- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2011

Protest groups shouted and halted traffic Sunday outside the Washington convention center where President Obama spoke before the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the country’s largest pro-Israel lobbyist.

“Move over AIPAC,” said Rae Abileah, who is Jewish and a national organizer for the group Code Pink, which helped organize part of the protest. “It’s time for a change in Middle East policy.”

Protesters were critical of both AIPAC’s financial influence over Congress and the president’s foreign policy.

“People who voted for Mr. Obama will not vote for him a second time. And I say this as a Democrat,” said Miami resident Bob Kunst, president of Shalom International. He said the crowd of about 100 protesters was about twice as large as last year’s group.

The crowd assembled outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center before Mr. Obama’s motorcade arrived at 11:30 a.m. from the White House, about eight blocks away, and the people stayed for much of the day.

Signs and boxes mock Israeli checkpoints as pro-Palestinian demonstrators make known their displeasure with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Drew Angerer/The Washington Times)
Signs and boxes mock Israeli checkpoints as pro-Palestinian demonstrators make known their ... more >

Ms. Abileah said one male protestor was “snatched up” by police after he tried to block the motorcade.

The protesters — including some dressed as clowns and one wearing an Obama head — by noon had largely moved from the intersection of Ninth Street and Mount Vernon Place Northwest to greet the AIPAC activists as they left the convention center for lunch.

One of the conventioneers, David Klein, 49, of New York, expressed concern about Mr. Obama’s call last week for the borders of Israel and a Palestinian state to be based on 1967 lines.

“I’m here to make sure Israel is protected against a two-state solution,” he said. “I’m a real Zionist.”

Protesters said they also plan to be outside a AIPAC-related gala Monday night and on Capitol Hill on Tuesday when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress.