About 200 protesters rallied along Michigan Avenue on Oct. 25 to protest the annual Jewish National Fund (JNF) conference and call for the end of the Israeli military control of Palestinian Territories.
Meanwhile, 25 members of the Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that favors Palestinian statehood, disrupted the JNF’s annual conference in the lobby of the downtown Fairmont Hotel.
JNF, a non-profit, was founded in 1901 to buy and develop lands in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, for use as Jewish Kibbutzim (Israeli agriculture settlements).
As of 2007 the JNF owned 13 percent of the total land in Israel.
The conference, which ran Oct. 23-26, included more than 1,200 participants from across the United States. Among the attendees were 150 JNF future leadership members; young leaders between the age of 25-40, who are among JNF’s fastest growing donor base.
What started out as a peaceful protest turned into a heated debate between pro-Palestinian protesters and two members of the JNF. Chicago Police intervened and guided the two men away from the crowd. There were no arrests.
Among the protesters was Arial Leven, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group that contends Israeli policies escalate violence in the region. The group condemns discrimination, dispossession and “state violence.”
Levin said she came to the protest because it’s crucial for Jews to speak out against the JNF “ethnic cleansing” in the name of Jews.
“It’s pretty much a natural response to decades and decades of occupation and military violence,” said Levin, commenting on the latest outbreak of violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. She added that the attacks are a natural result of the “apartheid regime in Israel.”
During the month of October, 73 Palestinians were killed and 2,074 injured by Israeli forces, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. On the other side, the Israeli foreign ministry reported 11 Israeli deaths.
Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of Arab American Action Network (AAAN), said he attended to join his friends, brothers and sisters with JVP, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist network, to protest JNF policies and influence.
“War criminals and those who represent the apartheid state of Israel are not welcomed in our city,” Abudayyeh said, accusing the JNF of administering the business of occupation.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the region Oct. 22 in an attempt to ease the tensions there.
Kerry held meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II on Oct. 24, in Amman, Jordan, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 22, in Berlin.
Kerry’s suggested method of restoring peace in the holy site of Al Aqsa mosque and in Jerusalem would involve installing surveillance cameras. But critics said cameras would not address the real cause of the violence.
During his stop in Amman, Kerry was blunt about what must happen.
“All the violence and incitement to violence must stop. Leaders must lead.”