Protesters call on US to end Israel aid as AIPAC conference set to kick off
Anti-Israel protesters descended on Washington on Sunday, as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference was set to kick off.
A group of around 300 pro-Palestinian activists gathered brandishing flags and placards, protesting the conference and calling on the US to end aid to Israel.
The AIPAC policy conference, the largest pro-Israel talk shop in America, is set to open later on Sunday, and will address a range of issues including US-Israel relations, the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war and peace talks, the threat of the Islamic State, and the latest developments athroughout the Middle East.
Israeli Ambassador in the United States Ron Derner will open the event, which runs from March 20-22, later on Sunday.
Other speakers slated to address the AIPAC conference include senior House leaders from both parties, among them House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, and major party presidential candidates.
Both Trump and his main competition, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, are set to participate in the conference.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the only presidential candidate of Jewish heritage, is also the only one among the active contenders from either party who will not appear at the conference.
In an interview with ABC on Sunday, Trump previewed some of what he plans to say when he addresses the AIPAC conference on Monday.
“A deal would be in Israel's interests,” Trump said.
“I don't know one Jewish person that doesn't want to have a deal,” he said. “If I win, I'm going to be giving that a very good shot.”
“There is nobody more pro-Israel than I am,” he added.
Trump has drawn criticism from his Republican rivals for saying he would remain neutral in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace and that both Israelis and Palestinians are responsible for the collapse of the peace process.
Ahead of the start of the AIPAC Policy Conference, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced that it will re-direct donations it has received over the years from Republican front-running candidate Donald Trump towards anti-bias education.
Trump's appearance at the at the AIPAC conference has been contested by American Jewish groups who say that his "hate speech" has no place at the event.
Trump's salacious campaign rhetoric, which has promoted violence and disparaged minorities and refugees, has drawn widespread condemnation.
In an article penned for Time magazine on Sunday, CEO and National Director of the ADL Jonathan Greenblatt said that Trump has made generous contributions totalling approximately $56,000 to the organization, which is dedicated to stopping the "defamation of the Jewish people" and promoting "equal justice for all."
"These undoubtedly were sincere gifts. But, in light of how Trump has changed, ADL’s leadership has decided that we must change how we approach his contributions to our organization," Greenblatt wrote.
"We have decided to redirect the amount of funds that Trump contributed to ADL over the years specifically into anti-bias education programs that address exactly the kind of stereotyping and scapegoating he has injected into this political season," Greenblatt announced.
Specifically, the funding will be directed towards the ADL's 'No Place for Hate' educational program, enabling schools in ten regions across the nation to increase anti-bias and anti-bullying initiatives.
"We are taking this step to demonstrate that, even as the campaign has surfaced ugly rhetoric, we can reach higher," Greenblatt explained.
Greenblatt called on other Jewish and non-Jewish philanthropic organizations to take similar measures and redirect donations made by Trump towards initiatives "to combat hate, promote tolerance, and build a stronger American community."
(Staff with agencies)
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