Jewish Activist to AIPAC: Stop Silencing Dissent!

Young Jewish activist disrupts AIPAC panel about “Israel on Campus”: Stop Silencing Dissent and Supporting Settlement Expansion

Liza Behrendt, 22 year old member of Young Jewish and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, stood up during a breakout session called “The Struggle to Secure Israel on Campus” to call attention to the silencing of Palestinians— and young Jews who support them — on U.S. campuses.  Liza stood on stage and unfurled a banner that read, “Settlements Betray Jewish Values” and “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof,” the Jewish text from Deuteronomy meaning “Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue.”

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The panel included officials from AIPAC, Stand With Us, The David Project, and Hillel, who discussed tactics for opposing human rights groups on campus, an in particular those that promote the use of Boycott, Divestment or Sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to be accountable to international law. Panelist Wayne Firestone, CEO of Hillel, last year issued controversial guidelines barring Hillel groups from partnering with organizations that support any facet of the BDS movement or that lack a specifically Zionist stance. “I felt it was necessary to confront Wayne Firestone, whose condescending guidelines barred my Brandeis University chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace from joining Hillel last spring. Hillel’s guidelines are part of organized efforts to enforce an ideological status quo among young Jews on Israel, but they are completely out of touch with what’s happening among young people,” said Liza Behrendt.

AIPAC enticed over 1,000 students to attend this year’s policy summit, including over 200 student body presidents, mostly by subsidizing their trips to DC.  This morning student activists distributed hundreds of copies of an open letter from members of Students for Justice in Palestine and Young Jewish Proud to AIPAC student delegates that highlights the myths and realities of AIPAC.

This effort to draw attention to the silencing of Palestinians and young Jewish activists is part of a weekend long series of activities to highlight the destructive practices of AIPAC. A separate group of Jewish activists from Jews Say No and Just Foreign Policy went inside the AIPAC conference and gave interviews to journalists, in which they stressed that AIPAC doesn’t represent the majority of American Jews who oppose war with Iran and who want the US to oppose settlement expansion in the West Bank.  Activists held daylong protests outside the AIPAC conference.

Timed to coincide with the AIPAC policy conference, Occupy AIPAC is a coalition effort led by CODEPINK: Women for Peace and endorsed by Occupy Wall Street, Occupy DC, and over 130 organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Interfaith Peace Builders, Jews Say No, Just Foreign Policy, US Palestinian Community Network and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The purpose of the week of actions is to urge Obama to reject the Israeli administration’s push for war on Iran, insist on respect for Palestinian rights, and draw attention to the role of AIPAC as a special interest lobby that maintains a stranglehold over US policies.