Former Israeli Prime Minister Greeted by Hundreds of Protesters in Minneapolis

Minneapolis, MN — Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Minneapolis on June 6 to speak at a banquet for the Center of the American Experiment, a right-wing think tank based in the suburb of Golden Valley. Around 100 people initially gathered to protest the visit and by the end of the night 300 protesters were outside the Depot. Five people were arrested for reportedly spray painting the street.

Unicorn Riot heard from a Palestinian organizer during the protest outside the private event and documented event attendees flipping off protesters.

Activists opposed the private event because of Bennett’s past actions in the Israeli government and continued statements against Palestine. Bennett, who served as prime minister for a year during 2021-2022, was born in Haifa, Israel in 1972 to American-Jewish parents who had moved to Israel a month after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and the Allon Plan was initiated to displace Palestinians from their homelands and build colonial Israeli settlements.

After becoming a multimillionaire for selling a software company, Bennett transitioned to politics in 2006. For two years Bennett was chair of the Yesha Council, which oversees Zionist settlement projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. During this time, he became infamous for leading Zionist Wikipedia editing courses and saying “we want to be the guys who influence what is written there, how it’s written, and ensure that it’s… Zionist in nature.”

Protestors at the Depot criticized Bennett’s response to a 2013 prisoner deal. Acting as Israel’s Minister of Economy, Bennett stated, “If you capture terrorists, you simply have to kill them.” After National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror told him that this is illegal, Bennett replied, “I already killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there is absolutely no problem with that.”

A decade ago, Bennett was called out by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) who asked the U.S. and European Union “to impose visa restrictions and to freeze [his] foreign assets.” Launched by Palestinians in 2005, BDS seeks to put pressure on companies and governments around the world that support and profit from Israel’s violation of Palestinians’ rights.

Bennett published an Op-Ed in the New York Times, stating the BDS movement is a “new enemy” of Israel and called activists “enemy soldiers.” During his time as Prime Minister from 2021 to 2022, Bennett increased funding to “fight against BDS” which he called “Jew hatred.”

Sana Wazwaz, the president of the Minnesota chapter of American Muslims for Palestine, was among the organizers of the rally. She expressed how Bennett’s reign is analogous for the ongoing war on Gaza, “His reign as a leader in Israel represents the ruthless tyranny and prosecution of the Palestinian people.”

Wazwaz said that the goal of the rally was to send a message to the City of Minneapolis, American Experiment, and Bennett, telling Unicorn Riot that “he is not welcome here, and he is not welcome in our city.”

The protest comes amid Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza that has killed at least 37,337 Palestinians, injured over 85,200 since the surprise attack on Israel by militants that left over 1,100 dead and 8,700 injured.

Related: Israeli Rescue Operation Massacres Hundreds of Palestinians, Top Military and Political Leaders Resign

Sabry Wazwaz, usually seen leading rhythmic chants with a drum, informed people and the on-duty police officers guarding the entrance to the Depot of how the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) trains police the U.S. on restraint techniques “similar to the one against George Floyd’s [neck].”

For decades, Israeli-U.S. police partnerships have grown. A 2018 report entitled Deadly Exchange (pdf) examined the exchange in practices of surveillance, suppression of public protests with force and justifying racial profiling.

Recently retired Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart is among the thousands of law enforcement officers who’ve reportedly been flown into Israel from states like Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, and Washington. Stuart was the vice-president of the National Sheriffs’ Association (currently the executive director of the Minnesota chapter) and currently on the executive committee for the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) sponsored Stuart’s trip in 2019.

Sabry Wazwaz protesting outside the Naftali Bennett event.

American Experiment called their dinner gala “a huge success,” that was attended by “more than 600 Minnesotans” and that the “smattering of protesters outside did not diminish the excitement and fun of the event.”

Attendees were seen flipping off the pro-Palestine protesters. In particular, a man with the nametag “Mark Ritter” came out several times to antagonize the crowd. The attendee shouted curse words, as well as “God bless Israel” repeatedly before entering the banquet.

Niko Georgiades and Dan Feidt contributed to this report for Unicorn Riot.

For more from Palestine and pro-Palestine protests click on image below.

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