Activists protest AIPAC fundraiser

NEW YORK--More than 200 people gathered outside the Marriot Marquis Hotel in Times Square January 29 to protest a $1,300-a-plate benefit for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

After weeks of a devastating military assault on the people of Gaza in which over 1,300 Palestinians were killed and thousands of homes, schools, hospitals and government buildings destroyed, AIPAC had the gall to throw a benefit party for Israel.

Numerous organizations and student activists came together to make sure that attendees--including Mayor Michael Bloomberg--weren't going to enjoy their gala, and to oppose Israel's devastating economic and military siege on Gaza. Activists highlighted the hypocrisy as Bloomberg and others spent thousands of dollars to support Israel--money that will likely go to kill Palestinians and destroy their homes--while millions of New Yorkers are struggling to get by.

Numerous student groups and other Palestine solidarity groups organized the demonstration. Protesters agreed on the need to continue to build a movement and educate more people about Israel's apartheid.

While numerous pro-Israel supporters attempted to intimidate the crowd, everyone remained confident and stood up to their hatred. When a photographer from the pro-Israel New York Post attempted to aggravate protesters, the crowd stood up to him. The reporter went berserk and punched a young woman in the face, right in front of police.

The activist who was punched by the photographer, M. Aryai from Northern Manhattan Peace and Justice, said, "I'm appalled at what just happened to me. The media that is in favor of Israel behaves just as Israel does. This incident was just a small glimpse of what Israel does to Palestinians on a daily basis. As horrible as this was for me, this is still nothing compared to what Palestinians face every day."

As the protest continued, 10 activists chained themselves in front of two entrances. As Dave Rory, an activist who took part in the civil disobedience, explained, "AIPAC wants to insure that the U.S. continues to support Israel 100 percent, regardless of what kind of war crimes they commit in Gaza. We represent the opposite. As Israel's biggest funder, the U.S. has to be held accountable for every Palestinian who dies under an Israeli bomb."

When the police began arresting activists, protesters from the main demonstration rushed to chant in support of those engaging in the civil disobedience. As the police arrested the activists blockading the entrance, activists outside chanted, "Arrest the people inside, they're supporting genocide!"

The police brutally arrested the activists, kicking and hitting them. "The police were pretty vicious with us," Rory said. "There are bruises up and down the left side of my body, including under my armpit. At one point, there were five or six police on me."

It's telling that the police brutally arrested nonviolent activists standing up to Israel's crimes while a pro-Israeli journalist assaulted a woman and goes free.

As this article was being written, three students were arrested for occupying Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's office, demanding that he stop funding Israel. This protest was part of a wave of student occupations throughout universities in Britain, as well as sit-ins at the Israeli consulate in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Activists at the protest in New York vowed to continue to build a worldwide movement to educate and organize demonstrations and boycotts until Palestine is free.