The other day I learned that AIPAC won’t give me press credentials to its annual policy conference, which begins tomorrow. Misery loves company; and it turns out that Jim Lobe, the venerable Washington bureau chief of the international news agency Inter Press, has been turned down too.
Lobe says the only other body that’s refused to let him in over 30 years of reporting in D.C. is the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.
Here’s the beginning of Lobe’s post, “Blackballed by AIPAC?” He points out that the JTA covered the censorship two years back.
In my 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service, only one institution has denied me admission to their press or public events. That was the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) shortly after the broadcast in 2003 of a BBC Panorama program (its equivalent, more or less, of our “60 Minutes”) on neoconservatives and their promotion of the Iraq war. The segment was entitled “The War Party” and I was interviewed at several intervals during the program. In that case, I was told forthrightly (and somewhat apologetically) by the think tank’s then-communications chief, Veronique Rodman, that “someone from above” had objected strongly to the show (I had my own reservations about it) and my role in it and had demanded that I be banned from attending future AEI events. My status as persona non grata there was reaffirmed about five years later when LobeLog alumnus Eli Clifton went there for an event and was taken aside by an unidentified staffer and told that he could attend, but that he should remind me that I was still unwelcome.
Now it seems I’ve been blackballed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, although, unlike AEI, AIPAC has so far declined to give me a reason for denying me accreditation for its annual policy conference, which runs Sunday through Tuesday. All I’ve received thus far is this email that arrived in my inbox Thursday morning from someone named Emily Helpern from Scott Circle, a public relations firm here in DC.
“Thank you for your interest in attending this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference as a member of the press. However, press credentials for the conference will not be issued to you. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”
I emailed Emily back as soon as I received it to ask for an explanation and pointed out that this is the first time in a decade that I’ve been denied credentials to cover the AIPAC conference. When no reply was forthcoming, I sent a second email to her and to Marshall Wittmann, AIPAC’s communications director, seeking an explanation, but, alas, it seems I’ve become a non-person.
Now, it bears mentioning that I am not the first to be blackballed by AIPAC, apparently for political reasons. As the JTA’s Ron Kampeas reported in 2012, three journalists were denied credentials to the policy conference that year:
“Journalists turned away include Mitchell Plitnick, a liberal blogger who has sparred with right-wing pro-Israel groups as well as anti-Zionists, and who was going to provide coverage for Inter Press Service, which emphasizes developing nations coverage as well as what it calls marginalized groups; Adele Stan of AlterNet, a news site that says it encourages advocacy in a number of areas, including human rights and social justice; and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss, an anti-Zionist site.
“Plitnick had been cleared for coverage, only to be told that it was rescinded, and Weiss has covered AIPAC policy conferences at least three times without incident.
“Barring coverage in Washington is rare; Government institutions in Washington are known for accommodating a broad range of journalists, including those adamantly hostile to the government of the day.”
Actually, at least four journalists were barred from the 2012 conference. Alex Kane, who writes for both Mondoweiss and Alternet, was also denied credentials….
Now, however, it seems I’ve been added to AIPAC’s blacklist.
This raises a lot of questions, not the least of which is how thin has AIPAC’s skin become in light of itsrecent defeats on Capitol Hill.