Code Pink’s nervy presence reminds us that consensus for segregation and Vietnam also seemed impregnable once

Israel/Palestine
on 38 Comments

The Code Pink “Move Over Aipac” demonstrations in Washington were extraordinary. There are not yet thousands ready to come to DC to demonstrate against AIPAC and its fellows’ dominance of American Mideast policy, but there were a few hundred. Medea Benjamin and her crew molded us into a creative, witty, and challenging force—one that caused manifest discomfort to the smug and well-heeled delegates inside the convention center. Watching Medea and her staff work, supervising the creation and painting of signs and banners, building the props like the grossly fat inflated “Bibi suit” with “Show Me the Money” emblazoned on it, the cardboard checkpoints, the “Boat to Gaza,” the songs, the chants, an electronic billboard truck displaying the faces of murdered and imprisoned Palestinians circling around the AIPAC convention, was a reminder that focusing on the concepts and debating points of politics misses more than half of it. Code Pink does organized political theater, as well as it could be done with limited resources. Moreover we had a blast doing it, a feeling amplified by all the signs the vast majority of the AIPAC people couldn’t bear our presence. No doubt they would have preferred us to be treated the way Israel treats peaceful demonstrators, with barrages of tear gas canisters and stink grenades and arrests in the middle of the night. But the DC police I thought did a good job ensuring that the space outside the convention center retained the freedoms of America. 

I’m not sure if there are global MacArthur awards for charismatic leadership, and the former academic in me kept trying to recall what Max Weber had said on the subject. But Medea Benjamin is in a very special class. Our group was young and old, kippahed, headscarved, and Christian (and probably some Buddhists) But its dominant tone is derived from the fact Medea is a Jewish woman who argues from Jewish social justice tradition to shame the AIPAC’ers. When the conference opened early Sunday morning, we were there to greet them in our little park. The AIPAC’ers filed past, the women dressed to the nines in stiletto heels and as dresses as brief as middle age allows. A smug and self-assured crowd, which tried to give us dismissive and condescending smiles. “You know, the Palestinians didn’t do the Holocaust” began Medea over the microphone, which may be the crucial point, so seldom made in America, which is at the heart of all this. And then, as they were leaving in the evening, “Were you taught to believe that you are chosen? I was taught that all people are chosen. I was taught to believe in the Golden Rule.”

There were of course more accusatory chants, which we took to the gates of the conference center, referencing Israeli war crimes, ethnic cleansing, checkpoints, the nascent apartheid state between the river and the sea that Israel is rapidly becoming. It was delicious to see the delegates’ discomfort at these accusations. They live in a bubble of self-righteousness, where they are told continuously that only anti-Semites oppose Israel. They have the satisfied aura of those accustomed to having American politicians bow and scrape before them, say what they want said, write the resolutions they want written, pass the laws they want passed. So it has been for nearly two generations, long enough to seem part of the natural order.

And thus it was as if they almost couldn’t bear the sound of criticism, loud and pointed, in the streets of Washington DC. And yet, since there is surely intelligence and historical memory in the ranks of the AIPAC’ers, so there is knowledge that the opposition to both segregation and the Vietnam war began with small groups confronting a seemingly impregnable dominant power. I don’t doubt that some of the conventioneers have begun to recognize how tenuous is their hold on American discourse, how quickly it could crumble once the first cracks begin to show. 

Code Pink has held these gatherings for the past few years, and every year has been bigger than the last. I hope for justice in Palestine, but failing that, next year’s should be twice the size and far more powerful still.

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

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38 Responses

  1. eee
    May 24, 2011, 1:57 pm

    Another delusional post. Go watch the reception Bibi got in the US Congress. He is more popular than Obama there.

    • justicewillprevail
      May 24, 2011, 2:14 pm

      That’s exactly the reason groups like Code Pink are needed. Well done to them. So Congress can be bought and played for a sucker by a bunch of unreconstructed gangsters and criminals. What’s new?

      • eee
        May 24, 2011, 2:34 pm

        Code Pink are useless. They are churning water while thinking they are doing something useful.

        Instead of giving classes in how to make posters, they should focus their attention on trying to win ONE seat in congress. Are you guys really saying that your support is so minimal that you cannot raise money to make a difference in ONE congressional race? It seems so.

        In short, you have no support whatsoever in the US public. Put up or shut up. Go win one seat in Congress or return to doing flash mobs.

      • mig
        May 24, 2011, 4:10 pm

        triple e :

        “”Are you guys really saying that your support is so minimal that you cannot raise money to make a difference in ONE congressional race?””

        ++++ Do you rationally think that any political decision making organ should be taken by money, instead of universal values that this and that political party represents. Not forgetting national laws and international laws. Good work eee. You sunk deeper and deeper into that hole….

      • justicewillprevail
        May 24, 2011, 4:12 pm

        Well they can’t be that useless, since they have you all hot and bothered. LOL

      • eee
        May 24, 2011, 4:21 pm

        Another delusional post by you. “hot and bothered”? Try splitting my side with laughter.

      • eee
        May 24, 2011, 4:24 pm

        Mig,

        I think that you cannot win ONE seat in Congress because you have very limited support. It is you that keeps trying to peddle the “money conspiracies”. So I am taking you at your own word. Now, instead of giving excuses, go win a seat in Congress.

      • ToivoS
        May 24, 2011, 5:46 pm

        It does look like Code Pink has certainly pushed your buttons. You sound obsessed by them — provoked into 4 posts in fact.

      • mig
        May 25, 2011, 1:04 am

        eee:

        “”I think that you cannot win ONE seat in Congress because you have very limited support.””

        ++++ Truly. If YOU dont have AIPAC behind of you. And without AIPAC support you will receive loath campaign against of you.

        “”It is you that keeps trying to peddle the “money conspiracies”.””

        ++++ So tell us, how much money AIPAC gives….there are some information in this available….

        Example :

        link to wrmea.com

        “”Now, instead of giving excuses, go win a seat in Congress.””

        ++++ That might be difficult, unless they have changed the US laws which allows foreigners to take part in election….

    • lysias
      May 24, 2011, 2:20 pm

      Popular? I think you’re confusing popularity with being the object of fear.

      Oderint dum metuant.

    • chet
      May 24, 2011, 2:52 pm

      Both the NYT and Wapo are accepting comments on their reports of N’s speech – fire away!!

    • patm
      May 24, 2011, 2:56 pm

      Scott McConnell, forgive our rude brother from Hasbara Central.

      Yours was a wonderful account of Code Pink’s Move Over AIPAC demonstrations. Thanks to you and to Medea Benjamin and her crew and to everyone who participated. I wish I could have been there.

      I think the title of the piece very apt too. Opinions do change on matters of great significance, sometimes quickly. I don’t doubt that you made the Zionists nervous.

    • Shingo
      May 24, 2011, 4:17 pm

      He is more popular than Obama there

      He is more popular than there than he is in Israel, which goes to show what an insane assylum Congress has become .

      • GuiltyFeat
        May 24, 2011, 5:57 pm

        Exactly. America is crazy!

        How did you guys let this happen?

      • Chaos4700
        May 25, 2011, 10:31 am

        Three words: Israel Lobby money. Though really, that’s more like why it happened.

  2. optimax
    May 24, 2011, 2:01 pm

    Cod Pink? Is that a reference to the feminization of the male? Of course the reverse is true for the female because the Tao maintains its balance despite our efforts to influence power structures. this natural law also applies to ethnic warfare–no one tribe can win.

    • Scott
      May 24, 2011, 2:13 pm

      It’s a typo, sorry. I wrote Code Pink in other places.

  3. Lydda Four Eight
    May 24, 2011, 2:39 pm

    i’m really impressed with CODEPINK’s work in the Move Over AIPAC campaign. i loved seeing woman, men, young and old participants. i’m so inspired i sent them an email and look forward to organizing with CODEPINK in the future.

  4. pookieross
    May 24, 2011, 2:52 pm

    Scott’s description of the Code Pink work is brilliant. My feelings were a little less rosy. Kudos to Medea and her gang.

  5. seafoid
    May 24, 2011, 3:12 pm

    “So it has been for nearly two generations, long enough to seem part of the natural order”

    But they are all dead in the long run and there is nobody to replace them. No self respecting NYC teenage liberal Jew is going to want to turn out frustrated and full of hate like eee.

    • eee
      May 24, 2011, 4:27 pm

      There were 1,500 college students at the AIPAC convention my dear delusional Irishman.

      • annie
        May 24, 2011, 5:17 pm

        they announced 1300 from the podium and those were not all young jews. aipac pays the way from young leaders to attend.

      • Lydda Four Eight
        May 24, 2011, 6:26 pm

        that is true annie. AIPAC funds Zionist Christian campus group leaders. i’ve seen one of these young collegiate’s wife troll the With God On Our Side FB page.

        here are the AIPAC activists: link to aipac.org

        and if you look over to career opportunities you’ll see PAID campus Activists as well.

  6. ToivoS
    May 24, 2011, 3:30 pm

    Opposition to the Vietnam war is a poor analogy. Of course, the first demonstrations in 1965 or so were very tiny but popular support for the war was very thin. In 1964 polls showed only 25% of Americans were in favor of introducing combat forces while 55% were opposed. Johnson campaigned on a promise of peace. After the election it took 10 months of lies and propaganda to turn that around. Once Johnson got troops on the ground the old support our troops mantra changed the polling. It took the antiwar movement 4 years to turn that around.

  7. Danaa
    May 24, 2011, 5:35 pm

    Medea Benjamin is truly a portrait in courage and moral resolve. She reminds me of those few (not so few actually) Germans who stood alone, braving the onslaught of the encroaching darkness of fascism. Some paid for that with their lives. Today we recognize them all as righteous.

    It has always been true that relatively few humans have the ability to stand up for justice in the face of overwhelming odds, and at not insubstantial risk to themselves. But as times move on, others will join – until some day – they reach critical mass. That did not – alas – happen in Germany and a horrible war ensued, the price of which reverberates to this day. Hopefully before it comes to the final slide of Israel – followed by America – each into its own brand of fascism not so long from now – the fighters for justice will have gained enough of a foothold to make the stand count, and who knows, may be even turn the tide.

    Medea and the rag tag activist group of MoveOverAIPAC partisans bring honor to humanity in upholding righteousness over self-righteousness. May justice win….

    • GuiltyFeat
      May 24, 2011, 6:07 pm

      I’m tired of repeating myself saying action like this are embarrassing and useless. I get it that many of you don’t agree.

      So let me ask you. What are YOUR metrics for measuring the success of the Code Pink campaign. What are the goals of the campaign and how do you measure whether or not they have been achieved.

      People keep talking about awareness and education – how are you measuring that. Perhaps Phil could tell us whether there has been an increase in traffic to this site or in searches for the term “Israeli apartheid”. At this point I’ll take anything.

      It is my belief that if the energy put into protesting Israel was spent on raising money for projects for children in Gaza the world would be a happier place and some of you people might actually make a difference to the lives of the Palestinians.

      MoveOverAIPAC seems like so much pissing in the wind. Build a school, sponsor a football team, do something positive and stop wasting your breath on trying to defeat something bigger and better funded than you with flash mobs and homemade banners.

      • Pixel
        May 24, 2011, 6:37 pm

        “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

      • Lydda Four Eight
        May 24, 2011, 6:53 pm

        “It is my belief that if the energy put into protesting Israel was spent on raising money for projects for children in Gaza the world would be a happier place and some of you people might actually make a difference to the lives of the Palestinians.”

        I would LOVE *LOVE* LOVE to bring Soles4Souls (shoes/ clothes) to Gaza or one of the many other projects I have researched and contacted about improving lives of people, like my OWN FAMILY, in Gaza. BUT there’s one MAJOR OBSTACLE CLOSED BORDERS and a SIEGE. Have you forgotten GF?

        If I can’t even get into Gaza to see my dying grandmother, who btw passed away 2 weeks ago, how am I supposed to get goods, supplies, humanitarian relief and volunteers in?

        Btw, you’d be surprised who turns up at these events and how much philanthropy does indeed go on. Don’t get me wrong we’re not talking Seinfeld actors raising millions for IDF but I personally know of HUGE family owned companies that are funding projects in Gaza/ West Bank.

      • annie
        May 24, 2011, 8:35 pm

        i’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother Lydda. my heart goes out to you and your family.

      • GuiltyFeat
        May 25, 2011, 2:04 am

        Very sorry to hear about your grandmother.

        Baruch dayan emet.

      • Chaos4700
        May 25, 2011, 10:34 am

        If you were really sorry, GF, you wouldn’t be mocking the very people who tried to help Lydda’s grandmother. Meanwhile you and your family stand around in sniper posts and helicopter gunships and shoot anything that moves toward Gaza, as well as in Gaza.

      • patm
        May 24, 2011, 7:39 pm

        You know perfectly well why Code Pink is important, guilty girl.

        Stop acting like a petulant child.

      • ToivoS
        May 24, 2011, 9:35 pm

        Guilty advocates:

        was spent on raising money for projects for children in Gaza

        Sure go ahead and try. You will be prosecuted in this country for providing support for terrorism. That has happened to other charities that tried to raise funds for Palestinians in Gaza.

      • Sumud
        May 25, 2011, 1:46 pm

        People keep talking about awareness and education – how are you measuring that. Perhaps Phil could tell us whether there has been an increase in traffic to this site or in searches for the term “Israeli apartheid”. At this point I’ll take anything.

        Scroll down on this page to see a graphical representation of the growth in use of the word “Nakba” on the internet in the last decade. As the author says, it’s more anecdotal than scientific, but you said you’d take anything GF.

        Phil or Adam mentioned Mondoweiss traffic volumes during one of the two recent fundraisers – from memory it was a bit under a million unique hits for a 3 or 4 month period.

  8. annie
    May 24, 2011, 5:37 pm

    Medea Benjamin is in a very special class.

    yes she is. i had the pleasure of meeting her and traveling with her in gaza/the WB and israel. she’s an amazing leader and woman, one of my heroes.

    thanks scott

  9. Pixel
    May 24, 2011, 6:40 pm

    Scott, many thanks for all your great work!

  10. DICKERSON3870
    May 25, 2011, 2:35 am

    RE: “…It was delicious to see the delegates’ discomfort at these accusations. They live in a bubble of self-righteousness, where they are told continuously that only anti-Semites oppose Israel.” – McConnell

    SEE: Desmond Tutu, Israel, and Me ~ by Jordan Ash, CommonDreams.org, 05/24/11

    (excerpts) When I was growing up, my mother instilled a very strong sense of right and wrong in me. The morals she imparted were firmly rooted in the history of the Jewish people. My mother taught me about the pogroms in Russia…
    …And of course she taught me about the Holocaust, of the heroic ways that Jews fought back, and of the horrific ways in which they died.
    This was the history that gave the founding of Israel so much importance. It was as if finally after tragedy after tragedy, the story of our people had a happy ending.
    As I was taught it, Arabs wanted to deny us this happy ending and drive all the Jews into the sea because we were Jewish. I, like so many other Jews, was not taught that the founding of Israel required the forced removal of 700,000 Palestinians.
    When I got to college in 1985 I quickly became involved in trying to get the school to divest from companies doing business in South Africa…
    …I saw a flyer about the unholy alliance between the United States, South Africa, and Israel. I wanted to believe that this was an untrue anti-Semitic attack on Israel, but it wasn’t. Israel provided arms to the apartheid regime.
    A few years later when Nelson Mandela was finally released from jail and visited the United States, Jewish groups threatened to protest because of Mandela’s statements comparing the Palestinian struggle to that of South African blacks.
    Because this truth about Israel was too painful to process, I ignored it
    …Then, twenty years later I heard a group of young Jews speak out against what Israel was doing in the occupied territories…
    …I went to Israel to see for myself. I saw that Israel was building a 425 mile wall that separated communities and families from each other, cut off farmers from their land, and prevented Palestinians from getting to work or school. I saw that the Israeli government was demolishing Palestinian homes while it continued to allow new Jewish settlements.
    It was clear to me that Israel’s main interest was not to achieve peace but to take the most desirable and viable land for itself…

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to commondreams.org

  11. Justice Please
    May 25, 2011, 5:29 am

    Thank you for your efforts!

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