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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Advocacy groups project messages condemning AIPAC on the committee’s headquarters Wednesday night

IfNotNow and Protect Our Power unite students in demonstrations beyond national encampment movement

The words “REJECT AIPAC AND SAVE PALESTINIAN LIVES” and “FUCK AIPAC,” alongside memes and other phrases, appeared in projections around 9 p.m. Wednesday on a concrete tower next to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC, headquarters. 

A group of about 10 organizers from IfNotNow and Protect Our Power projected the images on the concrete structure and the top floor of the AIPAC building for about an hour, while Metropolitan Police Department vehicles — six total by 10 p.m. — hovered nearby. 

The demonstration occurred as the encampment at George Washington University neared the seven-day mark and encampments continued nationwide. 

IfNotNow, an organization of American Jewish people advocating for the end of U.S. support to Israel, began in 2014. The group takes inspiration from other movements like the Civil Rights Movement and the Labor Movement and uses non-violent actions to “create urgency” and “[demand] that our community take action in the struggle for mutual liberation,” according to their website.

Generation Z organizers launched Protect Our Power on April 4 with the goal of reelecting “The Squad” — the informal name for Congress’ young, progressive Democrats. AIPAC is predicted to spend $100 million to back challengers against some of these members. 

Ella Weber, a member of the communications team for POP and a senior at the University of Idaho, referenced the group’s success in helping Representative Summer Lee (D-PA) — who has been outspoken for a ceasefire in Gaza — to win her primary against Bhavini Patel, who was critical of this position. While Lee’s opponent was not backed by AIPAC, Weber still counted this success saying, “We're gonna keep winning and AIPAC should know that.” 

“As Gen Z organizers, we are very invested in reelecting The Squad and we're seeing this right-wing backlash against them because they have been standing up for these values that Gen Z cares about so much,” Weber said.

Vincent Vertuccio, the electoral team lead for POP and a junior at GW, echoed Weber’s concerns about AIPAC’s efforts to challenge progressive Democrats and its disconnect from Gen Z voters. 

“We're here because what better manifestation of our values being asserted against organizations who are working against our generation, than to literally project our values onto their buildings, to make a visual statement directly in their faces exposing what they're doing to our generation, to our politics, to our government?” Bertuccio asked.

Lillian Frame, an American University alumna, also came to show support. She referenced the encampment at GW as another example of what she said is Gen Z’s ability to come together across schools and regions to fight back against organizations like AIPAC. 

“There's everything there in this very small community of care that is functioning perfectly well without police and without the influence of administrators except for when administrators say we can't be there,” Frame said. “We say ‘Well, we're here anyway.’”

Ezra Oliff-Lieberman, an organizer with IfNotNow, also voiced frustration at AIPAC’s stances against demonstrations on college campuses and how AIPAC is “advocating for endless war and bloodshed in Gaza.” 

“And they're doing it under the guise that they care about Jewish safety and they care about Jewish people,” he said. “And we know that's a lie because their best friends, their allies, are far, far right Republicans who do not care about Jewish people. They don't care about Palestinian people … they don't care about anyone, but those who are going to continue to support the apartheid system in Israel.”

Thomas Mande, an organizer with POP, noted the national scale of protests on college campuses. He said that with students calling for a ceasefire and for their universities to divest from Israel, it’s not surprising that students also want to make it clear that AIPAC doesn’t represent their views.  

“Most students want America to have a pro-peace foreign policy and want us to respect Palestinian human rights,” Mande said. “And that means most young Americans and students aren't aligned with AIPAC because AIPAC does not want those things for us … and it's important that we call that out and we speak up for our values, and we don't let them speak for us.”

Weber also noted that the groups’ demonstration that night was a signal of how political power in the U.S. was shifting.

“I think this is just another example of us rising to the occasion,” Weber said. “These political forces that have been in power too long, these right-wing mega-donor billionaires, huge PACs like AIPAC, but they no longer control politics. And our power is substantial, and it is growing and we have a movement and we're winning.”

This article was edited by Abigail Hatting, Zoe Bell, Tyler Davis and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Isabelle Kravis. 

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