ‘carte blanche’.
AIPAC recently gave a $60,000 gift to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that has played a key role in designing the Trump administration's attempts to ban Muslim immigrants and refugees. The protesters said that the older generation that runs AIPAC and organizations such as AIPAC do not represent them. With megaphones, tambourines and songs they asked for a re-imagining of what Judaism means in today’s world.
Members of If Not Now, a Jewish movement lobbying to end the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation, chained themselves to blockade the entrances of the Washington Convention Center. The group states that, “AIPAC has used fear to silence moral voices and falsehoods to justify the occupation,” for many years. IfNotNow chapters from Boston, New York, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and D.C. came to “publicly reject AIPAC and their “pro-Israel at all costs” politics that continues to enable and fuel the Occupation—now entering its 50th year—while making concessions to the anti-semitism and Islamophobia of the far right”, according to a statement. The movement formed after the last operation on GAza and had three demands: Stop the War on Gaza, End the Occupation, and Freedom and Dignity for All. Many of them were arrested by the police.
This year's conference was opened by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, with remarks from US Vice President Mike Pence, as well as a speech by the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.
“I’ve never seen the sort of anti-semitism we’re seeing today, but despite bomb threats and desecrated cemeteries, AIPAC has chosen to remain silent,” Sara Sandmel, an If Not Now member from Boston, said in a statement. “This proves without a doubt that AIPAC will be pro-Israel at any cost, prioritizing the occupation over the safety of the Jewish community and other marginalized people in America.”
Jewish protesters were joined by activists from Code Pink, Answer Coalition and Dr Cornel West, swelling the original crowd.
In Maryland, Senators Bobby Zirkin and Delegate Kramer have introduced an Anti-Boycott Bill (House Bill 949, Senate Bill 739) that the ACLU-MD says would allow the state to assume the role of censor in matters of political controversy and is against the First Amendment. The bills prohibits the government from doing business with those companies who boycott Israel; they could be denied state contracts and pension fund investments under this legislation.
The global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and upholds Palestinian rights was initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005. It is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), established in 2007. BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.
BDS targets Israel is for the Occupation and rights of the twenty-percent of non-Jews (Palestinians) inside of Israel. Palestinian Civil Society deems that once freedom, equality and justice is obtained, BDS will cease.