DC rally chides Obama for handing 'blank checks' to Israel

While many pro-Israel Americans are upset with US President Barack Obama's criticism of Israel, others are just as angry over the president's support for it

DC Anti-Israel Protest 521 (photo credit: AARON GAGLIA)
DC Anti-Israel Protest 521
(photo credit: AARON GAGLIA)
While many pro-Israel American Christians are upset with US President Barack Obama’s criticism of Israel, other groups are just as angry over the president’s support of the Jewish state.
As Obama readied for his second inauguration recently, a coalition of pro-Palestinian organizations rallied in Washington to express displeasure for Obama’s perceived pro-Israel tilt, even addressing the president in mocking tones.
On January 21, the Saturday before Obama’s second inauguration, pro- Palestinian activists gathered at Farragut Square in Washington, DC, for a rally denouncing the Israeli “occupation” and urging Obama not to give a “blank check” to Israel through unconditioned foreign aid.
The event grew out of an earlier open letter to Obama, signed by mostly religious organizations, which called on him to “please condition US aid to Israel on compliance with US and international law.”
The letter challenged Obama that peace between Israelis and Palestinians “became even more elusive during your first term, but the American voters have just given you a second chance to make history.”
The tone at the rally, however, turned very derisive of Obama, including repeated digs at his increased use of drones to battle terrorists, a tactic first proven effective by Israel.
“Somebody said that Martin Luther King had a dream. And unfortunately President Obama has a drone. And we need to challenge him on the contradiction of that,” insisted Rev.
Graylan Hagler, a vocal proponent of boycotts of settlement products and senior minister at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington.
“People have been silent too long” over Israeli atrocities against Palestinians, Hagler charged. But he assured the crowd that the Church is becoming more sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians.
Hagler called on Obama to do more than just speak of justice.
“Don’t just mouth it. Do it!” he urged.
The master of ceremonies at the rally then jokingly told the audience that “if you go in the mirror and say Obama three times, a drone will appear with an Israeli flag.”
The “No Blank Check for Israel” rally came two days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so the event was replete with more allusions to Dr. King.
Phyllis Bennis, from the Institute for Policy Studies, said that Dr. King “would be appalled” at the amount of money the US is giving to Israel.
Throughout the event, the Israeli occupation was also often likened to South African apartheid. One speaker contended that Americans should be as outraged over the violence in Palestine as they are over the Newtown shootings.
The crowd joined in a number of anti- Israel chants during the rally.
“Not another dollar, not another dime, occupation is a crime,” they shouted. “No to the dark side, no to apartheid,” also rang out.
Craig Corrie – father of the pro- Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie, who died while protesting Israeli house demolitions in Gaza – told the crowd that US funding of Israel is illegal, citing the Arms Export Control Act’s ban on the transfer of weapons to be used in human rights violations.
Other Christian, Jewish and leftist leaders addressed the gathering before the more than 500 participants – including several anti-Zionist ultra- Orthodox Jews – marched about half a mile to the White House. Waving Palestinian flags, wearing keffiyehs and holding signs, the marchers shouted: “Netanyahu, shame, shame on you” and “The people are occupied, resistance is justified.”
There was even a group of protesters wearing rectangular boxes representing the expansion of settlements.
The crowd stopped at the White House briefly and then returned to Farragut Square for a brief concert by the rapper Leftist.
The demonstration was sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace (WIAMEP), three outspoken groups for the Palestinian cause. The event was also endorsed by numerous college campuses and religious and political groups, including Friends of Sabeel-North America.