Expose AIPAC, a summary of the weekend

Expose AIPAC

Expose AIPAC kicked off at the Palestine Cultural Center for Peace in Allston with teach-in.. Denise Provost (Massachusetts State Representative from the 27th Middlesex District) discussed her experiences dealing with the Israel Lobby, describing an AIPAC-push to divest Massachusetts’ pension funds from Iran. Stephen Walt followed with an overview of AIPAC and the role of the Israel Lobby in shaping the relationship between the US and Israel. Jamal Abdi (National Iranian American Council) discussed the importance of working to counter AIPAC and other groups that provide a dangerously narrow approach to US relations in the Middle East, particularly regarding Iran. He discussed the reality that many legislators on Capitol Hill lack an understanding on the particulars of certain policies that are pushed by AIPAC – giving the distinction between legislating around Iran’s nuclear weapons ‘capability’ as opposed to its ‘acquisition’ as an example. Finally, Kristin Szremski (American Muslims for Palestine) overviewed the organizational linkages between AIPAC and Islamophobic activity and propaganda. There was an extensive Q&A session following the panel presentations, as audience members dug deeper into the substance and implications of the topic.

Sunday’s protests got off to a drizzly start, but ,thanks to the creativity of protestors, ended up a rousing success. Initially, we were turned away from the park where we’d planned to congregate, but we responded quickly and moved to the sidewalk in front of the hotel where AIPAC donors were walking between the hotel and the conference center. After fifteen minutes of lively protest supplemented by signs, banners, and chants that organizers had crafted on Tuesday evening, police officers – who at this point outnumbered protesters – informed us that we were on a private sidewalk (leased by the hotel), and that we should cross the street and stand on the public sidewalk (in front of the conference center). We were soon told that, in fact, only eight people would be allowed on that public sidewalk, and the rest would have to move onto city (rather than state) property down at the end of the block. Soon after, orange cones were set up in two ~4′x6′ areas designated as “free speech zones,” which designated where the eight demonstrators could stand with their signs (and a floating banner, held up by balloons, that read AIPAC = War).

Neither the police presence nor their absurd regulations hampered the spirit of those who showed up for the actions.. Led by a trumpeting JVP organizer, protesters marched along the sidewalk, with chants that expressed their outrage at US complicity in Israel’s apartheid, and songs like “When Palestine Is Finally Free” and “Down By the Riverside.” Motivated by PM Netanyahu’s recent charade in front of the United Nations, many protestors carried signs with the question ‘Where is the red line on…?’ [Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing, Stole Water, Racism, Israel's Nukes, and more] . Later, demonstrators rode towards the rest of the group on rented bicycles, and proceeded to lead the march through the streets with a large banner that read “ExposeAIPAC” at the fore. After a few hours of lively and creative protest, the protestors disbanded for the afternoon.

Demonstrations continued on Monday, with a smaller number gathering at the Seaport to pay our farewell to the AIPAC delegates. Again, the “free speech zones” outside the conference center were enforced .One protestor, dressed up as an Israeli soldier in full camouflage with a cardboard gun, enacted a checkpoint (far friendlier than those in West Bank), and interacted with allowing AIPACers pass easily through (since “they don’t look Palestinian”). Other demonstrators passed out flyers, and a handful engaged with young AIPAC delegates who were curious about why we were protesting their event.

Overall, the weekend succeeded in creating a powerrulpresence of opposition to AIPAC. Many of us were particularly motivated by the knowledge that inside the Seaport, our Republican Senator Scott Brown (and incumbent in this November’s Senate race), and Democratic Governor Deval Patrick were both speakers at the AIPAC Summit. The weekend brought together many activists who have been involved with Israel/Palesitne organizing in Boston, as well as some new faces, and while we were struck by the police presence (and attendance by two plain-clothed employees of homeland security) and the denial of our rights to free speech outside the conference center, we were also successful at pursuing our own avenues and methods of action, such as marching through the street when we were stopped from marching down the sidewalk. We thank you for your support, and looking forward to working together for justice and peace.