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AIPAC, Press Get Punk'd By Fake Call For Settlement Freeze

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Newscom

The statement said in part that AIPAC "strongly urges Israel to work closely and privately with the Obama administration, in a manner befitting strategic allies, to address a wide range of critical issues, including settlements, the status of East Jerusalem and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza."

And it attributes this quote to AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr, who spoke this morning at the group's annual Washington conference: "With the good faith gesture of freezing settlements, Israel can generate a new equilibrium in the Middle East that assures."

It's still unclear who is responsible for the fake statement. We've put in a call to notorious political pranksters the Yes Men but haven't heard back yet. (See Late Update below.)

We've also asked AIPAC spokesman Josh Block what exactly happened, and we'll let you know if we hear back. (It's worth noting that AIPAC apparently does not have an official position on settlements -- the topic is not among the 11 major areas on the group's issues page.)

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has now picked up the fake statement.

Late Update: Here's the full text of the hoax statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Josh Block
March 22, 2010

AIPAC CALLS ON THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT
TO IMMEDIATELY DEFUSE TENSIONS
WITH UNITED STATES
URGES ISRAEL TO FREEZE ALL SETTLEMENTS

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveling to the United States to speak at the AIPAC 2010 Policy Conference and meet with President Barack Obama, AIPAC reaffirms the U.S-Israel relationship rooted in mutual strategic interest, shared democratic values, and a commitment to peace in the region. To further solidify this relationship, AIPAC calls on the Netanyahu government to make a conscious effort to move away from actions that create tensions between the two governments and undermine prospects for Israel-Palestine peace. AIPAC therefore calls on the Israeli government to immediately freeze new settlement projects, both in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

AIPAC agrees with Vice President Joe Biden that the Israeli government plan for new housing units in East Jerusalem "undermines the trust that we need right now in order to begin ... profitable negotiations." It also seconds the position of AIPAC keynote speaker Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said that the U.S. government wants to see a freeze on settlements - "not some settlements, not outposts, not 'natural growth' exceptions."

AIPAC applauds the Israeli government's recent announcement that it will ease the restrictions on materials allowed into Gaza, especially materials needed for rebuilding the sewage system and buildings destroyed during Operation Cast Lead.

AIPAC believes that an easing of the tensions between the United States and Israel is critical to move forward with the substantive work that needs to be done to thwart Iran's dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons, and to move forward in the peace process between Israel and all of her Arab neighbors. It strongly urges Israel to work closely and privately with the Obama administration, in a manner befitting strategic allies, to address a wide range of critical issues, including settlements, the status of East Jerusalem and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

"With the good faith gesture of freezing settlements, Israel can generate a new equilibrium in the Middle East that assures," said AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr.

###

Late Late Update: A spokesman for the Yes Men emails: "Pretty sure nobody in our camp has anything to do with this one."

Late 2:45 p.m. Update: It was Code Pink.