About 25 protesters from the left-wing group Code Pink marched to the home of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and special Middle East peace envoy Jared Kushner Thursday, demanding that the diplomat not negotiate East Jerusalem away from the Palestinians, end Israel’s use of deadly force at the Gaza border and allow for the so-called Palestinian right of return in his proposed peace plan.
For about an hour, the protesters stood side-by-side in front of Kushner’s Northwest Washington home with photos of Palestinians killed during the recent Gaza border protests taped to their chests and frequently chanted, “Palestine is not for sale.” The demonstrations were peaceful, with no arrests made.
Tyghe Barry, a part-time Washington resident who also lives in Los Angeles, wore a suit and pants decorated with bills of American money and a photo of Kushner taped to his face. At various points throughout the demonstration, he and Washington resident David Barrows, dressed in a purple cape and wearing a photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, staged an improvisational street theater performance in which Kushner auctioned Gaza off to Netanyahu as part of the peace proposal.
In an interview, Barry said that the goal of the theatrics was not to antagonize Kushner or the Trump administration, but to send a message that the Palestinian perspective must be taken into account.
“We’re not targeting Trump and we’re not targeting Kushner,” he said. “We’re targeting a failed policy. We need a policy that includes Palestinian rights and the right of return.”
At its maximum, the Palestinian right of return would open Israel up to the settlement of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees who left at the beginning of Israel’s war for independence in 1948. It is regarded as a non-starter in Israel, particularly because it would make it impossible for Israel to retain its character as the homeland of the Jewish people.
Washington resident Pam Bailey said although she was protesting in front of Kushner’s house, she has protested against the Middle East policies of every American president prior to Trump and thinks the overall approach needs to change.
“There’s been this same challenge for every administration, because the U.S. has acted as Israel’s lawyer, and never as a truly neutral mediator,” she said.
Bailey said she knew the protest wouldn’t change Kushner’s mind, but that she feels it is a way to attract attention and make her voice heard.
“It feels like an ordinary citizen doesn’t have a say, but we can’t give up,” she said.
Kushner has yet to release the details of his peace plan, but the administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has angered a number of left-wing Middle East peace groups, particularly Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem in May. Code Pink National Director Ariel Gold called the move a “direct slap to Palestinian rights, international law and Jewish values.”
Gold, who lives in Ithaca, N.Y., was recently denied entry into Israel due to her involvement with Code Pink — one of 20 groups the country has blacklisted due to their support of boycott, divestment and sanctions tactics. She said the goal of Thursday’s demonstration was to show that her group is willing to take a stand until everyone living in Israel and the territories is treated equally. She compared the pro-Palestinian movement to the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“During the civil rights movement, there were lots of small protests, and people said, ‘Oh, your protest isn’t going to change the bigger picture,’” she said. “This is something where every little thing helps tip the scales, and we’re here to be part of that tipping of the scale.”
Guila Franklin Siegel, the associate director for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, condemned the protests in an interview and said she was not surprised by the low turnout.
“Code Pink is a known anti-Israel organization with which we’re very familiar,” she said. “The fact that they were only able to garner a very small crowd shows the marginalizing nature of their advocacy work. We will keep going about our work of keeping peace in the region between Israel and her neighbors.”
Siegel said although the details of Kushner’s peace plan have not been released, she remains optimistic.
“It is our hope that we will have a peace plan that recognizes Israel’s paramount need for security,” she said.