Legal Insurrection previously exclusively reported on plans by several anti-Israel groups to disrupt the annual summit of Christians United For Israel (CUFI) held in Washington, D.C.

The main organizing group was Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), assisted by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. The groups called the collective protest “Counter CUFI.”

https://www.fosna.org/countercufi

My write up from last week, Investigation: Anti-Israel groups plan disruption of Christians United for Israel Annual Summit presents background on the campaign’s four co-sponsoring group and covers the first report of Counter CUFI’s plan to stage a planned disruption inside the summit. My post from yesterday, Anti-Israel groups lock down planning for disruption inside Christians United For Israel Summit, recounts my efforts to report on Counter CUFI’s “Nonviolent direct action training and preparation”— and how Counter CUFI organizers expelled me from the public event.

As we expected, protesters gathered outside the CUFI venue. While they posted tightly cropped video and photos to make it appear that there was a large crowd, in fact only about 100 people showed up.

There also were the obligatory attempts to “blockade” the doors to the venue, but it was all for show. Thousands of people entered the summit through other entrances and the venue was packed.

As planned, some protesters managed to infiltrate the venue and engage in disruptions, which if anything just excited the pro-Israel crowd even more.

Another interruption, this one featuring a member of the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, resulted in the disruptor being escorted out of the hall.

Meanwhile, FOSNA executive director Tarek Abuata stole the show with a rousing disruption during which he forced security to carry him bodily from the building as he shrieked that “people of god” should “wake up” and that “Zionism is racism”. FOSNA tries to present itself as the voice of reason and compassion, but look at the hateful shrieks of its executive director.

(If Twitter video doesn’t load, click here)

Outside, the group had moved to the back entrance to the building, conveniently located in an area with zero outside foot traffic, and thus almost completely hidden from public view. Some group members continued to sing and wave banners, while others banged on the glass walls with their fists.

By this time, I had arrived at the venue. After the planning meeting that was the subject of our first post, we were informed that Tarek Abuata, the Executive Director of FOSNA, had coached would-be protesters on how to respond if asked whether they supported Hamas. Abuata reportedly explained that he would practice non-violence, but that he would refuse to condemn Hamas or Hezbollah.

So I decided to ask the protesters, did they support Hamas and Hezbollah?

You can view my complete, unedited 26 minute video here.

Below is an excerpt, which shows how soon after my arrival, word spread that I was associated with Legal Insurrection. One protester even pulled up the prior Legal Insurrection post on his cell phone and asked me if I was Samantha.

Much as at yesterday’s public event from which I was expelled, it was clear that the organizers and protesters did not want me asking questions or reporting on what they were doing.

At one point, someone approached closed to me and shouted into a bullhorn directed at me.

https://youtu.be/eadAk0-GHSg

Not surprisingly, none would condemn Hamas or Hezbollah. None would tell me what a Palestine, “free from the river to the sea” meant to them. None would say whether or not they believed that Jews should be cleansed from the land. And none would address the alleged terrorist connections of co-sponsoring organization American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).

Instead, when the protesters I spoke to pulled up my LIF post and word spread that I was the same person who had tried to attend yesterday’s training, they began efforts to try intimidate me. One refused to speak to me at all because [he] “do[esn’t] speak to Zionists.” Soon after that others approached me, surrounded me, stood close, and held keffiyehs and signs in my face to block my sight and camera. They started to yell that “fascists” were not welcome, and began singing loudly in my direction.

On multiple occasions, I had to tell the people getting in my face not to touch me or I would call the police.

If I walked in another direction to renew my camera’s sight-line, they followed me and continued to surround me, blocking my view and unfurling their keffiyehs in my face.

They told me to leave, and that I was “not allowed” to be there. More than once, I was forced to tell them not to touch me, to step back from me. Most refused and continued to yell over me.

Their intent, clearly, was to intimidate me into leaving, and perhaps to provoke me into a physical confrontation. Eventually, a police officer was forced to escort me out of the protest and into the venue.

After this confrontation, I entered the venue to watch the summit from the media location.

The protesters made one last appearance; during Vice President Mike Pence’s speech, a few erupted with unintelligible chants. They were almost immediately drowned out by the cacophony of CUFI attendees calling simply, “Israel lives!”

And by the time I left the conference for lunch, all the protesters had gone.

———–

Samantha Mandeles is Senior Researcher and Outreach Director at the Legal Insurrection Foundation.

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