By Justin Elliott, TPMMuckraker – 22 March 2010
Medea Benjamin of Code Pink tells TPMmuckraker that the left-wing activist group orchestrated the bogus AIPAC press release [see below] calling for a settlement freeze that got picked up by several major news organizations today.
Benjamin says she and a colleague stood outside the AIPAC conference hall today dressed in suits and handed out copies of the statement to confused attendees.
“Some of the staff snatched them out of our hands, and said, ‘It’s not true, AIPAC is not calling for a settlement freeze,'” she says. “Then we heard attendees saying, ‘Wait, is it true? Maybe AIPAC has changed its position to get closer to the Obama Administration.'”
AIPAC has not responded to a request for comment.
Benjamin declined to say how the group made the press release, which got picked up on NPR, C-SPAN, and Al Jazeera, appear to come from an email address with AIPAC’s domain name.
Following the recent diplomatic flap between the U.S. and Israel over an announcement of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem, AIPAC released a statement calling the Obama Administration’s condemnations “a matter of serious concern.” That statement, Benjamin says, inspired Code Pink to come up with the hoax press release.
“When we saw that Netanyahu was not making any concessions, we thought that it would be logical for AIPAC to take the position of its own government in the United States, and not the position of the Israeli government,” she says. “Freezing the settlements has now become a mainstream opinion — to not have AIPAC even recognize that things have changed” is troubling.
Full text of the hoax statement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Josh Block March 22, 2010AIPAC CALLS ON THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT
TO IMMEDIATELY DEFUSE TENSIONS
WITH UNITED STATES
URGES ISRAEL TO FREEZE ALL SETTLEMENTS
With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveling to the United States to speak at the AIPAC 2010 Policy Conference and meet with President Barack Obama, AIPAC reaffirms the U.S-Israel relationship rooted in mutual strategic interest, shared democratic values, and a commitment to peace in the region. To further solidify this relationship, AIPAC calls on the Netanyahu government to make a conscious effort to move away from actions that create tensions between the two governments and undermine prospects for Israel-Palestine peace. AIPAC therefore calls on the Israeli government to immediately freeze new settlement projects, both in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
AIPAC agrees with Vice President Joe Biden that the Israeli government plan for new housing units in East Jerusalem “undermines the trust that we need right now in order to begin … profitable negotiations.” It also seconds the position of AIPAC keynote speaker Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said that the U.S. government wants to see a freeze on settlements – “not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions.”
AIPAC applauds the Israeli government’s recent announcement that it will ease the restrictions on materials allowed into Gaza, especially materials needed for rebuilding the sewage system and buildings destroyed during Operation Cast Lead.
AIPAC believes that an easing of the tensions between the United States and Israel is critical to move forward with the substantive work that needs to be done to thwart Iran’s dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons, and to move forward in the peace process between Israel and all of her Arab neighbors. It strongly urges Israel to work closely and privately with the Obama administration, in a manner befitting strategic allies, to address a wide range of critical issues, including settlements, the status of East Jerusalem and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“With the good faith gesture of freezing settlements, Israel can generate a new equilibrium in the Middle East that assures,” said AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr.