For Immediate Release
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
WASHINGTON - The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is holding its annual convention. Speakers include Democratic and Republican leaders from both houses of Congress.
On Friday, the administration dropped espionage-related charges against two former officials of AIPAC.
Benjamin is co-founder and Abileah is national organizer of the peace group CodePink. During Israeli President Shimon Peres' speech Monday at the AIPAC conference at the Washington Convention Center, CodePink members raised banners saying "Want Peace? End the Occupation," "What About Gaza?" and "No Money for War Crimes."
The group released a statement: "As the six activists were forcibly dragged away from the stage, they shouted similar phrases including 'Tikun olam (Heal the world) for Gaza, too!'..."
Said Benjamin, who recently led a 60-person delegation to Gaza: "The brutal invasion of Gaza was a breaking point for me and many other American Jews. I was appalled by the devastation and the suffering I saw, particularly among the children. As a mother, I feel compelled to speak out against Israel's bombing of civilians and the ongoing siege that is so devastating to the lives of Gaza's 1.5 million people -- most of whom are under 18."
Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Kwiatkowski worked until the Spring of 2003 in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia office. She retired during the week of what she calls the "lie-based and illegal invasion of Iraq." She knew Lawrence Franklin, a former government official who is serving a 12-year sentence after pleading guilty to passing along classified information about Iran to the two AIPAC officials.
She said today: "The recent revelations about Rep. Jane Harman attempting to make secret deals with AIPAC officials and the dropping of the espionage case against its former employees -- which was dropped last week -- reveals the reality of how much of official Washington actually works. It's not about doing what the people want, and it isn't about national security or rule of law. It's about horsetrading and Harman herself is a relative amateur. Instead of these recent events propelling us to really lift the curtain on how this country makes foreign policy in the Middle East, we're being hurried along so that the general establishment consensus on Israel can continue. It would have been good to have a trial, including having Bush administration officials and Congressmen and women testifying in court, and bringing at least some of the real process to light.
"Some of the questions we should be asking now are why the case was dropped, and why last week and not three years ago. Were other phone calls made, by whom, and what other political deals may have been cut? The U.S. public thinks of Israel as this small, beleaguered country, but in fact, it wields enormous power in the region -- and within the U.S. government. Ultimately, this isn't simply about the power of AIPAC and not being able to trust AIPAC -- it's about our government and the reality that we can't trust it, no matter which party is in power.
"The pro-Likud AIPAC must continue to be rather pleased with U.S. foreign policy. Obama is being portrayed as anti-war, but he's not really getting out of Iraq -- he's solidifying military bases there, and he's shifting troops from Iraq to Afghanistan -- effectively solidifying the U.S. military encirclement of Iran -- exactly the kind of U.S. military activity for which AIPAC has long lobbied."
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