By Jacob Kamaras/JNS.org
WASHINGTON, DC—Taking a page from the playbook of roughly the same number of Democratic U.S. legislators, a group of 32 birds of various beaks and feathers living in the Washington, DC area boycotted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress about Iran on Tuesday.
Going further, the birds descended on the nearby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference and targeted attendees during the lunchtime period, pecking incessantly at their meals. Reports indicated that about 70 diners had their lunches disrupted—more than two disruptions committed per bird. Security officials eventually cordoned off the dining area and spent half an hour chasing away the birds.
“A bright-red bird that landed on my table vigorously pecked at both my sandwich wrapper and my fingers,” said one of the victims, who asked to remain anonymous, citing his fear of a retaliatory attack. “Some may argue that these birds lack intellect and that their attack was non-political, but I don’t buy it. There’s no doubt in my mind that the birds took their lead from global anti-Zionist sentiment—nay, anti-Semitic sentiment.”
The dovish lobby group J Street—which states that it is “pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-bird”—said in a statement that the birds’ boycott of Netanyahu’s address further validated J Street’s online petition campaign against the speech.
“The birds did not sign our ‘Bibi Doesn’t Speak For Me’ petition, but actions chirp louder than words,” J Street said. “Not only humans, not only members of Congress, but even birds agree that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not speak for neither the Jewish people nor members of other species.”
Netanyahu linked the birds’ actions, particularly their harassment of the AIPAC attendees, with the Iranian regime and nuclear program.
“In the aftermath of the lunchtime assault on the AIPAC conference, all signs point to Iran,” said Netanyahu. “The world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism has extended its tentacles in an unprecedented manner. This is what Iran does before it has a nuclear weapon. What will the Iranians do with a nuclear weapon in hand?”
But at the same time, the prime minister praised the birds’ opportunism.
“Indeed, a good deal is better than no deal,” Netanyahu said. “If it’s a cheap lunch they were looking for, these birds got a good deal.”
Omar Barghouti, a founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, condemned the birds for what he deemed to be indirect financial support of the “Israel lobby.” By spoiling the conference participants’ lunch, Barghouti argued, the birds likely compelled the attendees to buy more food from AIPAC vendors later in the day.
Through a translator whose methods could not be verified, a spokesbird for the boycotters said that skipping Netanyahu’s speech was a move made “in solidarity with the birds of Iran, who to date have not experienced any specific persecution at the hands of the regime.”
“In Iran, the rights of birds are not only equal to, but exceed, the rights of humans,” chirped the spokesbird.
President Barack Obama expressed support for the birds’ boycott of Netanyahu’s speech, but called their actions at the AIPAC conference “reprehensible.” The president, however, did not specifically mention the Jewish identify of the conference attendees who were targeted by the birds. Obama said that “all options are on the table” in terms of better controlling the bird population, but warned against passing official government sanctions against birds. A diplomatic solution is the preferred option, said Obama.
The National Audubon Society, meanwhile, is concerned that the incident might erode bipartisan Congressional support for birds.
“U.S. support for birds is not, and must not be, a political issue,” the society said in a statement. “The American-Audubon relationship is unbreakable.”
It remains unclear how the birds entered the Washington Convention Center, the site of the AIPAC conference, where one attendee described the security level as “tighter than spandex on an elephant.” AIPAC declined to comment.
This has been a Purim spoof. But the photo above was in fact taken in the dining area at the 2015 AIPAC policy conference, and was not altered in any way. The pictured sandwich belonged to the author of this article. The author is unsure how the bird entered the convention center.