While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making a major foreign policy speech at Bar-Ilan University Sunday, Israeli police outside the university attacked international protesters of Israel's invasion of Gaza, illegal settlements and the apartheid wall.
Heavy-handed police treatment of the unarmed, peaceful members of the CODEPINK delegation there began immediately after they unfurled several pink banners that read "Free Gaza" and "End the Occupation." CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin and New York activist Zool Zulkowitz were physically dragged across the street from their original protest site next to the entrance gate to Bar Ilan University where audience members and press entered the university complex to attend the speech.
Several hours later, a French journalist and member of the CODEPINK delegation, was arrested as she crossed a small street in an attempt to take photos of the demonstration. As she was placed in an Israeli police car, several members of the delegation converged to determine why the journalist was being held.
Israeli police and military violently shoved the group back into a wall. Delegation member Tighe Barry from Santa Monica, Cali. was struck in the face with the butt of a military rifle and pushed to the ground where he could barely breathe. He was taken by ambulance to the Trauma Center of Tal-Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv where he was treated for a concussion, an injured neck and an asthma attack. Benjamin and several other delegation members were bruised in the arms and upper body from being shoved and manhandled by the police and military.
The journalist was taken to a local police station and released an hour later without charges. Mr. Barry was treated overnight at the hospital.
The CODEPINK delegation has requested the Israeli police and military investigate the brutality used by their forces on the peaceful, non-violent protesters.
When President Obama spoke in Cairo on June 4, a separate CODEPINK delegation that had just returned from six days in Gaza in early June, held a demonstration right outside Cairo University holding signs that read "Stop funding Israeli War Crimes." Egyptian police allowed the demonstration to take place.
But not so in Israel.
"Is this the great democracy that the U.S. taxpayers pay for with $3 billion dollars a year?" Benjamin cried, as she was being dragged away by the police.
Ann Wright is a retired US Army Reserves Colonel and a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, and Mongolia. She was on a small State Department team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001. She has visited Gaza three times in the past three months, co-leading two delegations of more than 120 persons.