Protestors descend on DC against AIPAC

Over a hundred members of the Occupy AIPAC movement demonstrate outside AIPAC's annual conference in Washington.

Occupy AIPAC protesters dress up as settlements 370 (photo credit: MICHAEL WILNER)
Occupy AIPAC protesters dress up as settlements 370
(photo credit: MICHAEL WILNER)
WASHINGTON – More than 100 protesters descended on AIPAC’s annual conference on the first day of its convention on Sunday, many wearing “settlement costumes” painted with harsh bricks, wires and jagged Stars of David in a loud demonstration of anger against American allegiances toward the Israeli government.
The organizers of the demonstration against the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee conference, dubbed Occupy AIPAC or Expose AIPAC, claim more than 300 protesters will turn out over the course of the three-day event.
Some of the protesters also held signs against Israel’s perceived push toward war with Iran, which they say would inevitably involve the United States.
Alli McCracker, national coordinator of Code Pink, says her organization isn’t anti-Israel but rather generally anti-war – and that freedom for all Palestinians and Israelis is its ultimate goal.
“I want to see Israeli policies that don’t actively harm Israel,” McCracker said. “And we think AIPAC is the primary organization that is promoting these awful policies.”
Attending her fourth AIPAC protest was Medea Benjamin, Code Pink co-director, who said her Jewish faith drove her to protest policies that reflect on Jewry worldwide.
“I think AIPAC is losing power, but I don’t think it is because of our protests,” she said. “I think its because of AIPAC. I’d like to see Jews like myself have more compassion for the Palestinians, as I was taught through my religion to be compassionate.”
As McCracker charged over loudspeakers that AIPAC’s attendees weren’t welcome in Washington, more than 13,000 Israel advocates had already packed inside the Washington Convention Center for a gathering that attracts more members of the US government than virtually any event besides the president’s State of the Union address.
As the attendees entered the building, a blue truck circled the convention center carrying a large sign that listed facts and figures about US financial aid to Israel.
Tommy Lingo, an older man with an unkempt beard, guarded a checkpoint in front of the building ceremoniously, carrying a cardboard gun brandished with a Star of David and the word “occupiers.” One protester asked him if he could pass through if he wasn’t Jewish.
McCracker clarified that though Code Pink uses Jewish symbols in its materials, the organization isn’t protesting against Judaism or Jews.
“The separation of peoples based on religion is exactly what we’re protesting,” she said.
Benjamin added that “perhaps if we don’t want to be hated around the world, we could try policies that don’t aggravate that hate. It’s all sticks and no carrots right now. And these policies reflect on all of us.”
Mixed in with the Code Pink crowd were members of the 9/11 truther movement, as well as at least one outspoken supporter of Hezbollah and a quiet group of ultra-Orthodox Jews. While they protested together, all parties seemed keen on differentiating themselves.
The Hezbollah advocate, who declined to give his name, said that resistance through force is justified under circumstances of aggravated occupation.
Dina Shanna, a small-business owner and a Palestinian refugee from the Upper Galilee, said, “I’ve lived here for 30 years, and it is concerning to me as an American, as much as it does being Palestinian, that my tax dollars are going directly to programs in Israel that violate human rights.
“It’s not that we shouldn’t give Israel aid,” she said. “It’s that it should come with obvious, human conditions.” •