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Jewish Activists Protest Israeli Occupation Outside L.A. AIPAC Offices

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Over 200 Jewish activists with the organization IfNotNow protested Sunday against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for their "support for fifty years of occupation in Israel and its silence as the Trump administration incites racism and anti-Semitism in the U.S," as described via the organization's press release. The protest started at Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills and continued all the way to the AIPAC main office in Carthay Circle, outside of which the activists held an extended protest and rally. The protest occurred one week before a larger protest planned for AIPAC's annual conference in Washington D.C.

The protestors marched with signs and chants before rallying and performing Purim theater outside the offices. The Jewish holiday Purim occurred over the weekend of March 11 this year, so the protestors used its recent celebration to highlight their messages of anti-occupation and anti-Islamophobia. IfNotNow spokesperson Michal David told LAist that Purim is a "time for dressing up and celebrating the resistance of a woman named Esther who resisted by deciding not to cozy up to the political elite in Persia," adding that Esther "[stood] for her people and other oppressed people." David described how this sent a message to AIPAC "to say they're no longer allowed to cozy up to the political elite in order to continue the occupation." The protesters carried signs with slogans like "Jews Against Fascism," "Occupation is NOT Kosher," and "Which side are you on?"

The protest comes after six Bay Area activists were arrested Friday morning for attempting to occupy the lobby of AIPAC's L.A. office building, according to JWeekly. These acts of resistance have been organized to urge AIPAC to end its support of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as discourage Islamophobic rhetoric and politics within the Jewish community. AIPAC is a pro-Israel lobbying group with strong ties to current elected officials; among the speakers at this year's policy conference are Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Paul Ryan. The choice of Mike Pence as keynote speaker is, according to David, "an extreme and poignant example of how [AIPAC] has chosen to cozy up to the current administration. "

David told LAist that IfNotNow has received no direct response from AIPAC around their actions of resistance. Today's protest occurred in solidarity with next week's protest at the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C., at which IfNotNow is expecting around 2000 people to demonstrate. These acts of resistance come at a time when bomb threats have escalated at Jewish centers across the nation, according to ProPublica, and the current administration includes chief strategist Steve Bannon, whose appointment was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League.