Young Jewish Activist to AIPAC: Stop Silencing Dissent and Supporting Settlement Expansion

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On March 4 the AIPAC Policy Conference held a panel discussion called “The Struggle to Secure Israel on Campus” that featured Wayne Firestone, CEO of Hillel, Roz Rothstein, CEO of Stand With Us, and representatives of The David Project and AIPAC. The panel also included an unexpected speaker: 22-year-old Liza Behrendt. Behrendt unfurled a banner that read, “Settlements Betray Jewish Values” and “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof,” the Jewish text from Deuteronomy meaning “Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue.” Her statement called attention to the silencing of Palestinians – and young Jews who support them – on U.S. campuses.

Panelists discussed tactics for opposing human rights groups on campus, particularly those that promote the use of Boycott, Divestment, or Sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to be accountable to international law. Last year, Firestone issued controversial guidelines barring Hillel groups from partnering with organizations that support any facet of the BDS movement or that lack an outright Zionist stance.
“I felt it was necessary to confront Wayne Firestone, whose condescending guidelines barred my Brandeis University chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace from joining Hillel last spring,” Behrendt said. “Hillel’s guidelines are part of organized efforts to enforce an ideological status quo among young Jews on Israel, but they are completely out of touch with what’s happening among young people.”
AIPAC enticed over 1,000 students to attend this year’s policy summit, including 200 student body presidents, mostly by subsidizing their trips to DC. Sunday morning, student activists distributed hundreds of copies of an open letter from members of Students for Justice in Palestine and Young, Jewish, & Proud to AIPAC student delegates that highlights the myths and realities of AIPAC.
This effort to draw attention to the silencing of Palestinians and young Jewish activists is part of a weekend long series of activities to highlight the destructive practices of AIPAC. A separate group of Jewish activists from Jews Say No and Just Foreign Policy went inside the AIPAC conference and gave interviews to journalists, in which they stressed that AIPAC doesn’t represent the majority of American Jews who oppose war with Iran and who want the US to oppose settlement expansion in the West Bank. Activists held daylong creative protests outside the AIPAC conference and outside of the White House on Monday for Netanyahu’s visit. And on Monday another group of activists “mic checked” Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was speaking on a panel about Iran. The four activists said, “AIPAC supports war. We support peace. Diplomacy not bombs. No war on Iran!” On Super Tuesday, March 6, Occupy AIPAC will place an ad opposing war on Iran in the prestigious newspaper The Hill. An ad from Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives is planned to appear in the NY Times soon as efforts to prevent war increase throughout the country.
Timed to coincide with the AIPAC policy conference, Occupy AIPAC is a coalition effort initiated by CODEPINK: Women for Peace and endorsed by Occupy Wall Street, Occupy DC, and over 130 organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Interfaith Peace Builders, Jews Say No, Just Foreign Policy, US Palestinian Community Network and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Occupy AIPAC urges Obama to reject the Israeli administration’s push for war on Iran, promotes respect for Palestinian rights, and draws attention to the role of AIPAC as a special interest lobby that maintains a stranglehold over US policies.
On Tuesday, AIPAC delegates will lobby congress in support of House and Senate Resolution 380, which would take diplomacy off the table and increase the likelihood of war with Iran. Please take action by visiting to send a letter to your congressperson and senators opposing this resolution.