Pollard Activists Interrupt PM Sharon at GA, Beaten By Delegates
IsraelNationalNews.com - November 17, 2003
Supporters of Jonathan Pollard made their voice heard at the General Assembly in Jerusalem last night, interrupting PM Sharon and sending a loud message to US Jewry and the Israeli government to act out on Pollard's behalf.
Supporters of Jonathan Pollard interrupted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon twice last night during his appearance before hundreds of visiting North Americans, sending a loud message to US Jewry and the Israeli government to take action on Pollard's behalf. It happened just days after a US court rejected Pollard's request for re-sentencing.
As the Prime Minister addressed the packed auditorium of the General Assembly of North American Jewish Federations, a group of 15 activists, many of whom are themselves immigrants from the US, chanted, "Bring Pollard Home Now!" The calls brought the speech to a screeching halt, and the image of the Prime Minister on the large video screens in the hall was replaced by one of activists holding Pollard placards and calling upon the Jewish leaders to break their silence.
One of the protestors, Avi Hyman, a new immigrant from London, was thrown to the floor by security personnel, put in a choke-hold using a metal wire, and punched several times with a ring of keys. He told Arutz-7 that what alarmed him the most was the extremely violent response of the North American delegates themselves. "There were middle-aged and older Federation members hitting me and pushing me on my way out," said Hyman. He said he could not imagine that Americans on "We Stand with Israel" solidarity trips would react in such a violent manner.
"Perhaps we touched a chord," said Hyman. "They received lots of Thank-you's from Israeli officials, but we were a shrill voice reminding them that their checks and sympathy are not what Israel needs - but rather actions on behalf of a Jew being held unjustly by their own US government."
Hyman and the 14 other protesters delivered their message in two waves. The first time, they loudly interrupted PM Sharon with the demand that he and the American Jewish leaders "bring Pollard home now." They were held down and silenced by security, who assumed it was an isolated incident and allowed them to remain in their seats.
The second time, the protest was much louder, and the united call for Pollard's release did not stop until they were physically removed from the conference center's large auditorium. The protestors cooperated with security and did not resist, although some were put in choke-holds.
The expelled protesters were greeted warmly across the street from the GA, where thousands of people were holding a rally for Pollard as part of a full day of events on the imprisoned Jew's behalf. The day began with a rabbinical gathering in Yeshivat HaKotel, followed by a massive prayer service at the Western Wall. Thousands of people then marched and drove from the Old City to the Binyanei HaUmah Convention Center for the rally.
Hyman addressed the crowd, lamenting the treatment they had received but vowing they would not be deterred: "We received an overwhelmingly negative response from those claiming to represent North American Jewry, but we know that many Jews indeed heard our cry. We would gladly undergo much more of such atrocious treatment in order to bring the day when our brother Jonathan is freed from prison even a little bit closer."
Responding to the incident, the director-general of the GA, Doron Krakow, expressed his "disappointment that this group would chose an evening of extraordinary solidarity and world Jewish partnership to disrupt our program, to disrespect the Prime Minister and to attempt to undermine the spirit of the GA.
The UJC does not take a position on the Pollard case, but this is not the time or place for such a protest."
Hyman stressed that the most disturbing aspect of the evening was the instinctive violent response of literally hundreds of those who happened to be seated in the same section of the auditorium. Hyman said he led many pro-Israel protests in London, and "I cannot remember one such incident in all my days - even when interrupting an Arab speaker in a room full of pro-Palestinian students."
Hyman says he forgives those who hit him for their violence against him, but does not forgive them for their "refusal to hear the cries of a Jew who is imprisoned for truly standing with Israel."
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