“Holy Crap,” I thought when my editor forwarded me today’s AIPAC press release, supposedly calling for a freeze on Israeli settlements. It turns out the statement, which would have been a massive departure from traditional AIPAC policies, was a stunt orchestrated by the anti-everything activist organization Code Pink. I wasn’t the only person who got punk’d: NPR, C-SPAN and Al Jazeera all ran with the story before news broke that it was false.
Code Pink has so far refused to admit how they pulled it off. But it’s clear that the press release was sent from a fake email address mirroring that of AIPAC media director Josh Block: firstname.lastname@example.org. His real email is email@example.com.
For much of the past fifty years, AIPAC has gained massive support in the American Jewish community. But as Israeli policy toward Palestinians became increasingly out of step with American liberals, Jews began taking a softer approach to the debate. As Robert Dreyfuss explained last September for Mother Jones, these liberals have mounted a challenge to the AIPAC hegemony under the banner of J Street, the self-proclaimed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby. Today’s statement would have been a momentus agreement between the foes on a national security matter.
In reality, AIPAC has strongly opposed the Obama administration’s recent criticism of Israeli settlements. Last week, the real Josh Block released (pdf)a statement demanding that Obama “work to immediately defuse the tension with Israel.” Meanwhile, J Street penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in support of the Obama administration’s stance.
The stunt is consistent with the growing trend among activists to hijack corporations by releasing false policy statements that force the a company to explain a politically unpopular position. This has been most famously employed by the Yes Men, who last October released a statement, supposedly on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, announcing belief in Global Warming. It didn’t take long for the Chamber to reaffirm its denialist position.
With prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington this week to discuss settlements, the stunt was perfectly timed. But unless AIPAC follows the Chamber’s example and sues Code Pink, don’t expect this story to have the same impact or receive the same exposure as the Yes Men’s hoax.