I arrived in court on Wednesday expecting the charges against me to be dropped. Instead, two additional charges were added to the case against me for my April 27th actions in the House of Representatives Rayburn office building during the launch of the hate-filled Israel Victory Caucus.
The Israel Victory Caucus, a hateful endeavor initiated by the Middle East Forum and headed up by representatives Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH), aims to have the U.S. encourage Israel to take an even more extreme militaristic approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the Middle East Forum’s press release for the launch of the caucus, Israeli concessions and negotiations prevent a resolution to the conflict. It is only through pure military might and total defeat of the Palestinian people that we will see a lasting peace. This will allow Israel to flourish and the Palestinians to become a ‘normal people.’ Middle East Forum director Gregg Roman, who demanded my arrest in the House of Representatives building, describes the strategy simply as, “Israel must win and the Palestinians must lose.”
The Middle East Forum, while hiding behind an innocuous name, is a hateful islamophobic organization. Describing themselves as a 501c3 tax-exempt organization that, “protects western values from Middle Eastern threats” and “emphasizes the danger of lawful Islamism.” they are the behind such things as Campus Watch, a McCarthyite website that publishes “dossiers” on professors who are critical of US policy in the Middle East. Founder and director Daniel Pipes, who was a panelist at the Israel Victory Caucus launch event, is is infamous for such statements as:
“Palestinians will have to pass through the bitter crucible of defeat, with all its deprivation, destruction, and despair as they repudiate the filthy legacy of Amin al-Husseini and acknowledge their century-long error…there is no shortcut.”
I registered ahead of time to attend the launch of the Israel Victory Caucus. I received an email saying it would take place on the third floor of the Senate Hart building. Upon arriving, it became clear that the meeting had been moved. After 30 minutes, I tracked it down in the House of Representatives Rayburn building. I showed my government ID at the door, walked in, and quietly went to take a seat. No sooner was I seated than Middle East Forum director Gregg Roman recognized me as a “CODEPINK protester.” He told me I was not welcome and ordered me to leave (it should be noted that so far I had done nothing resembling protesting, but was seated quietly). Recognizing that I was going to be evicted from the event regardless of what I did or didn’t do, I removed a “Free Palestine” from my bag and began a statement. “Israel is an apartheid state. It was founded on racism and ethnic cleansing. We need equal rights for Palestinians.” I was escorted from the room and to my surprise put in handcuffs and charged with Unlawful Entry. I was released from police custody around 3 ½ hours later.
I expected the ridiculous charge against me to be dismissed. Instead, additional charges have been added. I should not have been surprised. Last week, CODEPINK activists Tighe Barry, Desiree Fairooz, and Lenny Bianche (who also had additional charges added), were convicted for their actions during the confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions. Desiree Fairooz received widespread media coverage for her unintended laugh upon hearing Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) say Mr. Session’s record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” The more than 200 protesters who were arrested in police sweeps during Trump’s inauguration are now facing felony rioting charges.
Before the Trump’s administration, cases like mine were usually thrown out. But now, even greater efforts are being taken to quash dissent. However, just as we cannot acquiesce to state and federal legislation criminalizing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, we also cannot stop expressing our dissent in the halls of congress. The Israel Victory Caucus, with its violent and colonialist agenda, must continue to be spoken out against and protested.