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Anti-war protesters arrested outside AIPAC conference

Five pro-Palestinian protesters from the anti-war women's group CODEPINK were arrested on Sunday outside the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington DC. The protesters were part of a 150-strong rally against the influence of the AIPAC and the pro-Israel lobby on US foreign policy.

"It's important to challenge AIPAC's influence in Washington DC, and to show our strength in numbers," said Alli McCracken, CODEPINK'S National Organiser. Protesters attempted to enter the conference building, but were dragged out by police and five members arrested.

CODEPINK organised the rally, dubbed #ShutDownAIPAC, in order to draw attention to the role of the AIPAC in US policy towards the Middle East, and especially to protest against the scheduled visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak both at the AIPAC and a joint session at Congress on 2 March.

Netanyahu has travelled to the US to express his opposition to ongoing peace talks with Iran.

Madea Benjamin, CODEPINK"s Founder, believes that diplomacy with Iran is key to keeping peace in the region.

"If you look at where we stand as a nation right now, and with all the violence that's happening in the Middle East, it's a very scary time," Benjamin says. "If these negotiations with Iran don't come to fruition, that could mean a war with Iran. Unfortunately, AIPAC is adding fuel to the fire."

CODEPINK's members also insist that their movement does not discriminate against Jews, and that criticism of Israeli policy should not be equated with anti-Semitism.

"Criticising the government policies of another country isn't the same as criticising an ethnicity or a religion," said McCracken. "You cannot conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism."

More demonstrations have been scheduled take place throughout the week, including another rally during Netanyahu's appearance at AIPAC on Monday, and a march to House Speaker, John Boehner's house on Tuesday.

Images from Anadolu Agency

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