After Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech inside the AIPAC conference Monday, reaffirming to thousands of delegates that there was "no debate" about U.S. support for Israel, groups outside the largest pro-Israel gathering in the world engaged in a full-throated dispute about the direction of the Middle Eastern country.
Across the street from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, a group of rabbis belonging to a fringe Jewish group, "Jews United Against Zionism," shouted and held signs in opposition to Zionism, the movement that calls for a Jewish nation in Israel. The group called themselves "Authentic Rabbis," and believes in what they call the "peaceful dismantling" of the state of Israel.
It wasn't long before AIPAC attendees began to verbally spar with the group of rabbis, including one man who told the group they were "doing the work of Hitler."
"I think that what these gentlemen are doing... I think they are collaborating with Ahmadinejad," Michael Benzikry, who came from Seattle to attend AIPAC with his wife, told Whispers, after shouting in the face of several of the rabbis. "And in my world, Ahmadinejad is Hitler... because he has said he wanted to eliminate the Jewish people."
One member of Jews United Against Zionism, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, told Benzikry that wasn't true. He told Whispers the group was standing outside AIPAC not in support of Ahmadinejad, but because they believed Zionism had "hijacked the Jewish name" and was responsible for the violence in the Middle East.
Elsewhere in Washington, other groups protested AIPAC due to the current state of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In metro stations across D.C. this week, 100 billboard ads went up showing faces of purported Jewish-Americans with the words "Most Jewish Americans are propeace. AIPAC is not." or "Jewish and proud. And AIPAC does not speak for me."
(Photo courtesy of Farrah Joon)
The ads were placed by Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and Avaaz, a global activist network.