CODEPINK Should Receive the Bayreuth Peace Prize

German_PinkTank.jpgCompiled by Rebecca Green, CODEPINK DC Staffer

 

When the German city of Bayreuth stated its plans to award its prestigious tolerance prize, the Wilhelmine-von-Bayreuth-Preis Award, to CODEPINK, the announcement was met with opposition and baseless accusations led by Benjamin Weinthal of the Jerusalem Post. Weinthal and others maintain that CODEPINK is an anti-Semitic group undeserving of the award, accusations which we categorically reject.

Under immense pressure, the mayor of Bayreuth, Brigitte Merk-Erbe, has since suggested that the award will be rescinded, and a decision about the rightful recipient is pending. Below are letters to Mayor Merk-Erbe explaining CODEPINK's actual work - to promote peace and universally oppose hate, war, and violence - and why these accusations "distract and trivialize the instances where Jewish people still face oppression," as Hedy Epstein says in her message. The letters are authored by CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, CODEPINK Palestinian Solidarity Campaign Coordinator Ariel Gold, CODEPINK Dallas Coordinator Leslie Harris, retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. Diplomat Ann Wright, and other CODEPINK supporters. We hope you will read them.

 

MEDEA BENJAMIN

Dear Mayor Merk-Erbe,

As the co-founder of the peace organization CODEPINK, and as a proud Jewish woman, I am disappointed to learn about the recent allegations by Benjamin Weinthal of the Jerusalem Post that CODEPINK is a so-called “anti-Semitic” organization. This accusation undoubtedly stems from our history of Palestine solidarity work, criticism of Israeli government policies, and participation in the non-violent boycott of Israeli settlement products (which are manufactured in violation of international law).

I would love the chance to talk with you personally about this. I think the best way to dispel any misgivings would be through a Skype call or a phone call. I can be reached at any time through this email address, or on Skype (my username is Medea.Benjamin).

For now, I would first like to address the accusations against CODEPINK as an organization, and later discuss the personal attacks made on myself.

CODEPINK’s focus for many years was on ending former President Bush’s illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then in 2009, Israel carried out Operation Cast Lead, during which over 1,400 people in Gaza were killed, including hundreds of women and children. At the behest of our allies at other human rights organizations, CODEPINK brought its first delegation to Gaza just days after the attack ended. We witnessed the utter destruction and bloody aftermath of an indiscriminate massacre that left an already traumatized population even more scarred, physically and mentally. It was this journey that deeply moved the CODEPINK leadership, including many Jewish women, to dedicate part of our mission to working for a just solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Since then, we have taken multiple delegations to Israel and Palestine, worked with women’s groups from both countries, and committed ourselves to lifting up their stories of struggle and reconciliation. While our government purports to be working toward a just solution to the conflict, we argue that the United States cannot be an honest mediator while sending tens of billions of dollars worth of military aid to just one side of the conflict. We strongly believe that weapons deals only fuel conflicts, instead of resolving them. For these reasons, we advocate for an end to US military aid to Israel. (This campaign is not limited to Israel, we also advocate for an end to military collaboration with the repressive regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.)

At CODEPINK we oppose the use of violence to achieve freedom and liberation. When Palestinian activists put out the call for an international boycott of Israeli products as a non-violent tactic to end the occupation of Palestine, we signed on as supporters and remain proud supporters today. Our campaigns related to the larger Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement advocate for the boycott of products that are made in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. These settlements are widely recognized as in direct violation of international law, and our call is simply for the factories to be relocated on land that is not occupied Palestinian territory. The nonviolent tactics of the BDS movement mirror those of the movement to end apartheid in South Africa, which I was once myself an active part of.

Furthermore, the allegations made by Benjamin Weinthal are based in attacks on my personal decision to attend a political conference in Iran within the last few years. I was invited to the conference to speak about my latest book on Drone Warfare, which I did. I was delighted at the opportunity to visit Iran and engage in dialogue with many Iranians. At the conference I heard speakers—mostly foreigners—say things I didn’t agree with, over-the-top conspiracy theories and statements that I thought were anti-Jewish, homophobic, and anti-immigrant. I brought up my concerns to the individual speakers and to the organizers. Some of my issues were addressed, such as clarifications from the podium by the organizers that the conference is not anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic and that it’s important to make a distinction between Judaism and Zionism. This was reiterated several times.

I was definitely uncomfortable with some of the people in the conference, but I’ve been in many situations where I feel uncomfortable with attendees from a variety of political backgrounds, from AIPAC conferences to Tea Party gatherings to Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored rallies to Thanksgiving meals with my extremely right-wing family members. I believe it's important to talk to all kinds of people, learn their perspectives, and share mine. During the conference days I was up until the early hours of the morning engaging in heated debates with some of the attendees about their conspiracy theories, their homophobic views, and their rigid value systems. I know that some of the people at the conference were moved by our late-night discussions. This sort of “talk to anyone” strategy to bring greater peace to the world reflects my desire to see diplomacy as the primary tool used by countries to resolve conflicts. This is what motivates me, and the rest of the staff at CODEPINK—not ideology, not political affiliation, simply a desire to stop all the death and agony of war and injustice.

We were also accused by Mr. Weinthal of leading anti-Semitic chants at the protest in Washington DC. If you look at the footage, you will see that none of these chants were led by CODEPINK, but were led by other people attending the protests, people whose speech we do not control.  

It saddens me that the peace work of CODEPINK, work that we are so proud of, has been smeared by someone who knows nothing about us. We look forward to visiting your lovely city so you can see for yourself the kind of people we are—genuine, loving, compassionate, fun women determined to build a more loving, peaceful world.

Thank you so much for your attention Please feel free to forward this message to Mr. Weinthal.

In peace,

Medea Benjamin

CODEPINK co-founder

 

HEDY EPSTEIN

Dear Mayor Merk-Erbe,

As a supporter of the work of both CODEPINK and my friend Medea Benjamin, and as a German survivor of the Holocaust, I am saddened to hear of recent statements made by the Jerusalem Post that CODEPINK is “anti-Semitic.” CODEPINK works in solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza and has criticized some of the Israeli government’s actions and policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. None of this is rooted in anti-Semitism.

This implication that support for the people of Palestine and criticism of Israeli human rights abuses is inherently “anti-Semitic” is misguided and wrong. More importantly, it is harmful to the cause of those fighting actual anti-Semitism, because it distracts from and trivializes the instances where Jewish people still face oppression - and at times violence - because of hate and animus.

I have long opposed Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and travelled with CODEPINK in 2010 to participate in the Gaza Freedom March. There is nothing anti-Semitic about CODEPINK or their mission to promote peace and justice around the world.

If deeply-held German guilt over what happened to Jews during the Holocaust prevents any critical discussion about Israeli policy in the present, that would be the true anti-Semitism. I urge you not to take these accusations seriously in your consideration of the work of CODEPINK and to honor the work of this important organization.

Sincerely,

Hedy Epstein

 

ARIEL GOLD

Dear Mayor Merk-Erbe,

As CODEPINK’s staff member in charge of our Palestine solidarity work, and as a Jewish mother, I am deeply upset by allegations from Benjamin Weinthal of the Jerusalem Post that CODEPINK is an “anti-Semitic” organization. Rather than being anti-Semitic, CODEPINK’s Palestine solidarity work is the very embodiment of Jewish values and ethics.

Criticism of the Israeli government is in accordance with a long Jewish tradition to engage in struggles for freedom and justice. This is especially important today with Israel being in continuous violation of international law. Since 1967, Palestinians in the West bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza have lived under a brutal military occupation where they are denied basic human rights. Since 2008/2009 Israel has engaged in three major military operations in Gaza, massacring thousands of Palestinians, including over 500 children in the summer of 2014. Given the current situation in Israel/Palestine, it is imperative that people work to change Israeli policies. During my son’s bar mitzvah speech in April, 2014, he stated:

“If the Torah says that you are to love your neighbor and love the stranger as yourself, it seems that Israel is in serious violation of this…As I have now become a Bar Mitzvah, I have moral and ethical responsibilities and I am required to fulfill mitzvot. I am responsible for my own actions and the actions of my community. As long as the State of Israel is committing crimes, it is a sin for me to stand idly by and not help my fellow Israelites return to a path of goodness.”

CODEPINK’s involvement in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is in accordance with the nonviolent traditions of the 1990’s South African anti-Apartheid movement and 1960’s US anti-segregation movement. Started in 2005 as a call from Palestinian civil society, BDS seeks to apply pressure to the State of Israel until it abides by international law and universal standards for human rights.

CODEPINK’s BDS campaigns include the Boycott AHAVA campaign, Remodel RE/MAX campaign, and Airbnb Stolen Homes campaign. The Boycott AHAVA campaign targets AHAVA skin care products, made in an illegal settlement factory with stolen Palestinian resources. Our Remodel RE/MAX campaign seeks to compel RE/MAX International to set standards for their franchises that they stop selling, renting, or advertising homes in illegal Israeli settlements in direct violation of international law. Our Airbnb Stolen Land campaign is in coalition with a number of organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace. The campaign asks Airbnb to stop profiting from Israel’s settlement enterprise by listing vacation rentals in illegal Israeli settlements.

In order to bring peace and safety to all who live in Israel/Palestine we must use nonviolent methods to end the Israel’s occupation, siege, and systems of inequality. These are the values of the Jewish tradition that I raise my children with and they are at the heart of CODEPINK’s work for justice in Palestine.

Thank you so much for your attention Please feel free to forward this message to Mr. Weinthal.

Sincerely,

Ariel Gold

CODEPINK staff, member of Congregation Tikkun v'Or

 

LESLIE HARRIS

Dear Mayor Merk-Erbe,

As a member of CODEPINK Women for Peace for over a decade, I am proud to be part of a group that works to end war, militarism and violence and to redirect resources towards human needs.  I joined CODEPINK specifically because of its work in opposition to the illegal invasion of Iraq and was pleased to find that the group's humanitarian efforts extended to defending the human rights of people all across the globe.

It was with great surprise and dismay that I read about the false allegations put forth in the Jerusalem Post article by Benjamin Weinthal. I was disappointed, as well, that no apparent effort had been made to secure any comment from CODEPINK leaders before the article was published.

The rationale for the accusation that CODEPINK is an anti-Semitic organization is difficult to understand, especially considering that many members are, themselves, Jewish.  Disagreement with some policies of the Israeli government regarding Palestinians is no more anti-Semitic than disagreement with some policies of our own U.S. government is anti-American or against any religious group.  When we see injustices perpetrated by any government, including our own, we raise our voices and look for just solutions.  We object to Israel's violations of the human rights of Palestinians - the demolition of homes, confiscation of lands, creation of illegal settlements, collective punishment and disproportionate military aggression - which have been reflected in the many UN resolutions against Israel.  Our criticisms are directed towards these oppressive government policies...not towards Judaism!

The "holocaust denier” accusation was another mischaracterization. I have never heard any member of CODEPINK make such a denial. Anyone who has ever spoken with holocaust survivors and seen their tattooed identification numbers, as I have, or visited a German concentration camp and seen the barracks and ovens, as I have, cannot deny the holocaust.  As my children grew into young adulthood, I took them there so they, too, could learn and never forget - niemals vergessen - about what happened and that it must never happen again - anywhere.   

As a mother, I worry about the world we will leave to our children.  What can we do to make it better?  I am gratified to be part of CODEPINK, whose members seek truth and speak truth to power, stand up for their principles, work tirelessly to stop war and injustice wherever they see it and strive to create a more peaceful, tolerant and sustainable world.  I look forward to visiting the beautiful city of Bayreuth, and I hope that mischaracterizations can be rectified, misinterpretations can be clarified, and that all involved can come to a better understanding.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Leslie Harris

CODEPINK Greater Dallas

 

ANN WRIGHT

Dear Mayor Merk-Erbe,

I am a 29 year veteran of the US Army and retired as a Colonel. I also served 16 years in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia, the last four postings as Deputy Ambassador.  I resigned from the U.S. Government in March 2003 in opposition to my country's war of choice on Iraq.

Since then I have been working with groups that oppose wars of choice and other illegal and immoral actions that my government and other governments are conducting.  Challenging illegal actions of the U.S. Government is not unAmerican and challenging illegal actions of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitic.  

We know from experience that members of both of those governments and their mouthpieces in the press will characterize such criticism of governmental action in the most negative and dangerously nationalist and fear mongering manner to scare others from daring to challenge them.

As you in Germany well know, those who spoke up against Nazism, the White Rose student movement with their statement "We Will Not Be Silent" were killed to silence them.  The orchestrated campaign by the State of Israel to silence dissent about their brutal occupation of the West Bank, their horrific blockade of Gaza, their theft of huge areas of Palestine for illegal settlements, their continuing military attacks on the people of Gaza that have slaughtered tens of thousands, their massive apartheid walls and the imprisonment of thousands of the youth of Palestine for throwing rocks are actions that the State of Israel wants no criticism.  But, we can not be silent particularly when the image of anti-Semitism is used to attempt to silence criticism.

I resigned from the U.S. Government as public criticism of my government's action and I continue to be public in my criticism of actions of governments around the world when they are unlawful, illegal and/or immoral.  I will continue to criticize the State of Israel until it stops these actions and policies.

CODEPINK is much more than its work to educate about Israeli policies.  Our work led by women to stop wars, end assassin drones, stop police brutality and end militarism has been a thorn in the side of governments and will continue to be as we will not back down from attempts to silence us.

Ann Wright

U.S. Army Colonel, Reserves, Retired

Former U.S.Diplomat

 

JOSIE LENWELL

I am shocked and saddened by these false accusations and the possibility that the reward will be rescinded.  I wish to express my thoughts on this matter and hope that these thoughts can be shared with the mayor and city council when they meet to decide on whether to rescind the award.

I have been involved with Code Pink since the US government chose to start the Iraq war. Code Pink is for Peace. We oppose militarism, empire building, war and occupation whether it be our government or the government of any other nation. We oppose our own governments imperialism and oppression and occupation and we oppose the Zionist Government of Israel's oppression and occupation of the Palestinian people.  At least half of the delegation coming to Bayreuth is Jewish.  We all lost family in the holocaust and we are the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the survivors of the holocaust. How could we deny what happened? We stand with the Jewish people and the Arab people. We stand with all people and we oppose any attempt by one group to oppress another. As Jews we have a long and sad history of oppression and genocide. As Jews we will not use our oppression and genocide to justify oppression of another. We oppose Zionism knowing full well Zionism is not Judaism. No group of people has priority or superiority over another.

Of course we support the BDS movement so successful in ending apartheid in South Africa. Boycott, Divest and Sanction - sometimes the only way to get the attention of governments that there are consequences for not supporting equality and freedom for all. That is the only way we can have peace. We work hard to promote diversity, peace and tolerance and we have no tolerance for injustice and we will peacefully and creatively respond to injustice. We were honored to receive the Aachen Peace Prize in 2014 when we were just as active in protesting the Zionist and Apartheid policies of the government of Israel and we are again honored that we were chosen to receive the Wilhelmine von Bayreuth-Preis. We are available to discuss any controversy about our disagreements with the Zionist government of Israel as we would discuss our disagreements with the policies of occupation and oppression by our own government.

Sadly the government of Israel tries to silence any and all protest and criticism by declaring the speaker/group anti-semitic just as the US government tries to silence all dissent by accusations of communism or terrorism or as the church tried to silence all dissent by calling people heretics and burning them at the stake.  We need the courage to stand up and not be divided by name calling. I hope Bayreuth won't be silenced by the false accusations of antisemitism.  I can clearly say that Code Pink is for peace and justice, tolerance and diversity for all but not at the expense of one group for another.

I have so enjoyed our correspondence and I hope that the plans for our trip to Bayreuth to receive the award will continue and that we will have the opportunity to meet!

Sending my best to you and the ones who carefully chose Code Pink to receive this award.

Josie

 

MICHAEL LEVY

Dear Mayor Brigitte Merk-Erbe and Kulturamt Officials Gabriele Roehler and Sabine Hacker,

As a human rights researcher working internationally for more than 30 years, I was very pleased to learn that you have awarded the Wilhelmine von Bayreuth Prize to the organization CODEPINK. I wish to extend my profound congratulations to you for this decision as a positive act of encouragement and solidarity with victims of human rights violations around the world, struggling to make their voices heard against tremendous odds. I salute the courage and tireless, energetic dedication of CODEPINK members whose compassion has reached directly to the hearts of the most vulnerable groups, from within the United States to Gaza and the West Bank, Bahrain, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Latin America, and elsewhere, systematically promoting international intercultural understanding and respect for international human rights law with exceptional compassion, respect and innovative creativity, whether supplying toys and playgrounds to survivors of conflict, or documenting under-reported human rights violations especially affecting women and children.

I am aware that there is presently a campaign aimed at discrediting this important organization, even making the absurd and insulting suggestion that CODEPINK is anti-Semitic. As a Jewish-American observer of the tragic state of relations between the government of Israel and its population and neighbors, I can assure you that CODEPINK's is in every way fundamentally antithetical to anti-Semitism and in fact exists to promote peace, truth and justice as I am confident we all value in these difficult times.   

Thank you very much for your attention. Best wishes in your work.
Very truly yours,

Michael Levy
Osceola, WI, USA

 

STEVE FAKE

Dear Mayor Merk-Erbe,

I understand that the city of Bayreuth is being pressured by the Israeli media to rescind its peace award to CodePink, alleging that the organization is antisemitic. 

I strongly condemn antisemitism and racism in all its forms. As a U.S. citizen who has worked closely with CodePink over the years, I can attest that CodePink is in no way antisemitic and has no tolerance for racism. In my experiences at CodePink events, I have witnessed personally that its organizers have always acted quickly to isolate and remove individuals who arrive at protest actions expressing racist or antisemitic sentiments. I have never seen any credible evidence that CodePink condones antisemitism. Quite the contrary. CodePink is fully deserving of its peace award and I congratulate Bayreuth for conferring the honor upon CodePink.

Antisemitism must not be confused with critiques of Israeli settlement activity. Indeed, it does a disservice to the victims of antisemitism to conflate legitimate political criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Jewish racism.

With regards,

Steven Fake

Washington DC, USA

Steve Fake

Skype: steve.fake

 

MARTHA HUBERT

Dear Mayor Merk-Erbe and Bayreuth City Council,

It was an honor to be included among the CODEPINK activists invited to Bayreuth to accept the Wilhelmine von Bayreuth Award. I was looking forward to seeing your city, hearing your music and enjoying the company of like minds, as I always do when CODEPINK sisters converge.  I’d like to thank those who chose CODEPINK for the award, and I’m sorry that your efforts have not been looked at with admiration, but scorn. My greatest hope is that this controversy will help to expose both the lies and the truth about Israel/Palestine.  The lies of CODEPINK being an organization of “Anti-semites and Holocaust Deniers” deserve a formal apology.  Hopefully we can shine a light on truth - the reality of life for Palestinians and the cruel consequences of Zionism.  Both the German and American governments are accomplices in the atrocities of the Occupation of Palestine. As compassionate citizens, we have an obligation to make our opposition known.

Back in 2009, my husband and I had the pleasure of hosting two wonderful young Israeli women, Maya Wind and Netta Mishly from the refusenik group “shministim” when they were here in the San Francisco Bay Area on a speaking tour with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).  Maya Wind and Netta Mishly both signed the 2008 Shministim Letter: a declaration by Israeli high school students that they would not enlist in the IDF to occupy Palestinian territories and rule over Palestinian life. Since military service is mandatory for Israeli Jews upon completing high school, Maya, Netta, and many of the dozens of teenagers who signed the letter were sentenced to military prison. The Shministim (Hebrew for “twelfth-graders”) are an informal group of young Israelis who openly declare their refusal to join the Israeli military. Every year, the Shministim sign a different letter, a tradition harkening back to the 1970s when the first Shministim class expressed their dissent in a letter to Prime Minister Golda Meir. The 2008 letter, signed by both Maya and Netta, declares, “We cannot be moral and serve the occupation.” Their courageous stance for Peace and Justice is inspiring. Hopefully someday the truth of the shameful path of the government of Israel and the complicity of our governments will be fully exposed. I am grateful to these courageous young people and many more who speak truth to power.

I have been active in San Francisco, trying to spread awareness of countless peace and justice issues. Every Wednesday, we vigil at a prominent downtown location in San Francisco, in support of various peace and justice issues. I’m proud to be associated with CODEPINK! From Black Lives Matter to Freeing Chelsea Manning to BDS, we’re there. For Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Lynne Stewart and Julian Assange, we're there. For the victims of the Paris bombing, in support of equal rights for all, we’re there. In support of our fragile Mother Earth, we’re there. We’ve walked the halls of congress in Washington together, attended hearings, and stood up for the victims of hate and injustice. I grew up outside of Washington DC, and was glad to be part of the generation who held massive marches in protest of the Vietnam War. I was here in San Francisco for the massive protests against the war in Iraq. Hopefully some day people of all nations will realize that we are one and our survival is dependent on helping each other. We share, we win.

Recently I’ve been busy helping to organize the second annual SHUT DOWN CREECH. The abomination of Killer Drones is yet another shameful pursuit of our military. CODEPINK has been joining Veterans for Peace and other peace and justice organizations to spread awareness of this horror. We vigil morning and evening at the entrance to the base, asking that the enlisted personnel and private contractors reconsider what they’re doing in facilitating the death and destruction of so many innocents.  Countless civilians have had their lives stolen by a government with no respect for the rule of law.  Even those guilty of heinous acts deserve to be tried in a court of law.

In closing, I’d like to thank your city again, for choosing CODEPINK for the Wilhelmine von Bayreuth Award. If this honor is not bestowed on CODEPINK, we only have another excuse to get out there and speak truth to power.  Thank you for these opportunities.

In Peace

For Justice,

Martha Hubert

San Francisco CODEPINK 

 

RICHARD A. LEVY

Mayor Merk-Erbe:

As a Jewish American who grew up in a strongly pro Israel family I am proud to be a Code pink supporter. Code pink has been a strong honest voice against War and violence as answers to political and social conflicts and a courageous advocate for human rights. As a  civil rights lawyer I am greatly appreciative of the work they do in the interest of a peaceful and humane world. As a Jew, I reject thoroughly any suggestion that Code Pink's opposition to Israel's maltreatment of the Palestinians and it's persistent violations of international law is in any way anti-Semitic. On the contrary, I view its advocacy against Israel's apartheid policies to be in the interest of a sustainable homeland for Jews and Palestinians. It is Israel's brutal and thoughtless conduct that is fanning the flames of anti-semitism.

I applaud your courageous and righteous recognition of Code Pinks valuable contribution to peace and justice.

Thank you. Richard A levy

Attorney
Levy Ratner, PC
New York, New York USA

 

TOBY BLOME

Dear Mayor Merk-Erbe and Bayreuth City Council,

I was tremendously honored when selected to be one of the CODEPINK members to travel to Germany to accept the Wilhelmine von Bayreuth Award.  I've been very involved with CODEPINK almost since it's beginnings, and very committed to fostering a US foreign policy that is committed to peace over war, diplomacy over violence.  

Locally, I have been one of the main volunteer organizers of our San Francisco chapter, leading monthly peace walks on the Golden Gate Bridge since 2007, organizing ongoing actions to protest drone warfare and the occupations and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  I have made dozens of trips to Washington DC from the west coast to join peace activists in lobbying Congress.  All of my activism has been as a volunteer, as is true for the vast majority of the membership of CODEPINK.  In 2012 I traveled to Pakistan with a CODEPINK Peace Delegation and met with family members of civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes, learning of their tragic stories and giving solidarity support to activists in Pakistan working to stop the illegal U.S. drone killing.  Since returning from that trip I have been devoted to working to halt the stealing of lives by drone missiles.  Even our own air force personnel who work in the drone program are victims themselves, with high rates of PTSD and suicide.  Some, as veterans, are now courageously speaking out about how the US drone program is fueling extremism and destabilizing the world. Please take the time to hear their moving testimonies on Democracy Now.

Indeed, traveling all the way to Germany to accept such an award is a huge honor for all of us in CODEPINK, and is a beautiful way to experience gratitude, acknowledgement and thanks from the international community for all of the many ways we have worked hard over the years to create a more just, sane and peaceful world.  We are all saddened by the recent turn of events and the accusations and slander that are causing you all to reconsider giving CODEPINK this award.  Why is peace so threatening?  Who really is threatened by it and what are their real motivations?  

The most disturbing attacks of all are the accusations that try to label us as Holocaust deniers purely by association.  People who act in this way should face consequences.  This is very serious and irresponsible slander.  Again, what motivates these people?   

Personally, one of the earliest memories I have of learning about the inhumanity that exists in the world was being educated about the history of the holocaust through school and the excellent documentaries and dramas of the time, such as the 1978 film, Julia.  It was unbelievable to me that any society could develop such an institutionalized way to commit crimes on such a grand scale.  I pondered for decades about how such a system could be created in any human society.  At the same time I was also being introduced to the horrendous crimes of my own government during the Vietnam War.  So to be accused now of being a holocaust denier is not only ludicrous but vicious.  Anyone who knows activists in the peace movement in general would find it absurd to hear of such an accusation.  In general, from my experience, peace activists are very committed to unveiling truths and getting at the heart of what really is fueling warfare, most often greed and war profiteering.   

Shouldn't the persons making accusations approach us first and ask us what our viewpoints really are rather than make false accusations?  Each of you are welcome and encouraged to ask us yourself.  We are all available to answer any questions that you have and I will promise you, we all have the highest integrity and would be very forthcoming.  

I call on all of those accusing us of these falsehoods to make a public apology at the very least.  

I will not write to you at length about the other falsehoods being thrown out about us.  I believe my colleagues who were also invited to accept this award have already spoken very well on this subject.  However, I would like to reiterate that when we speak out against actions and policies of the Israeli government, we are not advocating for the destruction or dissolution of the state of Israel.  Similarly, when peace activists in America speak out against the crimes of our government, we are not being anti-American or calling for the destruction of the United States.  We are only calling for an end to the serious crimes committed against the most vulnerable.  The BDS movement against Israel has been quite successful, gaining wider and wider support worldwide.  It might behoove the state of Israel to change the very policies that the majority of the world finds abhorrent and to exhibit respect for the rights of the Palestinian people.  The continued expansion of illegal settlements and occupation, in spite of a strong BDS movement, is only a sign of Israel's refusal to hear the cries of the world for justice and peace.  

We need diplomacy, thoughtfulness, tolerance and respect in our world now more than ever.  Please give the greatest thoughtfulness to the decision you make about this award.  I am asking you this not so much because we would love to accept the award from you, though that is obviously true.  More importantly, please consider deeply the consequences you would be fostering should you allow false claims and slander to affect any decisions that you make.  Those would be the saddest and most damaging effects of all, and would only encourage such low level behavior to be expressed in other ways elsewhere in the world.

I want to thank you all for your deepest consideration in this matter, and give special thanks to those who made the recommendation that CODEPINK receive this award.  Whether my organization ultimately receives it or not doesn't matter in the end.  For in my heart, I know that we dearly deserve it.  Please feel free to write or call for any questions you may have.

Sincerely and with appreciation,

Toby Blome
CODEPINK, San Francisco Chapter

 

Wolfgang Gehrcke

Dear friends from Code Pink,

With huge dismay we took notice of the pressure exerted on the Mayor and Town council of Bayreuth to withdraw the Prize of Tolerance (Wilhelmine-von-Bayreuth-Preis) they had awarded to Code Pink. We believe the allegations brought up against Code Pink are construed and purely defamatorily.

We want to emphasize our solidarity with Code Pink.  For years now we cooperated with your organization, especially in the campaign against Killer Drones and Targeted Killings we have jointly organized activities and protests. We hold you in high regard because of your engagement against the killing, the suffering and war. We thank you for your courageous criticism of governments perpetrating unlawful actions.

We hope that the Mayor as well as the Town Council of Bayreuth will not yield to this pressure and will award the “Wilhelmine-von-Bayreuth-Preis” in April as has been planned to the courageous members of Code Pink!

With solidary greetings,

Wolfgang Gehrcke, Member of Federal Parliament, the German Bundestag (MdB)
Christine Buchholz, MdB
Annette Groth, MdB
Heike Hänsel, MdB
Inge Höger, MdB
Andrej Hunko, MdB
Niema Movassat, MdB
Kathrin Vogler, MdB
Dr. Alexander Neu, MdB

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