This past rainy Sunday in New York City, the clouds parted for a few hours so that a group of bikini-clad CODEPINKers could shine their light upon a dark issue: Israel’s abuse and war crimes toward the people of Palestine. A solid team of amazing women coordinated and executed what is now our now infamous infiltration of the so-called “Tel Aviv Beach Party,” sponsored by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism and El Al Israel Airlines. (View photos of the action here.)
Upon our arrival at Central Park, the ladies that would end up in bikinis — Dana, Rae, Gina, and myself — quietly wrote our messages of dissent on our bare bodies at a location outside of the main event, got dressed, and inconspicuously walked into the “beach party”. To an outsider, we must have looked like regular folks coming to participate in the day’s festivities; little did anyone know that we were about to raise some serious eyebrows — and awareness.
As we entered the actual “party” site, the four of us set up camp in a very visible spot towards the front of the “beach site” in front of the DJ. We then casually stripped to our bathing suits and rubbed mud on ourselves as if it were tanning lotion — but the mud we rubbed on our bodies symbolized Israel’s dirty policies, to remind the crowd of their complicity in the slow destruction of an entire people.
When we started walking around with our hot pink signs (some read: “Say NO to Israel’s War Crimes”, others said, “Ahava = Stolen Beauty. Don’t Buy Occupation”), we quickly got the attention of the event’s organizers. Needless to say, they weren’t pleased and quickly called security. When the police arrived, they were eager for us to leave the immediate site and offered us an alternative that wasn’t to the liking of any of the activists that were participating in the event: they wanted us to go into a pen that had been set up for those who dissented. The pen was symbolic of the plight of those trapped in Gaza and we all agreed that this was not a viable option. Though the police kept promising to arrest us, we were able to out-maneuver them throughout the day by exiting the immediate site and walking around the entrance. At times we were also forced to put down our signs, but this was not detrimental to our action as we had already painted our messages on our mostly bare bodies.
Not only did we find resistance from the police, but the staff was also less than friendly. In fact, their hatred and violence was jarring. I personally had one of the staffers approach me by pressing his body against mine and whisper in my ear, “why don’t you go f–k yourself, you dirty little whore.” Other bystanders also had similar messages of hatred. One family, in front of their young children, said that we should go to Israel so that we could be stoned. Another random man said that we deserved to be bombed. Likewise, an elderly woman made recurrent violent gestures towards us with the Israeli and American flags she held in her hand. It was shocking to hear such violent messages, and it seemed immensely hypocritical coming from a constituency that defends its atrocities by citing their victims’ violence. But each insult affirmed my commitment to expose the event’s hypocrisy. It was important to me that Israel and those putting together this tourist-grabbing, phony party got a clear message that New Yorkers hadn’t turned a blind-eye to their cruel policies.
Further strengthening my commitment to the action was the solidarity we built with other groups and individuals whom we encountered during the protest. The group contained in the pen included activists from different walks of life. Some were Palestinians, others were Jews against Israel’s policies. However, we were all united in promoting much needed peace in that region of the world. The solidarity among us was palpable. Women in veils hugged girls in bikinis and though we weren’t in the pen with them, many of the activist from within kept coming out to check up on us and make sure that the police and staff weren’t harassing us too badly.
We accomplished our goal of bringing attention (including some media) to Gaza’s plight and Israel’s violent policies by exposing the deceitfulness of this mockery of an event. Further, we did a great job at educating bystanders whom would have otherwise perceived it as one of the city’s many free summer events. We even had some friendly and informative chats with the few police officers who were sympathetic to our cause: that life in Tel Aviv aren’t all fun and games as this party tried to portray. No amount of artificial sand could mask the reality of Israel’s abhorrent actions.