Over 100 people showed up to protest against Israel's illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinians at the annual AIPAC dinner last Sunday, March 29th. Although the turnout was much lower than at the recent protests against the Israeli attacks on Gaza, we made our presence felt with our voices, signs and energy. Standing outside the Jewish Mittleman Community Center in Portland, many folks held up big images juxtaposing the Nazi persecution of the Jews with Israeli committing the same atrocities against the Palestinians. There were images showing the Nazis arresting Jews at gunpoint next to ones of Israelis arresting Palestinians, aiming machine guns at them. Another pair of signs showed a Palestinian woman, in shock and grief, sitting in the ruins of her town, juxtaposed with a Jewish woman, holding her head, grieving at the ruins of her town. I thought the signs were a powerful indictment of the Zionist atrocities and war crimes against the Palestinians.
As the attendees of the AIPAC dinner arrived in their cars, we greeted them with our signs and voices. We chanted "Stop the bloodshed, stop the hate, Israel is a racist state," "Free Palestine!" and "Occupation is a crime, From Iraq to Palestine." We also carried signs condemning Congress' complicity in giving millions of financial and military aid to Israel. Many of us deplored the approval of Israeli actions by our politicians, including Governor Kulongoski , who attended the dinner.
Our actions clearly rattled the nerves of some attendees. We were given the finger by several attendees, shouted at, mocked, photographed by several unidentified persons, and "policed" by Portland's finest. We were so "dangerous" that several more cops were called in for reinforcement and to protect the attendees. The police ordered us to step back behind the "line," and not to cross the sidewalk. Joe Walsh, the Lone Vet, was arrested for doing just that, along with his oxygen tank. There was a cop named "Nice," who proved he wasn't. He harassed several of us, threatening to arrest us, and grabbed one woman by her arm in an inappropriately aggressive way (see photograph).
There were a few funny moments during the protest, when one protestor shouted at an attendee, "Why are you driving a German car? My grandmother would never do that!"
Although only about 100 of us showed up, a few protestors told us that this was a big improvement over previous years. I hope that as more and more people are informed of this annual event, they will feel compelled to join us next year.
Protests are an important part of the strategy to bring justice for the Palestinians, but they need to be followed up with more actions. The economic boycott of Israeli products and companies is gaining momentum. We should all promote and participate in it. Please go to the website endisraeliapartheid.net for more information. See you there next year!