Students protest American Israel Public Affairs Committee as it meets in Milwaukee


Scene of the protest outside the Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Joe Brusky, Overpass Light Brigade

Thomas Salinas , Metro Reporter

Multiple groups, some including Marquette students, peacefully protested against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee outside the Milwaukee Art Museum on Nov. 10.

AIPAC, one of the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying advocacy in the United States, held its annual conference in Milwaukee for the first time. Its mission is to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israeli relationship in ways that enhance the security of both countries.

The conference was a private event and the public was not allowed inside.

Around 30 people protested and among them were members of Marquette’s Students for Justice in Palestine group. Gadeer Ayesh, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and president of SJP at Marquette, said SJP is a cultural and political group with the goal to educate people about Palestinian culture and politics.

“We try to raise awareness about what’s actually going on in Palestine,” Ayesh said, adding that AIPAC is one of the largest organizations that work with the American government in support of sending money to Israel.

“Israel is using that (money) for military use to help in their occupation and their massacre of Palestinian people,” she said. “We want to make clear that just because this conference is happening here in Milwaukee, that doesn’t mean we’re in support of it.”

Rachel Ida Buff, co-coordinator of Jewish Voice for Peace – Milwaukee, was among the protesters. She said she was present to show that not all Jews support Israel.

“We are Jews saying Israel should be safe by making peace with Palestinians instead of existing in a constant state of militarized tension,” Buff said.

She added that the climate in Israel is changing.

“Israel is getting more and more racialized and more Islamophobic and we’re here to say that not all Jews support this and not all Jews support Israel unequivocally,” she said.

Oscar Hernandez, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said aid to Israel translates into continued oppression of Palestinians. He said he wishes Palestinians could live without having to worry about a constant threat to their lives.

“I want there to be a world where everyone, especially Palestinians, are able to live peacefully without the threat of death,” Hernandez said. “We have to make our voices be heard for those who are being hurt.”

Deena Ahmad, a member of SJP at UWM, focused her thoughts on students and American citizens. She said tax money and student tuition payments are aiding Israel.

“The money we are giving them are for guns that kill innocent children,” Ahmad said. “We must show (AIPAC) we are aware of what’s going on and this should not be allowed.”

Buff said AIPAC has an arrogance in that it tries to speak for everyone. Her goal is to change that.

“We want to signal to AIPAC that anywhere they go, we’ll be there and we don’t agree,” she said.