Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. on Monday night was interrupted by left-wing protesters who heckled him and criticized his policies toward the Palestinians.
Protesters from the group Move Over AIPAC, at least some of whom say they are Jewish, stood up, held up banners and made statements criticizing Israeli defense policies.
Israeli officials traveling abroad continue to be accosted by young protesters confronting them over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Groups of Arab and Muslim students have disrupted speeches by Israeli officials on university campuses in the past, but recently some left-wing Jewish student groups have also joined the attacks.
Netanyahu's speech at the Jewish Federations General Assembly in New Orleans in November 2010 was marked by repeated heckling from Jewish students in the audience, protesting loyalty oath legislation and Israel's occupation of the West Bank, before being unceremoniously escorted away.
At the AIPAC conference on Monday, protesters used the same language that Netanyahu has used repeatedly in recent days and recontextualized it, inverting its intended meaning for political points. After Netanyahu told AIPAC that the borders that Israel occupied until the 1967 Six Day War are militarily "indefensible", protesters riffed on the word, using it in to mean unjustifiable.
One by one, activists sitting in the audience stood up and criticized Israel's policies towards the Palestinians, calling out, "Occupying Palestinian land is indefensible", "Starving Gaza is indefensible", "Bulldozing homes is indefensible", "Displacing refugees is indefensible" and "Silencing dissent is indefensible".
Ariel Vegosen, 30, one of the protesters, said in a statement, “As a young Jewish person it is important for me to stand up today and tell Netanyahu and AIPAC that their voices do not represent me.”
“I will not allow my faith to be misused as a weapon, covering up the theft of Palestinians’ homes and livelihoods," said Vegosen. "Judaism teaches me to stand up when I see oppression— discrimination is not a Jewish value and does not make Israel safer."
The hecklers were escorted out as other members of the audience cheered loudly. Netanyahu made light of the interruptions and asked, "Do you think they have these protests in Gaza?" implying that these protests of Israel ironically prove that Israel is a democracy that permits dissenting views, unlike the Hamas government.
Hecklers also booed as Netanyahu told the crowd that in Israel more than one million Muslims enjoy "full democratic rights," using this as testimony that Israel "and only Israel" can be trusted to ensure freedom for all faiths in a united capital of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu added that he "intends to speak the truth", to which another heckler yelled "denial!" before being escorted out by security.
In April, Kadima MK Avi Dichter was interrupted by protesters as he stood up to speak to an audience of hundreds of students at Brandeis University near Boston. Several students got up out of their seats and called Dichter, who was Director of the Shin Bet Security Service during the Second Intifada, a war criminal, both in English and Hebrew.
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