No more money for Israel

Mike Anderson reports from Washington, D.C., on a call to end U.S. funding for Israel.

Supporters of Palestinian rights demonstrate in Washington, D.C. (Jo MacNiven)Supporters of Palestinian rights demonstrate in Washington, D.C. (Jo MacNiven)

SOME 600 people gathered in Washington, D.C.'s Farragut Square on January 19 near the White House to demand that President Obama halt unconditional financial and military aid to Israel.

The "No Blank Check for Israel" rally and march, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace-D.C. Metro Area, was emceed by radical hip-hop artist IRadio Rahim and featured speakers like local activist Rev. Graylan Hagler, Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies and a representative from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

The march to the White House began at 5 p.m., blocking large sections of the street between Farragut Square and Lafayette Park. Chants of "Not another dollar, not another dime, occupation is a crime!" echoed off the bulletproof glass of the bleachers set up for the inauguration that would take place in two days--for a president who still sends aid to Israel to the tune of $3 billion per year.

Several lanes of traffic were blocked by people holding signs with slogans like "Stop the Slaughter in Gaza" and "Stop Israel War Crimes: Stop Billions of Tax Dollars to Israel."

The march was organized around the specific message of stopping unconditional aid to Israel, but many protesters wanted to take that message a step further and put forth the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) call made by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in 2005.

From the White House, marchers headed back to Farragut Square for a live show put on by The Leftists. March organizers say that as many as 60,000 people have added their names to an online letter demanding that Obama require strict adherence to international law and U.S. law as a condition of any further aid to Israel.

Rev. Hagler was turned down by the D.C. interfaith community just four years ago when be brought up the issue of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but this year, they invited him to speak on this very issue.

After the more recent bombings in Gaza during Israel's Operation Pillar of Cloud/Defense, a heightened international response in the streets of many nations, along with the cancellation of Lollapalooza Israel, signaled that momentum is quickly building behind the BDS movement.

The protesters, some of them Palestinian hunger striker solidarity activists, were militant and educated on the issues of occupied Palestine. Along with the monthly boycott of SodaStream products outside a mall in Washington, D.C., where at least four stores sell the home soda machines manufactured in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, the BDS campaign is picking up steam in the greater D.C. area as well.