Pro-Israel activists arriving at the Washington Conference Center from all over the country were greeted by noisy demonstrations and an “apartheid wall” display as they arrived for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference on Sunday morning. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink urged conference attendees to tell AIPAC “not to sabotage President Obama’s diplomatic efforts in Iran.”
The issue of Iran’s nuclear program hangs heavily over this year’s conference. AIPAC had assisted in building support for bipartisan legislation to apply new sanctions to Iran in the event that ongoing talks do not lead to a fruitful resolution at the end of the six-month interim deal that took effect in January. President Barack Obama, however, has threatened a veto, prompting Democrats to back away from the measure late last month.
To save face, AIPAC declared that it supported a postponement of a vote on the bill, which once had 59 sponsors and an alleged 77 votes in the Senate, ten more than needed to override a veto. AIPAC still backs the bill and was expected to lobby for it this week. The annual lobbying push, featuring thousands of grass roots activists visiting their Senators and Representatives, is the country’s largest, and the annual highlight of the event.
As delegates filed through the entrance, Benjamin was cheerful, singing “Boycott Israel” to the tune of the popular Jewish melody, “Hava Nagilah.” One demonstrator carried a sign featuring President Obama as a puppet being manipulated by an Israeli soldier, and the caption: “U.S. Politicians Are Israel’s Bitch.” Signs were also draped along the police barricade across the street, where a group of a dozen protesters had gathered.