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Why I chose to get arrested at AIPAC

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On Monday March 21, hundreds of human rights activists gathered outside the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference at the Verizon convention center in Washington DC. Protesters sang song about peace and justice and chanted “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go.” Signs reading “Stop Hate,” “Stop AIPAC,” “Stop Racism” and “Stop Trump” were prominent and there was even a cardboard mock apartheid wall with racist quotes from Trump and Netanyahu scrawled on it.

About an hour into the protest, myself and five other CODEPINK activists moved across the sidewalk to stage a sit-in. We created a checkpoint with our bodies, forcing AIPAC attendees to squeeze around us or walk over us in order to enter the convention center and hear Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speak. Finally, after some fairly aggressive attempts to contain us, the police conceded control of the area and pulled in a police barricade. They informed us that anyone who crossed the barrier would be arrested. Moments later, with my hands tightly cuffed behind my back, I began to explain why I was choosing to engage in civil disobedience:

AIPAC lobbies shamelessly for US military aid to Israel

While American communities are struggling for safe drinking water, adequate school budgets, low-income housing, and more, AIPAC is demanding billions of US dollars for for Israel. For the last ten years Israel has been receiving $3.1 billion a year in US military aid; more than any country in the world. This aid deal, set to expire in 2017, is currently being renegotiated. The Obama administration has offered Israel a shocking $40 billion over the next ten years, but Israel, with AIPAC’s support, is demanding $50 billion. This money will be spent primarily on US weapons from manufactures such as Lockhead Martin, and will go to maintain the military occupation of the West Bank and siege on Gaza.

AIPAC endangers the first amendment

During her address to AIPAC on Monday morning, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made no mention of Israel’s almost 50 year-long occupation of the West bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Instead, she, as well as Cruz, Kasich and Trump, promised their unwavering support for Israel. She vowed, if elected, to viciously attack the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Clinton’s speech, rising to new levels of pandering, incorrectly accused the BDS movement of being anti-semitic. Contrary to Clinton’s false accusations, the BDS movement, in fact, stands against all forms of racism and is in accordance with the first amendment, which gives us the right to boycott. It is supported by many Jewish and other human rights activists and organizations.

AIPAC has made attacking the BDS movement one of its main goals. In 2015, AIPAC helped draft and push an anti-BDS amendment to 2015 Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The bill, which requires the U.S. to take an anti-BDS position in trade negotiations with the European Union, also simultaneously works to obscure the line between Israel’s recognized 1967 borders and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. AIPAC is now lobbying for the “Combating BDS Act of 2016” (S.2531 and H.R.4514) which would prohibit state and local governments from investing in anything that “engages in a commerce or investment-related boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel.”

AIPAC’s use of anti-BDS lawfare and demand for support from American politicians, like Clinton, threatens to erode our first amendment right to use non-violent boycotts to bring about social change. American engagement in similar nonviolent tactics held end US segregation and South African Apartheid. It is a part of our national identity and worth arrest to protect.

AIPAC encourages hate

Throughout his campaign Donald Trump has made numerous misogynistic, anti-immigration, and islamophobic statements. He has called women “dogs,” Mexicans “rapists,” and stated that “Islam hates us.” Such rampant Islamophobia and blatant discrimination is also part and parcel of AIPAC’s tone and agenda. While Trumps promises to “build a great wall,” Israel has already built numerous separation walls. Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration is already part of Israeli policy. Though many say that AIPAC should not have invited Trump, his invitation is far from being the only time thelobby group has supported hate.

As a country already struggling to overcome institutionalized racism and systematic inequality, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to racist islamophobic hate-mongering. This includes the recent statement by Ted Cruz, who after the Brussels attack called America to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods”. Such statements and policies threaten to move America backwards, toward the type of blatant racism and discrimination already in place in Israel/Palestine. It is something that we must not only speak out against, but also actively protest.

Palestinian nonviolent resistance must be supported  

I chose to be arrested in solidarity with the West Bank village of Bil’in, which has been holding ongoing weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the occupation for 11 years now. I chose to be arrested in solidarity with the village of Nabi Saleh, and in honor of 15-year old Ahed Tamimi, one of the leaders of Nabi Saleh’s weekly nonviolent protests. I chose to be arrested in support of human rights defender Issa Amro of Hebron, who cannot count the number of times he has been arrested, and yet he continues his nonviolent activism.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s decision not to attend the AIPAC conference was monumental. So too were his statements in empathy with Palestinian suffering and condemnation for Israel’s continued illegal settlement growth.  Sanders’s move, which followed petitions from CODEPINK and others, should be applauded. It must, however, also be paired with continued and increased grassroots activism, including civil disobedience, for justice in Palestine.

AIPAC does not represent all Jews

The Jewish people are currently in a time where illegal settlers are protected are protected by the state of Israel; where Zionism is conflated with Judaism; and support for BDS is considered blasphemy. Last fall, I witnessed settlers in the West bank city of Hebron use Shabbat as an opportunity to oppress and harass Palestinians. This past week, Hebron settlers intentionally chose to host Purim celebrations on the very spot where two Palestinian young men had been shot that morning in an extrajudicial killing by Israeli forces.

As the mother to two Jewish American teenagers, it is my responsibility to speak up and clarify that AIPAC and Netanyahu do not speak for me. Contrary to AIPAC’s attempts to legitimize illegal settlements and promote hate, I try to instill in my children the Jewish and human values of equality, tolerance, and justice. I teach them that we must act with conscious and courage to end racism, oppression, and hatred. This is especially true when it is being committed in our names with our tax dollars.


In 1965 Rabbi Joshua Heshel joined Dr. Martin Luther King in the historic civil rights march from Montgomery to Selma. Upon reflection of that day, Rabbi Heshel stated that he felt during the march as if his, “legs were praying.”  My act of civil disobedience on March 21 was also an act of praying with my legs. I did so for the sake and peace and justice and for the future of my children.

Ariel Gold

Ariel Gold is the national co-director for CODEPINK and leads their campaigns for Palestinian rights.

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10 Responses

  1. Dan From Away on March 25, 2016, 6:06 pm

    @ Ariel: Mad respect. You are on the right side of history. Your children must be proud of you: I know I am.
    Not too long ago organized political Zionism’s response to BDS was to ridicule it, dismiss it, point to its pointlessness and characterize its proponents as weak and pathetic. In this anti-BDS pamphlet “BDS” is depicted as three hapless clowns:
    See: Divest This!
    “The other quality of BDS that is rarely discussed is that the entire program has largely been a loser. After nearly ten years of tirelessly advocating for divestment on college campuses, not one school has sold a single share of stock targeted by divestment advocates. Churches that once embraced a BDS position have reconsidered and rejected BDS multiple times. Municipalities and non-profits (such as cooperative food markets) have said no to boycott advocates. In fact, a decade of failure has reduced BDS activists to resorting to divestment hoaxes (see page 14) and a focus on increasingly marginal targets to keep their campaign alive.”
    This text is from 2011: Zionists do not speak about BDS like this anymore. Now BDS is Zionism’s latest bogeyman and it is enlisting the President and all the candidates to help “combat” BDS.
    BTW, historically Zionism used boycotts, divestments and sanctions quite freely when it served purpose.
    View posters related to the early Zionist efforts to sabotage local Palestinian growers in the 1920’s and 1930’s via its “Buy Hebrew” campaigns:

    View Zionist anti-US trade with the USSR posters:
    View 250 BDS posters:
    AIPAC, Hillary Clinton and all the puppets-on-parade at the convention demonstrate via their public statements of hostility towards BDS just how little they understand of American history.
    I think BDS is unstoppable because it allows for an atomized response to Zionism in exactly the same way Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad to slavery did.
    The fight against slavery in the antebellum United States is a perfect example of an atomized political movement, one that has no real “head” wherein all the actors are independent, ungovernable and working towards a central objective. The Underground Railroad in its day was illegal, outlawed, despised-in-the-South, railed against in the slavocratic press (North and South), its activists and participants subject to violence and its morality labeled as sinful, un-American and worse.
    And yet it never faltered. It never wanted for recruits. It grew and grew because the government, which is to say, Congress, can never legislate morality and for a growing cohort of Americans Zionism is no longer a territorial, historical or political issue but rather a moral one.
    People actively supporting BDS today do not do so merely because of Zionism’s crimes of the moment. No, their arc of reference reaches back to embrace all the historical crimes of Zionism: the Nakba; the Occupation; the destruction of 500+ Palestinian villages; the horrors of the refugee camps and all the wars, invasions, operations, assassinations and other crimes committed in the name of Zionism. Zionism is very good at making enemies and it has made most of the world hostile to it. All of them may yet take advantage of the opportunity BDS offers to send an ironically poetic message of disagreement to Tel Aviv.
    BDS today allows people with decades-old grievances against Zionism to act in real time to redress those old wounds and insults.
    Millions of people all across the United States came to understand the evil that was slavery because of the early courage of the Abolitionists just as many are coming to learn of Zionism’s dystopianism owing to the courage of people like Ariel.
    Of course some clever Zionist will helpfully chime in here and tell me how wrong I am using some silly trivia detail and how anyway what we all say and do does not matter because we are all “antisemitic” since we don’t/won’t/can’t see the glory and justice intrinsic to the Zionist enterprise.
    The Underground Railroad was attacked repeatedly but it endured and in the end it was the worldview of the Abolitionists that the people came to embrace.
    Same thing for BDS this time around.

  2. for-peace on March 25, 2016, 11:20 pm

    Ariel, you are an inspiration. You are precious evidence in the face of counter examples such as Trump, Cruz, Clinton and Netenyahu that evolution is right. A better future awaits humanity than our past. Please don’t get arrested, don’t get hurt, continue to be an inspiration for your children and the whole world.

  3. on March 26, 2016, 5:01 am

    “Throughout his campaign Donald Trump has made numerous misogynistic, anti-immigration, and islamophobic statements” – Ariel Gold

    Yet Phil still look up to him as a viable candidate for the presidency. Even wrote a bunch of long articles positively extenuating him of many things.

    “Palestinian nonviolent resistance must be supported” – Ariel Gold

    No, just no. You don’t get to dictate what form of resistance the Palestinians ought to undertake. Violent or nonviolent, it is up the Palestinians to work out. HAMAS is just as legitimate as the PLO, and the Intifada is a legitimate expression of grievances. Stay in your lane Ariel.

    “I teach them that we must act with conscious and courage to end racism, oppression, and hatred. This is especially true when it is being committed in our names with our tax dollars.” – Ariel Gold

    Racism and hatred is a product of conscious too, it wasn’t implanted into us by aliens. Stop spewing meaningless platitudes. The USA is the most racist nation on the planet, not Israel so why not be the better person and acknowledge the shithole you reside in, rather than trying to act out your white savior complex?

    Also, your tax dollars only exists due to the violent occupation of native American land by European capitalists. If you more than are happy with participating in the economic and socio-political system rooted in genocide and theft in the USA, why object to the outflow of capital that enables you to continue participating in the oppressive capitalist market in your home?

    • Mooser on March 26, 2016, 1:00 pm

      “Even wrote a bunch of long articles positively extenuating him of many things.”

      Phil never, ever, got involved in the “short hands” controversy around Donald Trump!

      “Rugal_b”, if it was between you and a Parson’s turbine, I’d bet on you.
      Strictly on RPM’s, of course, Not torque. Your torque is cheap.

    • Philemon on March 26, 2016, 10:15 pm

      Oh dear, rugal_b thinks that the U.S. is the most racist nation on the planet, not excepting Israel, only Gawd knows why…, and he also claims, “your tax dollars only exists [sic] due to the violent occupation of native American land by European capitalists.” You’re not familiar with the Delaware, are you rugal-b? What you are claiming is not consistent with a lot of the history.

      This guy is such a thin disguise for every other ignorant Israeli apologist claiming that, “Hey, you U.S. folks did it, so why can’t Israel?”

      • Philemon on March 27, 2016, 8:21 pm

        rugal_b: “I am not trying to be an Israeli apologist.” Well, for someone who isn’t trying, you seem to be doing it pretty well.

        Look, maybe, being a Marxist and all, you don’t get the structural framework’s nuts and bolts, but U.S. civil rights in re Native Americans and Blacks have diddly-squat to do with U.S. support of Israel. It’s its own thing. It has its own economic raison d’être, divorced from other money trails.

        “Just as the Palestinians are suffering in Gaza and Westbank, millions of native Americans are suffering in their reservations, millions of blacks languishing in prison for the crime of being black, millions of Hawaiians not being able to govern their own homeland.”

        One of these things is not like the others; one of these things is not quite the same. You, know, rugal_b, you sound just like a hasbara troll.

  4. pabelmont on March 26, 2016, 8:13 am

    Many thanks to the Code Pink-ers! Real bravery!

    Yes, people in Flint and elsewhere in USA need money which is begrudged them whereas Israel always gets its money!

    How much? Well, people usually say $3B/yr, but it’s a lot more than that and growing. I’d like to say (even if it’s not true) $6B/yr, because “6B” has a peculiar resonance for Israel.

    Is Israel today just a reformulation of those Jews who lived near Jerusalem before 1900 (“since time immemorial”) many of whom studied all day, did no other work, and lived off donations from pious Jews in diaspora? Well, sort of, though most do not study all day. But they do — in a sense — live off donations from diaspora, with much of these donations not coming from pious Jews but from GoUSA — a prisoner-of-Zion, if ever there were one, held to ransom by AIPAC.

    I’d like to stop those donations, both for Flint et al., and also to “make a statement” for the USA, namely, “Free at last!”. And if Israel could no longer twist USA around its little finger , it might have a harder time getting away with all the crap with the Palestinians.

    Dream away, pabelmont!

  5. Boomer on March 26, 2016, 8:25 pm

    Respect and thanks to you all.

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