Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington DC was interrupted May 24 by pro-Palestinian protesters affiliated with the Move Over AIPAC coalition. The five protesters—apparently all American Jews— unfurled banners and chanted slogans before they were escorted out of the conference hall by security. “Do you think they have these protests in Gaza?” Netanyahu jokingly asked the audience.
In response to Netanyahu’s recent claim that returning to the 1967 borders would be “indefensible,” the protesters called out that various aspects of Israel’s policy are indefensible. “Growing up as the son of Holocaust survivors, I learned that it is everyone’s job to stand up for others when they are persecuted, and I learned what happens when we don’t defend humanity. Now, it is my job to stand up in support of Palestinians, saying, ‘bombing schools is indefensible, bulldozing homes is indefensible,’” said protester Rick Colbath-Hess of Massachusetts.
“As a young Jewish person it is important for me to stand up today and tell Netanyahu and AIPAC that their voices do not represent me,” said Ariel Vegosen of New York, added. “I will not allow my faith to be misused as a weapon, covering up the theft of Palestinians’ homes and livelihoods. Judaism teaches me to stand up when I see oppression—discrimination is not a Jewish value and does not make Israel safer. Occupying Palestinian land is indefensible.” (YNet, May 24)
Later that same day, Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress was disrupted by a protester identified as Rae Abileah, a Jewish-American of Israeli decent who works with the activist group CodePink. Abileah stood up in the gallery as Netanyahu was congratulating the US for the killing of Osama bin Laden and shouted “Stop Israeli war crimes!”
In a statement released shortly after the incident, Abileah said: “Prime Minister Netanyahu says that the 1967 borders are indefensible. But what is really indefensible is the occupation of land, the starvation of Gaza, the jailing of dissenters and the lack of equal rights in the alleged Israeli democracy. As a Jew and an American taxpayer, I can’t be silent when these crimes are being committed in my name and with my tax money.” (Haaretz, May 24)
In his remarks before AIPAC, Netanyahu repeated his criticism of President Obama’s call for a return to the 1967 borders. Netanyahu said that while Israel is eager to negotiate a peace deal, “it must leave Israel with security. Therefore, it cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines.” (LAT, May 24)