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AIPAC conference draws protestors

Posted 4:23 p.m. April 24

by Shaphan Marwah

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON- The debate over Israeli action in the West Bank intensified Monday afternoon into the evening as leading Palestinian and human rights organizations held a press conference before former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the 4th annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C.

The press conference was hosted by Sustain Campaign, a humanitarian group dedicated to ending U.S. aid to nations that abuse human rights.

Bordered by paintings of women and children being attacked by Israeli soldiers, as well as a striking police presence, the speakers decried Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies in the West Bank and American aid to the Israeli government.

“The Israeli army is armed with American weapons” protested Abbas Hamideh, a spokesperson for Al-Awda, a pro-Palestinian organization. “We want prime minister Ariel Sharon to be held responsible for crimes of war against an unarmed [Palestinian] population.”

“The only solution is an independent Palestine,” noted political analyst Tarik Ali told reporters. “It will happen overnight if the US withdraws support from Israel.”

Coverage of events in Palestine by the U.S. media was described as “abysmal and appalling” – “the truth is not being told,” Ali claimed.

The protest also attracted a notable pro-Palestinian Jewish presence.

“We are an independent Jewish voice,” declared Leah Harris, a spokesperson for ‘Jews for Palestine in Israel.’ “Ariel Sharon does not represent us.”

The speakers denounced Colin Powell’s recent diplomatic mission to the Middle East as “ineffective” and “cosmetic.”

“Colin Powell’s visit. was nothing but a charade,” admonished Damu Smith, a spokesperson for ‘Black Voices for Peace.’ “The United States government is directly responsible for what happened in Jenin.”

Georgetown University Professor Mark Lance, an organizer of the conference, said that college students could play an important part in bringing peace to the region.

“The most important thing on college campuses,” Lance explained, “is to demand that your campus stop investing in corporations that provide weapons to Israel.”

The speakers were joined by nearly a hundred protestors shouting slogans such as “stop Sharon the butcher,” and participating in a mock attack of a refugee camp with paper-mache tanks and planes.

The protest remained non-violent, as a large police presence monitored the press conference, and isolated pro-Palestinian supporters from the small contingency of pro-Israeli protestors who were on hand.

As the night progressed, nearly a thousand pro-Palestinian protestors arrived, blocking an entire city block surrounding the Washington Hilton, were the AIPAC conference was held. Security was tight, and guests were forced to pass three checkpoints of police before entering the building where they were funneled through a metal detector.

Thousands of prominent pro-Israeli supports attended the event, including half of the U.S. Senate, a quarter of the U.S. House of representatives, a large portion of the White House staff, and over a dozen foreign ambassadors.

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