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New Orleans activists stage walk-out of Israeli soldier’s speech

By Nigel Weiss |
March 3, 2013
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New Orleans, LA – Students and activists at the University of New Orleans (UNO) staged a dramatic action to protest a speaking event featuring Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, Feb. 28. 60 people stood up from the audience toward the beginning of the soldiers’ speech and revealed red shirts they were wearing with signs taped to their chests. Each person wore the name of a different name of a Palestinian child killed by Israel’s soldiers, followed by the word “Silenced.” Wordlessly, the demonstrators walked out en masse as the two soldiers stood before a crowd that had diminished to a dozen people, including activists who remained holding a banner in the front of the room.

"Today silence was louder than words," said Thaer Rimawi, a Palestinian community member present at the demonstration. "There is no point in asking them a question because all the answers to any question we can ask them will be lies," he added.

The soldiers’ remarks focused on medical aid and ‘protection’ the IDF gives Palestinians, ignoring systematic injustices it carries out in the course of its occupation of the West Bank and in the ongoing siege on Gaza. The protest was inspired by similar responses to IDF soldiers appearing on campuses in Michigan and Arizona.

The event, sponsored by the UNO student group Allies of Israel, is part of a speaking tour sponsored by the pro-Israel group StandWithUs. StandWithUs has been active in recent years supporting the positions of the Israeli government on college campuses around the US. In 2011, an investigation by the Electronic Intifada revealed that the group was also behind a lawsuit in Olympia, Washington directed at reversing a decision by the Olympia Food Coop to boycott Israeli products from its shelves. The case was later dismissed under a statute barring Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, commonly known as SLAPP suits.

"They're desperate, they've been exposed by the world and people are becoming more aware," Rimawi said. "Things like this, like we did today are going to inform people of what the reality is."

This was the second appearance of Palestine solidarity activists responding to pro-Israel events on the UNO campus in as many months. Last month, demonstrators walked out of a pro-Israel rally being addressed by the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim firebrand Daniel Pipes. Both counter-demonstrations were put together in part by Palestine Solidarity Committee of New Orleans, a pro-BDS group that is seeking to build local support for the liberation of Palestine.

See video of the walkout here: