WASHINGTON (JTA) — Helen Thomas has cancelled her participation in a pro-Palestinian conference aiming to counter AIPAC’s annual gathering.
Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer are scheduled to speak at "Move Over AIPAC" in Washington from May 21 to 24, coinciding with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference. The program is being run by a coalition of about 100 leftist and pro-Palestinian groups, led by Code Pink and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
"Helen Thomas was invited to speak, as a journalist who is fearless about questioning power and unnecessary wars, but because some of her comments have sparked controversy, several members of the coalition and our grassroots community had concerns about her appearance," the coalition said in a statement.
"When Thomas was informed about this, she feared that the focus of the events might shift to her, instead of AIPAC and U.S. policy, and she gracefully withdrew her participation."
The thrust of the "Move Over AIPAC" event will be "to learn about the extraordinary influence AIPAC has on U.S. policy and how to strengthen an alternative that respects the rights of all people in the region," according to the coalition.
The conference will include protests outside the Washington Convention Center, the site of the AIPAC forum.
Thomas, a veteran Washington journalist, lost her column with the Hearst Corp. last year after she said Israelis "should get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany and the United States. She has since said she accepts the "inevitability" of Israel," but also told Playboy in an interview that "Israeli lobbies" have "total control" of Washington and the financial markets.
Walt and Mearsheimer, scholars who wrote the 2006 book "The Israel Lobby," will deliver the keynote address.