If presidential candidates’ events get interrupted through Jan. 11 by large signs and chants supporting Palestinian freedom, it’s because a group of youth activists are touring the state to confront and engage candidates with hopes they commit to cut military funding to Israel.
A group of 14 students have flown into Iowa from around the country to crash caucus events. In addition to interrupting events, they also plan to drop banners and confront candidates in public Q&As and canvass voters in order to elevate their concerns for Palestinian freedom.
Today, they’ll hold a press conference in front of the Des Moines stop of the former Vice President Joe Biden’s surrogate tour.
“It’s our sense that support for Palestinian freedom is becoming a defining issue of what it means to be a progressive. So our goal is to use the platforms that the Iowa caucus presents to lift up the fact that that’s where the progressive base is heading,” said Michael Deheeger, Jewish Voice for Peace Action’s congressional organizer.
“The U.S. shouldn’t be paying for Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians and we should be confronting or engaging with as many candidates as possible through that time,” he added.
The activists, arranged by left-wing organization Jewish Voice for Peace Action, is tracking candidates and their campaigns throughout Iowa in a bus decorated with “Palestinian Freedom 2020.”
Tuesday morning, the students’ first stop was at a Biden campaign event in Sioux City, where the former vice president’s surrogate, former Secretary of State John Kerry, was shouted down for a few minutes. The students expressed their unhappiness about Biden’s relationship with Israel.
Protestors shouting “End Israeli injustice” now interrupting John Kerry in Sioux City.
— Musadiq Bidar (@Bidar411) January 7, 2020
“Biden says his foreign policy experience makes him the best candidate to beat Trump,” said 18-year-old Egyptian-Palestinian student Moe Elsherbiny. “But we know Joe, too. Not only did he help lead us into a disastrous war in Iraq, for years he has dismissed the humanity and rights of Palestinians to be free; he doesn’t deserve the responsibility of the presidency.”
Elsherbiny joins the other youth activists who identify as Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, African-American, Arab and/or queer. Most have previously engaged in social justice movements.
“I’m trans, and coming out made me feel alienated within my Jewish community. This opened me up to question other aspects of my upbringing, and led me to find a community of Jews, Palestinians and other people who believe Palestinians, trans people, and everyone should be free,” said Miriam Saperstein, 21, a University of Michigan student from Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Deheeger said the group is “encouraged by” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ stance on the issue. The Vermont senator has a long-standing background with far-left progressive groups. He recently earned the endorsement of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, penned the “largest progressive organization in Iowa.”
“Sen. Sanders has been more outspoken than anyone about the need to recognize the basic humanity and dignity of Palestinians and has been explicit about how we should be talking about conditioning Israel on human rights abuses. He went so far as to suggest redirecting aid to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that’s been created by Israeli military blockades,” Deheeger said. “We’re at a time where human rights abuses are ongoing on a daily basis and we need much more bold and immediate steps.”
By Isabella Murray