Friday, March 11, 2011

Hovering banner challenges congressman over eco-implications of AIPAC relationship

The keynote speaker at the 2011 University of Oregon Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), caused controversy as members from the audience protested his involvement in both the acclaimed environmental law conference and the American Israel Public Affiars Committee (AIPAC) Oregon chapter meeting. Congressman Blumenauer served as the keynote speaker for both organizations in the same weekend.

Halfway through Rep. Blumenauer's speech promoting Portland's bicycle culture, protesters floated a five-by-10-foot banner to the ceiling of the University of Oregon ballroom. The banner read "AIPAC" with an arrow pointing backward and "Enviro Justice" with an arrow pointing forward. The group claims that being in lockstep with AIPAC contradicts environmental values.

Literature distributed by the protesters cited the environmental impacts of the occupation including the number of Palestinian olive trees uprooted by the Israeli military since the second intifada (over
500,000) and information about the Israeli bombing of the sewage treatment plant in Gaza resulting in raw sewage contaminating the Mediterranean Sea.

Suspended over the audience with 23 helium balloons, the banner remained throughout the presentation and onto the next day until it floated down on its own. The conference organizers censured audience
questions during the Q&A to prevent protesters from addressing what they call "social and environmental justice contradictions."

Rep. Blumenauer received further protest when he arrived at the AIPAC meeting on Sunday in Portland. Over three dozen protesters held signs protesting Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza and constructed a mock separation wall.

Wael Elasady
Co-founder, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER)