The American Library Association may have Banned Book Week, but this weekend, AIPAC kicked off its first banned journalist weekend. That’s right, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which claims to represent American Jews, but only represents the most hawkish, jingoistic and myopic among us, banned or revoked the press credentials of writers from Alternet, Philip Weiss from Mondoweiss, and Mitchell Plitnick from The Third Way for their yearly conference in Washington D.C. And, what’s more, they haven’t explained why. While I don’t support AIPAC’s decision, I see the logic behind blocking Weiss, Plitnick (after all, why would AIPAC support a blog committed to “Finding Balance In Mideast Analysis”), and Alternet’s world affairs editor, Alex Kane. These three journalists have all been critical of Israeli policy (as have some of the most pro-Israel people out there.) But their banning of Alternet’s Washington DC correspondent Adele Stanmakes no sense, given that she doesn’t even write about Israel. Stan writes: “On the surface, this looks simply like AIPAC refusing to credential a bunch of writers whose views run counter to its own. But here’s the flaw in that reasoning: I have never written anything particularly critical of Israel. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever written anything about Israel, period. I’m just a campaign-trail reporter trying to cover a pretty big event in the U.S. presidential campaign — an event called Super Tuesday.” So what’s behind her being denied access? “Since AIPAC is stonewalling me, I have been left to my own devices. I could be totally off-base here, but how am I to know? Perhaps the issue is simply the range of AIPAC-critical pieces run on AlterNet, starting with Holland’s work, and include articles by Max Blumenthal and opinion pieces by Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin.” But all signs point to a case of guilt by association and revenge:
… these rejections aren’t specifically about any of the journalists who were rejected, but are about a battle being waged by Josh Block, a former AIPAC staffer, against several bloggers at Middle East Progress, part of the ThinkProgress blog of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, as well as bloggers at Media Matters. It may entail a bit of misplaced retribution for the dumping of Block as a member of the Truman Security Forum, a liberalish national security group, after Block initiated a smear campaign against ThinkProgress and Media Matters bloggers. (After all, we lefties all look alike, non?)
As for me, I’m going to be just fine. Since being banned by AIPAC, I’ve picked up a rack of new Twitter followers and gained new exposure in the Israeli and American Jewish press, where my work was never visible before. The real casualty here is to AIPAC’s reputation.. when its leaders choose to freeze out a highly selective and tiny group of progressive writers because they have a colleague in common whose views contradict AIPAC’s, well, big, bad AIPAC just looks petty and small.
How ironic that the lobbying group, which constantly claims Israel is a beacon of democracy, is so afraid of a little free (in both senses of the word) press.