We had just completed a CNI press briefing at the National Press Club, when the next group scheduled to use the room, "Israel Is Not Alone," began to enter. One of their members saw our signs and began a discussion with a member of the CNI group. The conversation was heated but within appropriate bounds. Another "Israel Is Not Alone" member, however, then approached the CNI man in a somewhat threatening posture and loudly began to berate him.
At that point Lt. Col Karen Kwiatkowski, who had spoken on our panel, thought she recognized the man and he was asked his name. At first he only gave his first name, Jerry, but eventually also gave his last name: Boykin.
Lt. Gen Boykin (three stars) is known for making offensive statements about Islam and supporting Israel.
For some reason, I actually thought I might be able to convince him to rethink his positions. I told him I had been born at West Point and tried to tell him about Palestine. I was holding a booklet from our press conference, and asked him fervently to read it. He didn't say anything.
As I was trying to describe the facts, another man came up and began haranguing me. He was almost shaking with fury. He yelled that Muslims tear the fingernails off Christians and similar things. I tried to answer him, but he shouted over everything I tried to say. I got my phone out and tried to video what he was yelling at me. I then tried to resume my conversation with Boykin and tell him about my first trip to Palestine, but the man continued shouting at me, drowning out my words, so I again tried to video what he was yelling at me. He suddenly violently hit my hand and phone, knocking the phone across the room.
I was stunned. A bit shaken, I asked someone to get security, which they did. Some of the "Israel Is Not Alone" group, probably realizing that their member had just crossed a serious line and was guilty of battery, brought me the pieces of my phone (fortunately, and surprisingly, it still works). The man (I haven't yet learned his name) proffered an unconvincing apology.
Some people have suggested that I file charges. It turns out that a Press TV crew apparently filmed the whole incident and led off with part of it on their broadcast about our conference. You can see the video and news report here.
I'm undecided about filing charges. I know that if the situation were reversed, they would do so.
I don't know what's behind this angry, disturbed man. Was he angry because he was spreading such venemous lies? Or is it that the people behind "Israel Is Not Alone" are exploiting a vulnerable man and intentionally creating or fueling his rage?
A pro Israeli advocate knocked a camera out of the hands of Alison Weir, President of the Council for the National Interest Foundation. The group just finished their press conference on what they call unjustifiable US Aid to Israel.
The two sides met when the Press Club scheduled a pro Israeli news conference to follow held in the same room. The altercation illustrates heightened tensions on differing views regarding America's relationship with Israel.
The Council for the National Interest Foundation wants Americans to know how much of their tax dollars are going to Israel.
CNIF alleges Israel receives so much aid and special treatment because the US Congress is controlled by AIPAC, America's pro Israel lobby. Executive director Phillip Giraldi says Israel spends a lot of money on U.S. elections.
The Council for the National Interest Foundation says many members of Congress fear, if they don't always side with Israel, that they will face retaliation in their own re-election campaigns.
Giraldi is a former CIA counter terrorism expert. He questions why America gives aid to Israel when Israel conducts more espionage for profit against the US than any other US friendly country.
Retired Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski worked at the Pentagon and says Israel receives preferential treatment.
Kwiatkowski believes America is beginning to take more interest in US foreign policy in the Middle East in large part due to tough economic times. More and more Americans want to know where their hard earned tax dollars are going and why.
I've just learned that the furious man was William J. Murray, chair of the "Religious Freedom Coalition."