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Save the Date: Occupy AIPAC, Not Palestine!

Save the Date

Join us in Washington D.C. March 3-5, 2012 for Move Over AIPAC: Time for a New Middle East Policy!
This not-to-miss weekend will include panel discussions, cultural events, music and poetry, creative protests, Congressional visits, and more!

We will have three exciting plenaries on Palestine, the Arab Spring, and Iran, with a focus on the impact of the Israel lobby in shaping US policy towards the Middle East.

Come join in creative direct action and protest outside the annual AIPAC Policy Conference to show our Congress and President Obama that we do not support the AIPAC stranglehold over US foreign policy.

We will also be hosting a cultural night on Saturday, March 3rd, devoted to the poets, musicians and comedians of Palestine. Performances will include author of Sharon and My Mother-in-Law Suad Amiry, Palestinian-American poet Remi Kanazi and many more.

It’s time to #Occupy AIPAC, not Palestine!
Stay tuned as we develop our program for this exciting weekend gathering.

Brought to you by CODEPINK.  To endorse or join the organizing team, email occupyaipac[at]gmail.com.

Visiting the Office of Congressional Ethics About AIPAC Junkets to Israel

By Medea Benjamin

Two members of CODEPINK, Tighe Barry and myself, along with Grant Smith from IRmep had a meeting with three lawyers from the Office Of Congressional Ethics (including the OCE’s director) about the complaint we submitted regarding AIEF/AIPAC trips to Israel. We walked them through our complaint, including the growing body of evidence that AIEF functions more as a lobbying slush fund than a legitimate charitable nonprofit.

OCE explained the rules from their more narrow perspective. They said that while AIPAC might be taking advantage of every loophole, the trips may not be illegal. OCE explained that without documentable “factual evidence” of wrongdoing, they won’t initiate an investigation— and that it is up to us to provide that evidence.

Such evidence could include proof of AIPAC lobbyists contacting members to arrange the trips, AIPAC lobbyists traveling with members on the same jet liner, or AIEF “retaining or employing a lobbyist.” The OCE’s definition of a lobbyist is extremely narrow—and AIPAC claims to employ only nine such individuals on its domestic disclosures.

While OCE agreed that AIPAC may quite likely have had a hand in these trips, and may even be overstepping the lines of legality, we simply need more proof to trigger OCE action.

When we revealed the fact that AIEF has no employees, that 66% of its board are also AIPAC directors, and that the trips were organized by AIPAC staff, OCE claimed that was not illegal. Employees, if they are not registered lobbyists but simply “work for” a lobbyist group, are allowed to “volunteer their time” to work for AIEF. We were told that it is also legal for the executive director of AIEF to have his salary paid by AIPAC (which is the case now), because he is not a registered lobbyist. If any of the AIPAC lobbyists were involved in any aspect of the trip, that would be illegal, but this would also be pretty much impossible for us to prove. (And OCE clarified that if any proof were obtained illegally/or involved attorney/client privileged information, they would not be allowed to accept it as evidence.)

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Congress Sees Middle East Through AIPAC-Colored Glasses

During August recess this year, 81 members of Congress went on a junket to Israel funded by the Israel lobby group AIPAC (well, funded by the American Israel Education Fund, but they are really one and the same) to “learn first-hand about one of our closest friends and allies.” While the representatives insist they got a balanced view, their itinerary belies that claim: 95% of their time was spent hearing the Israeli government point of view, with only one token meeting with Palestinian reps.

CODEPINK has filed a complaint with the Congressional Ethics Committee stating that these trips—and the upcoming ones scheduled for December–violate the Congressional prohibition on traveling with a lobby group. We feel these Potemkin voyages are part of AIPAC’s grand plan to control and monopolize Congress, which is not just unethical, but dangerous. Their bias reinforces a disastrous U.S. policy of unconditional support for Israel that obstructs peace and runs counter to our national interests.

At a recent Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, entitled “Promoting Peace? Reexamining US Aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA)”, we got a glimpse of what happens when Congress views the Middle East through AIPAC-colored glasses. Here are a few of examples of their tunnel vision:

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CODEPINK Organizer Files Suit Against Attackers

Rae Abileah, a peaceful demonstrator who was physically attacked and injured on May 24, 2011, while protesting the occupation and oppression of Palestinians during the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, filed a civil action in District of Columbia Superior Court today against the unknown individuals who attacked her in the House Gallery, and caused her serious physical injury.

Ms. Abileah is a 28 year old American Jew of Israeli descent, who works as the Middle East Campaigns Coordinator for CODEPINK, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice organization that seeks to end U.S. wars and the U.S. funded occupation of Palestine. After a security check by the Capitol Police, she was given a seat in the House Gallery, as were other individuals who were given passes by members of Congress for the May 24, 2011 session. About 10 minutes after Mr. Netanyahu began speaking, Ms. Abileah stood up from her seat in the Gallery and opened a banner that read “Occupying Land is Indefensible,” and shouted, “No more occupation. Stop Israeli war crimes! Equal rights for Palestinians! Occupying land is indefensible!”

Four to five other persons sitting in the House Gallery began to attack her, including one man who used his hand to attempt to gag and suffocate Ms. Abileah, and then violently yanked her head back, injuring her neck. As a result of the attack, Ms. Abileah suffered severe emotional trauma and sustained a neck strain, swollen neck and muscle strain, and has since suffered from frequent headaches.

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CODEPINK’s Complaint to the Congressional Ethics Committee

I would like to file a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against the Congressional trips to Israel organized by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF). These trips violate the Congressional Ethics Rules and should be prohibited.

1. Person filing the complaint:

Medea Benjamin, medea@codepink.org
Affiliated with CODEPINK: Women for Peace

2. American Israel Education Fund (AIEF) trips to Israel

3. Three trips during August recess

—one delegation for Democrats headed by Cong. Steny Hoyer
–two delegations for Republicans headed by Cong. Eric Cantor and Cong. Kevin McCarthy

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CODEPINK Files Complaint with Congressional Ethics Committee Against AIPAC-Funded Junkets to Israel

Calls for end to loophole that allows front group to act as conduit for Lobby trips

The peace group CODEPINK has filed a formal complaint with the Congressional Ethics Committee, calling for an investigation of the junkets to Israel paid for by the powerful Israel lobby AIPAC but channeled through their educational front group, The American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF). This summer recess, a staggering 81 Congresspeople—one out of five members—are participating in these trips.

According to the House Ethics Rules, Congress is prohibited from participating in any multiple-day trip that is planned, organized, requested, or arranged by a lobbyist. AIPAC skirts the law by funneling the trips through AIEF.

According to the latest publicly available tax returns, in 2009 AIEF did not even have paid staff, relying on AIPAC employees to do its work. AIPAC contributed more than $3.2 million of employee salaries to cover the staff costs of AIEF in 2009. In other words, a 501(c)(4) organization with registered lobbyists is paying for the staff of a 501(c)(3) organization to run congressional delegations that cannot legally be funded by an organization that employs registered lobbyists.

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List of Representatives Going on an Israel Lobby Junket

Partial list of the 81 Congresspeople touring Israel on an AIPAC-affiliate junket during the August Congressional Recess:

First NameLast NamePolitical PartyState (District)
DanBenishekRepublicanMI (1)
MoBrooksRepublicanAL (5)
Anne MarieBuerkleRepublicanNY
CantorRepublicanVA (7)
CarnahanDemocratMO (3)
CicillineDemocratRI (1)
ClarkeDemocratNY (11)
CritzDemocratPA (12)
JeffDenhamRepublicanCA (15)
ScottDesJarlaisRepublicanTN (4)
FleischmanRepublicanTN (3)
GaramendiDemocratCA (10)
GrangerRepublicanTX (12)
MichaelGrimmRepublicanNY (12)
HahnDemocratCA (36)
Herrera BuetlerRepublicanWA (3)
HoyerDemocratMD (5)
Jesse Jr.JacksonDemocratIL (2)
Eddie BerniceJohnsonDemocratTX
MikeKellyRepublicanPA (3)
KevinMcCarthyRepublicanCA (22)
GwenMooreDemocratWI (4)
OwensDemocratNY (23)
PalazzoRepublicanMS (4)
ErikPaulsenRepublicanMN (3)
EdPerlmutterDemocratCO (7)
TomPriceRepublicanGA (6)
TomReedRepublicanNY (29)
RoskamRepublicanIL (6)
SanchezDemocratCA (47)
SchweikertRepublicanAZ (5)
TimScottRepublicanSC (1)
SmithDemocratWA (9)
SoutherlandRepublicanFL (2)
BettySuttonDemocratOH (13)
ScottTiptonRepublicanCO (3)
AllenWestRepublicanFL (22)
WilsonDemocratFL 17()
KevinYoderRepublicanKS (3)

Is your congressperson going to Israel instead of working in district during the recess?
Take action!

1. Tweet Congress with this message: Represent America, not Israel!

2. Send a letter to the editor of your local letter expressing your outrage if your Representative is going to Israel.

3. Visit your Congressperson’s office this month during the August Recess (when your Rep should be home).

Does Your Congressperson Represent You — or Israel?

9 August 2011 | AlterNet

In this time of economic austerity, when jobs are being slashed and Americans are fearful about their future, the Congressional recess is the time for our elected representatives to be home in their districts, reaching out to their constituents and servicing the people they are paid to represent. Instead, this August one out of every five representatives will be taking a junket to Israel, compliments of an affiliate of the Israel lobby AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) but still clocked in on the taxpayer’s dime.

Americans who have lost their jobs and seen their life savings evaporate because Congress can’t seem to get it together deserve an explanation of how this crisis will be solved. Following the recent debt debacle, the public is hungry for information about the mysterious 12-person “super committee” that will slash over one trillion dollars from the federal budget. But instead of opening their doors to their constituents, 81 members of Congress will be getting briefings from Israeli government officials, touring historic religious sites, and perhaps “seeking a salty dip in the Dead Sea.” Representative Steny Hoyer, who is leading the Democratic delegation, said he is pleased members of Congress have this opportunity “to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved in increasing stability in the region.” One has to wonder whether our elected officials are more concerned about the stability of Israel or the well-being of American families.

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A Summary of the Move Over AIPAC 2011 Conference

Thank you for joining us at the Move Over AIPAC gathering last week!  As a coalition of over 100 organizations, we came together to hear an abundance of amazing speakers and engage in vibrant, creative actions.  With your participation and support, our voice for peace and justice rang out against the backdrop of unconditional support for Israel.

What a week it was!  On Friday we kicked off our actions with a demonstration outside the White House, and participated in the Hava Nagila parody flashmob, which has been seen by more than 50,000 people so far! See it here.

On Saturday we had the privilege to hear keynote talks from The Israel Lobby authors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, renowned authors, and a stellar panel of analysts discussing the way forward. The afternoon featured great workshops.  Video coverage of Prof. Walt’s talk is now up on our website here.

On Sunday we surrounded the AIPAC meeting at the convention center with chants, music and amazing visuals like the apartheid wall that turned into a Palestinian village scene and a human-powered flotilla to Gaza.  See a slideshow of photo highlights here.

Both weekend nights we held inspiring evening programs at Busboys and Poets to honor peacemakers and hear poetry and music for Palestine.

On Monday the protests continued outside the Justice Department demanding AIPAC be registered as a foreign agent, followed by a march to our workshop about military aid to Israel and lobbying training.  That night during the AIPAC gala, a group of five brave activists stood up to disrupt Netanyahu’s speech with messages about what is really “indefensible” – occupying land, starving Gaza, silencing dissenters, bulldozing homes… See videos of their disruption and subsequent assault by AIPAC members here.  Meanwhile activists handed out a spoof Gala Banquet Program Update during the rally outside (see it here!).

On Tuesday Move Over AIPAC participants lobbied members of Congress, while Rae interrupted Netanyahu’s Congressional address by unfurling a banner that said “Occupying Land Is Indefensible” and shouting, “No more occupation; Stop Israel war crimes; Equal rights for Palestinians; Occupation is indefensible.”  Read her account of the action here and read news coverage here.  We appreciate everyone’s overwhelming support. Rae is back home in the SF Bay Area now and is healing and sore.  She feels gratitude for the opportunity to be a loud voice for human rights.

All together, it was quite a week and we couldn’t have done it without your help and participation!

Please check out the great press coverage of our events here, our photos here and please send us your videos and photos to add (email them to occupyaipac@gmail.com or add them to the flickr group “moveoveraipac”).

Amidst all this, Congress seems to be more entrenched than ever in enabling Israeli war crimes. While we have to keep the pressure on our elected officials, we can also engage in creative nonviolent resistance by joining boycott and divestment campaigns, supporting Palestinian and Israel activists, sending letters to Gaza with the US Boat, and more.

Professors Walt & Mearsheimer Speak at Move Over AIPAC

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John Mearsheimer:  Move Over AIPAC lecture
May 21, 2011

The Lobby and the Israel-Palestine Conflict

It is a pleasure to be here at the Move Over AIPAC Conference. I would like to thank Medea Benjamin and Rae Abileah of Code Pink for inviting us, and all of you for coming out to this important event. I have great respect for what you are doing to change US Middle East policy and I wish you the best of luck in that endeavor.

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