(Photo: Allison Deger)
Monday night, December 5, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, held one of four Northern California events "celebrating innovative lifesaving technology developed in the Jewish state" with the Keynote speaker Ari Sacher, a pro-Israel advocate, whose current profession is designing weapons for Raytheon Missile Systems. Tickets for the event were $95.00, however stipends were available to local youth at Kehillha Jewish High School.
Event organizer, Bay Area and Egypt-based Palestinian activist Noura Khoury notes:
"We felt it was important to come together to protest AIPAC, because we are opposed to the lobby for war and occupation, to be present in our community. AIPAC represents the 1%, and spends $60 million dollars a year to pressure politicians to hand over $3 billion US tax dollars annually, to send to Israel to occupy and oppress Palestinians and attack non violent protesters in Oakland! We desperately need that money in our communities, not to oppress our communities! In fact, their keynote speaker, Dr. Ari Sacher is, war monger/profiteer works at Rafael – Advanced Defense Systems and specializes in the integration of missiles to aircraft - or drones, which are well known to kill the majority of which are civilians, in Gaza and Pakistan, and all over the world."
Outside of the Oakland Grand Marriott Hotel AIPAC event, the sidewalk in front of the hotel was filled with protestors against the lobby group. The demonstration was organized by the Palestine Solidarity Network, "a loose network of approximately 50 groups, made up of concerned American's from all over the Bay Area-of varying faiths, political and economic backgrounds, ages and education," also included members of the Occupy Oakland movement. (In an odd occurrence, while members of the Occupy Oakland movement were present at the Stop AIPAC demonstration, members of the pro-AIPCA demonstration carried sign identifying as the "99%").
Pro-AIPAC supporter sign (Photo: Allison Deger)
Khoury, outside of the venue, held a flag that was broken in two by a pro-AIPAC supporter:
"Their supporters who converged outside in support of AIPAC and naturally reflected the lobby, were far smaller in number and particularly hostile and violent. They attempted to dominate our protest, for which we had received a city permit for, with their over sized Israeli flags. The Oakland police department made matters worse by setting up conditions for which I felt unsafe to exercise our first amendment rights, and did not listen to our repeated pleas to separate the two groups of political adversaries."
Inside of the event, AIPAC supporters dined and listened to speeches. However, I am unable to relay the content of the event, as I was not able to enter past the metal detectors. One of approximately ten AIPAC private security guards in the front lobby stopped me just as I entered, and asked where I was going. When I replied, "the registration table…to register," the security guard informed me I had to leave the hotel. Again I told him that I wanted to register for the event, and he called over another security officer, and the two gentlemen escorted me out of the hotel--one of which took my picture on a smart phone and followed myself and another, over a block as we walked to the BART station.