A fundraiser for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was met with militant resistance from over 200 pro-Palestine demonstrators in Los Angeles on December 6 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel. This annual event served to raise $11.5 million to support the Israeli military, which has already siphoned off $3 billion dollars in U.S. tax money.
Artist Stevie Wonder was scheduled to headline this year’s gala, but withdrew under pressure from the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement which had launched several international petitions which collected thousands of signatures. Many were appalled that Wonder had agreed to perform in support of the IDF and apartheid Israel given his progressive track record that includes combating apartheid in South Africa, organizing for Martin Luther King Day to become a national holiday and being designated a “UN Messenger of Peace” in 2009 for his ongoing charity work with children and people with disabilities.
Some activists had vowed to picket both Wonder’s radio station, KJLH, and his annual fundraiser concert for children while pointing out the obscenity of supporting the IDF which massacres Palestinian children.
Wonder’s statement upon pulling out of the event avoided taking a political stance, rather focusing on his move to donate money to charities focused on disabled Israeli and Palestinian children. Nonetheless, his withdrawal was celebrated at the demonstration in Los Angeles against the Zionist fundraiser.
The demonstration began with a press conference led by event organizers including Al-Awda, the National Lawyers Guild, and Students for Justice in Palestine groups from several local universities. Hundreds of supporters of the Palestinian people lined the sidewalk outside the luxury hotel in one of the wealthiest areas of Los Angeles, shouting “Free Palestine!” and “Long live Palestine!”
Protesters, each wearing a sign bearing the name of a victim of the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, carried candles and formed a funeral procession honoring the dead. As luxury cars began to line up at the entrance to the hotel, the demonstration became energized and protesters packed the sidewalk on either side of the driveway, chanting “Stop killing children! Stop funding war crimes!” as IDF supporters arrived.
The spirited protest caused traffic to back up as the rich FIDF donors lined up to enter the gala. Many parked blocks away from the hotel and walked to the event in their evening wear, attempting to avoid the crowds. Others tried to speed through amid cries of “Shame on you!” As more attendees arrived and hesitated to face the hundreds lining the driveway, police diverted donors to a back entrance—but the wealthy supporters of Israel’s war crimes could not escape the shouts of the protesters outside, where organizers vowed to continue the solidarity struggle against Zionism and Israeli apartheid.