A video of the full conversation with Senator Al Franken and antiwar activists is included below.
The Uptake August 1, 2014
Palestine supporters in Minnesota got to directly vent their anger at Sen. Al Franken over his support for Israel in its conflict with Palestine. The Palestine supporters were part of a group of about 350 people who were protesting outside Franken’s campaign office. About 20 people entered the campaign office and demanded that the staff get Sen. Franken on the phone to talk to them. Franken’s campaign workers arranged a call and some of the group spoke to the senator on a speaker phone.
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It took two hours to happen, but campaign workers set up the phone call — which was a surprise to Jess Sundin, a leader of the group, who expected to be turned away. What followed was a polite but tense conversation between the group and the Senator.
With shouts of “free Palestine” coming from the protest outside, Franken told the group gathered in the campaign conference room, “I respect your right to protest and your passion.”
Sundin explained how they had tried to meet with Franken by contacting his Senate office, but had only been able to meet with his aides. “We came to your campaign office and hope to meet with you directly, but I guess the telephone will have to do for today”.
“I’m in Washington, you understand,” Franken replied.
“We’re outraged at the crimes Israel has committed. We’re outraged at the endless U.S. support for those crimes and especially at your role as the Senator from Minnesota,” Sundin declared. She said Franken was “sponsoring resolutions supporting the campaign against Gaza.”
“We’re here today because we need you to switch sides,” she told Franken over the speaker phone.
Franken responded, “Look, when it comes to the conflict in Gaza, we want it to end as quickly as possible. The loss of life is horrific. And I would love there to be a cease fire. You know, you and I are not going to agree on your characterization.”
Activists questioned the money the U.S. is sending to Israel that they say is being used to kill Palestinian children.
“What our dollars are doing is supporting the iron dome”, replied Franken. “That’s what our dollars going directly to…”
“Three billion dollars a year just for the iron dome,” interjected one of the activists. “How much money is going to protect Palestinian civilians?”
Franken answered, “Well, when it comes to the conflict here that’s what our dollars are doing and those are knocking down about 85 percent of the rockets that are coming from Gaza.”
“Look, I believe in a two state solution. I, I love nothing more than there should be a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and I think the way towards that is a negotiated two-state solution.”
One of the protestors had a signed copy of Franken’s book, Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. He expressed sadness that Franken had joined the liars. “I just don’t know how you can sit on the other end of the call and spout non-stop bullshit, when you know in your heart, the person that you used to be before you were the Senator you felt differently. And that’s all I have to say,” the former Franken supporter said. Franken’s campaign staff then ended the call.
The protestors were not satisfied, so they refused police orders to leave. They were arrested and later released.
Below: unedited video of the phone call
Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.