Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu puppets greeted AIPAC attendees near the Washington Convention Center (Photo: Alex Kane)
Washington, D.C.--Iran, Iran, Iran. Tensions between Israel and Iran over Iranian nuclear energy is dominating this year's AIPAC conference. President Barack Obama's speech yesterday to the annual conference was mostly devoted to Iran, and "announced no new initiatives" on the Israel/Palestine front, as Inter Press Service's Mitchell Plitnick reports. Similarly, as we reported, Jeffrey Goldberg spent 45 minutes interviewing Obama, and not one of the questions were about Palestine.
AIPAC and Benjamin Netanyahu may want to push the pesky Palestinian issue off of the agenda, but Occupy AIPAC is fighting against that desire.
Netanyahu himself surely appreciates the extent to which this comes in handy, in that focusing on Iran (although not attacking Iran) allows Israel to line up together with the West in the camp of the "good guys" for once, as opposed to in the doghouse on the Palestinian issue. Want a sense of just how well this distraction serves the greater Israel cause? Take a look at Goldberg's latest interview with Obama for the Atlantic -- 4,561 words and not one of them mentions the Palestinians or settlements.
While protesters from Occupy AIPAC have put stopping a potential Israeli strike on Iran at the top of their agenda, Palestine remains a key part of the discourse here.
Yesterday, Palestinian flags waved proudly at the demonstrations near the AIPAC conference; chants of "free, free Palestine" echoed in the streets of D.C.; young Palestinians danced dabka and blared Arabic music; and AIPAC delegates were greeted by mock checkpoints and settlements first thing in the morning. Clearly, Palestine remains important to the activists who have gathered in America's capital to say no to AIPAC's agenda.
The centrality of Palestine was underscored by an impromptu speech given by a young woman from Palestine who was in D.C. for Occupy AIPAC. She held up a sign that read, "Stop stealing our land." (I didn't grab her name, but I believe it was the woman who tweets under the moniker @Tweet_Palestine and blogs here.) As hundreds massed outside the Washington Convention Center to protest AIPAC, she grabbed a microphone and explained how Mustafa Tamimi was killed in the village of Nabi Saleh.
"Do you want them to kill our children?" she yelled, and explained how Palestinian children are terrorized by night raids conducted by the Israeli army. "Look at the faces of children. Remember the children you have killed." Her speech was greeted by cheers from the protesters and stares from AIPAC delegates. But at least they heard the word Palestine.