Today begins AIPAC’s biggest conference ever. More than 13,000 attendees are expected. But among them will not be four journalists from left-wing outlets who applied for credentials and were refused them. On Friday, JTA reported that Philip Weiss, of Mondoweiss; Mitchell Plitnick, of Inter Press Service; and Adele Stan, of AlterNet, were turned away. Additionally, I’ve confirmed that Alex Kane, of both Mondoweiss and AlterNet, applied as a writer for both sites and also was not granted conference credentials.
Neither AIPAC nor the P.R. agency working with it responded to a request for comment, meaning I can’t report that these journalists were not given credentials due to their outlets’ opinions. To JTA, an AIPAC spokesperson cited only the volume of press applicants, who receive an email explaining, “Submission of the online form does not guarantee accreditation.” Still, the circumstantial evidence is pretty heavy. Weiss, Kane, and Plitnick are prolific critics of Israel and of AIPAC, and AlterNet is definitely a left-wing site.
Still, Stan’s inclusion was more puzzling, because she hardly ever writes about Israel. In an interview with Tablet Magazine, Stan noted, “I cover the American right wing, and its leaders are well aware of who I am, and of my critical coverage of their movement. I have never been barred from covering a right-wing conference for which I have requested credentials. These include the Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit, David Koch’s Americans For Prosperity Foundation events, such as RightOnline, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Forum, and the Conservative Political Action Conference.”
Stan said that as AlterNet’s Washington bureau chief charged with covering the presidential campaign full-time, she was interested in attending primarily to see President Obama’s speech this morning and Republican contenders Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich when they address the conference via satellite Tuesday. “At the time that I applied, it was only Gingrich, but that in and of itself was interesting enough, with [Sheldon] Adelson,” she said. “That was my intention, and I even wrote that in the little space, that my interest was, I’m assigned to covering the election, and my main interest is in covering the Gingrich and Obama speeches.”
She also offered a few links to her work, as the application permits. One was a report about something Santorum had said. “He was talking about the U.S. striking Iran, and why it was a good idea, and it had to do with bad Shiite theology,” she recalled. “There was a little about Israel there.”
She applied well before the deadline, she said, and received the following reply from someone with Scott Circle Communications: “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.” She asked why she had been turned away, but got no response to her inquiry. She guessed that they flagged her due to the work of AlterNet colleagues like Joshua Holland and freelance contributors such as Max Blumenthal and Medea Benjamin.
I’ve come to AIPAC expecting, and frankly looking forward to, the group’s best foot forward. Assuming these exclusions were intentional, then why AIPAC wouldn’t want its adversaries to experience that—why it wouldn’t want its adversaries most of all to experience that—is bewildering.