The MoveOverAipac conference is in 3 weeks. The organizers have just issued a statement to endorsers explaining the Helen Thomas invitation, and Thomas’s withdrawal from the conference. Medea is Medea Benjamin of CodePink, who met with Helen Thomas yesterday, and Rae is Rae Abileah. Great women. Here it is:
Thank you for your support of Move Over AIPAC (www.MoveOverAIPAC.org) and your concern about Helen Thomas’ participation. We’d like to clarify what has happened to date since it seems there have been many versions of what happened. CODEPINK has appreciated and admired Helen Thomas’ courageous journalism since our start, honoring her with a pink badge of courage, and being one of the groups that organized “Jews for Helen” after she was fired. In inviting Helen Thomas to speak, it was our hope that her name would draw more attendance and excitement for the MOA events. Unfortunately, we did not talk over this invitation with the other coalition members and only found out–after the fact–that several groups and individuals thought it was a bad move on our part because the press would focus on Helen and not our critique of AIPAC. When we at CODEPINK told Helen’s assistant about these concerns, her assistant called back and said Helen preferred not to speak. We want to make it clear that no groups within the coalition pressured us to “disinvite” Helen and that she was never disinvited.
This morning Medea met with Helen to make it clear to her that there was still an open, welcoming invitation for her to speak. Helen reaffirmed that she does not wish to speak at Move Over AIPAC and she did so on film, which we will post. She also stated she would prefer to attend the conference as a journalist and cover the events, and has agreed to speak at a post-AIPAC Policy Conference event at Bus Boys and Poets on May 4, which CODEPINK will help publicize.
Senator James Abourezk, who wrote an article saying that Helen was disinvited, has now put out this statement: “I understand that Helen Thomas does not want to speak at Move Over AIPAC and instead wants to cover it as a journalist. I encourage everyone who agrees with the premise of this gathering to move forward and help make this a successful event.”
In reviewing the sequence of events, we realize that have erred in our communication with endorsing organizations and wish to apologize for this. We are relatively new to this movement for justice in Israel/Palestine and have much to learn from those of you who have been doing this work for decades. And we all have much to learn about how to work effectively, respectfully and in integrity with each other.
Move Over AIPAC is a unique hybrid experience – CODEPINK is coordinating the conference, events and actions, and has asked for endorsements, most of which have been endorsements in name only thus far. We assumed that there was trust in groups that we could make decisions about speakers, workshops, actions. To date we’ve had two meetings in Washington DC, two conference calls, and have sent out numerous emails to endorsers inviting suggestions for speakers, performers, and creative actions. We are appreciative to the input we’re received thus far, but we hoped there would be more engagement from groups willing to help outreach and organize.
We hope that if there is something positive to come out of this, in addition to the clarity around Helen’s wishes and her participation in Move Over AIPAC, it might be a renewed sense of interest in working together to make this event a success. So far we have only 130 registrants. We hope to reach 300 in the next three weeks and need everyone’s help to reach that goal.
Moving forward, we’d like to establish clear lines of communication, particularly with partnering groups that are sending members to the conference and organizing to make it a success. ..
Medea, Rae and Shaden