VIDEO: Citzens arrest and mass disruption of former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert in San Francisco October 24, 2009

Bay Area residents attempted a citizen’s arrest of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while he gave a speech to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco on 22 October 2009. Twenty-two people were arrested for challenging Olmert directly and demanding he be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Olmert has faced protests at Tulane University, University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago.

Text of the arrest warrant here


San Francisco – More than 22 activists, including several CODEPINKers, were arrested after disrupting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s speech to the World Affairs Council on Thursday, October 22, 2009 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel (Union Square).  Inside the auditorium, activists read the names of the children killed in Gaza last winter, publicly charging Olmert with killing innocent civilians, held up bloody hands, and displayed banners that read “Lift the Siege on Gaza” and “War Crimes are Not Free Expression!” The protests began when three activists approached the stage and read a citizen’s arrest warrant for Olmert’s arrest (see warrant below).  The activists were charged with “disrupting public assembly”, held at the Tenderloin police station, and released after the event had finished.

Olmert ordered Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza beginning in late December 2008, codenamed Operation Cast Lead. Last week, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report, an independent investigation into the Gaza operation, which found that Israel violated international law and possibly committed crimes against humanity.

“Israel is an apartheid state guilty of war crimes and its leaders should not be welcome in San Francisco,” said Lisa Nessan, a Jewish resident of Oakland, who has traveled several times to Israel and Palestine, most recently in May. “For the past sixty years, under leadership like Olmert’s, Israel has denied Palestinians their basic human rights, built settlements on their lands, and killed civilians – all to force them from their homeland.”

A lively protest has also gathered across from the hotel in Union Square, where about 150 people are carrying signs bearing the names and pictures of children killed during Operation Cast Lead. Olmert is making several appearances in the US this month, and has been met with strong protests at locations including the University of Chicago and Tulane University in New Orleans.  “We join with people around the world who believe that Israel and its leaders must be held accountable for their actions. Israel killed 1,400 people during its attacks on Gaza last winter alone, and many more have died or suffered from the effects of siege, occupation, and apartheid on their daily lives,” said Monadel Herzallah, a Palestinian activist who lives in Fairfield and whose 21 year old cousin was killed in Gaza in January.

Organizers also expressed outrage that President Obama has ignored the findings of the Goldstone Report. The US has pledged more than $3 billion each year in unrestricted aid to Israel. “Israel’s use of US aid and military equipment violates our own laws,” said Rae Abileah, an organizer with CODEPINK who is of Israeli descent. “Why are we giving aid to a country that is destroying people’s homes and attacking civilians, while our own nation is struggling with unemployment and underfunded social services?”

Eduardo Cohen of San Francisco sumed up the sentiment: “The war crimes in the Goldstone Report are not an exception, but a reminder that Israel’s apartheid law is itself criminal. We must not only hold Olmert accountable, but all of Israel’s leaders, our own elected officials, and other companies and individuals that profit from these crimes. Only then can true justice be reached.”

The protest was sponsored by: Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), Bay Area Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid (BACEIA), CODEPINK Women for Peace, Friends of Deiribzi’a, Northern California International Solidarity Movement, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), South Bay Mobilization, Stop AIPAC, CAL Students for Justice in Palestine, US Palestine Communities Network (USPCN), Bay Area Women in Black.


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