Anti-Israel Activists Rally in Washington, DC
Posted: June 26, 2007
The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO) joined forces with anti-war coalition United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) to hold a two-day anti-Israel event on June 10-11 in Washington DC, titled "The World Says No to Israeli Occupation." The event was billed as a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of "Israel's illegal military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem."
The weekend's events included a rally on the west lawn of the Capitol that attracted approximately 3,000 people and was followed by a march to the White House, a teach-in, a cultural evening event, and lobbying on behalf of the Palestinian community.
The event's goals, according to organizers, included ending U.S. aid to Israel and helping "create a new U.S. policy based on ending occupation and equal rights for all, using tools of international law, UN Resolutions, [and the] role of the United Nations." Local solidarity events were scheduled in other parts of the country.
In advance of the rally, USCEIO promoted the event through a controversial ad campaign at 20 DC Metro stations. The ad featured the event slogan "The World Says No to Israeli Occupation!" along with a picture of child facing an Israeli tank in the Palestinian territories.
The messages at the rally were mixed; some protesters carried Israeli and American flags, some carried signs that incorporated the Israeli and Palestinian flags in a positive context, while others carried signs from USCEIO promoting an "End to U.S. Support for Israeli Occupation," and from Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) promoting the Palestinian right of return. Additional signs read "Free Congress from Israeli Occupation," "Zionism Is Racism," "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free," and referred to the USS Liberty.
Many attendees from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)—a grassroots organization that supports divestment, promotes former President Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid", and calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem—wore stickers that read, "Another Jew Against the Israeli Occupation."
Speakers from groups such as the International Solidarity Movement and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) addressed various issues, several referring to Israel as an apartheid state and likening the "occupation" of Palestine by Israel to the "occupation" of America by AIPAC. Others spoke about efforts to block Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes, charged that Jewish suffering is used to justify Palestinian suffering, and argued that Israel dictates U.S. decision-making and paradoxically, that the U.S. "pushes Israel into occupation."
Afif Safieh, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) mission to the U.S., spoke about Israel's "colonization" of the occupied territories and its 60-year occupation (implying all of Israel is occupied territory).
Mazin Qumsiyeh, USCEIO steering committee member and one of the event's more radical speakers, encouraged boycott, divestment and sanctions, and discussed the "Israeli occupation of this Congress" and the "Zionist lobby that took this country to war in Iraq and is now pushing for conflict with Iran." Like Safieh, he spoke about 60 years of oppression, implying that the whole state of Israel is occupied territory.
Ambassador Ed Peck, formerly Chief of Mission in Iraq and Deputy Director of the Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism, who is also former chairman of the Council for the National Interest Foundation (CNI), blamed the lack of peace negotiations on the Israeli and American refusal to recognize the "elected leaders of the Palestinian Prisoners." He also argued that the security fence exists to enable Israel to claim more territory, and that the Israeli occupation is "racist terrorism" that undermines the United States.
Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich also expressed support for the Palestinian cause via prerecorded messages.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is a member organization of both the USCEIO and UFPJ, hosted a teach-in for attendees and co-sponsored the "Lobby Day" events. The theme of the teach-in was "Palestine: Realities of the Occupation," and panelists included Afif Safieh, among others. During the Q&A session, attendee Rabbi David Weiss of Neturei Karta reiterated his past claims that Jews have no right to the land until the arrival of the Messiah, that there is and has never been a religious conflict between Jews and Muslims, and that the State of Israel needs to be dismantled.
UFPJ, founded in 2002, is an anti-war coalition consisting of an estimated 1,400 local and national groups. Since 2004, its anti-war rallies have often addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sometimes including anti-Israel messages such as accusations of colonization and apartheid and demanding an end to U.S. foreign aid to Israel.