Jewish Voice For Peace Protest at Biden’s Campaign Office
It was a cold day outside Joe Biden’s Des Moines office; nonetheless, a significant amount of supporters had shown up to hear former Secretary of State John Kerry, and other political officials speak on behalf of Biden. As they formed a line outside the campaign office, another group – dressed in red and white – congregated in front of a small van parked off to the side.
The second group was comprised mostly of young, college-age students from around the US. They were members of the “Jewish Voice for Peace”, who recently launched their Palestinian Freedom 2020 campaign, and were traveling throughout Iowa to raise awareness. To combat the cold, the JVP activists brought canteens of hot chocolate which I accepted when offered, cementing my place outside with the protestors rather than inside the campaign office. The activists stood outside Biden’s office imploring him to take a stronger stance on the tensions between Israel and Palestine; mostly centered around the wildly disputed Gaza strip and the way the Palestinians are treated by the Israeli government.
The JVP members, comprised of both Jewish and Palestinian members, spoke about what they had at stake in this issue and why Palestinians deserved freedom. They condemned Biden for his previous vote to occupy Iraq as well as his support of a policy that continued to fund the Israeli military, which they saw as perpetuating the violence and injustices against the Palestinian people. The activists then led the crowd in a series of chants expressing their distaste towards Biden’s stance on the matter. This ignited some tension between the Biden group and the protesters as one Biden supporter commented that “just because you’re loud doesn’t mean you’re right”.
As the office doors unlocked and Biden supporters began to filter into the office, the JVP members remained outside, and I had an opportunity to discuss the cause with one of them. He noted that the JVP would be present at various rallies throughout Iowa to bring further attention to the issue of Palestinian freedom and hopefully, play a formative role in shaping the discussion of Israeli-Palestinian relations on the debate stage and candidate policy. He commented that there was not a single candidate who was “where [the JVP] would like them to be” on the issue. All in all, I didn’t get to hear John Kerry speak, but I did get to hear from a passionate and worthy cause that I hope will continue to make headlines as they advocate for Palestinian freedom.