In two days of demonstrations, a coalition of New Orleans activists and allies from across the US protested both inside and outside the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which was meeting in New Orleans.
The assembly featured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israeli political and military leaders Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak. The three leaders have come under criticism for a range of human rights abuses, from settlement expansion and policies that support ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to accusations of war crimes. Netanyahu has lately faced international criticism for his support of a proposed "Loyalty Oath," which would require Christian and Muslim citizens of the Israeli state to "swear loyalty" to the idea of second-class citizenship for non-Jewish citizens. During the assembly, the Prime Minister met with US Vice President Biden, who offered unwavering US support for the far-right policies of the Netanyahu government.
The conference meets in New Orleans from November 5-9, but the main events - and protests - were scheduled for yesterday and today.
On Sunday, more than fifty protesters marched down Canal Street to the Sheraton and Marriott hotels, which hosted the conference. Organized and endorsed by several local groups, the coalition was brought together by New Orleans Palestine Solidarity, and the University of New Orleans and Delgado chapters of the General Union of Palestinian Students. The protest carried the message that "War Criminals Are Not Welcome in New Orleans," and several speakers gave moving speeches, including one Palestinian student who spoke of harassment at Israeli military checkpoints that caused a ten minute trip to school to take several hours.
Today, one local activist joined with US and Israeli activists with the national organization Jewish Voice for Peace in disrupting Netanyahu's speech from inside the conference. Activists made it inside the hall to disrupt Netanyahu's speech at least five times, unfurling banners and speaking out before being carried away by security.
Protest photos by Abdul Aziz.