CODEPINK Works For Peace and Justice for All People and Stands Against Hate and Prejudice in All Forms
CODEPINK INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
February 26, 2016 — Yesterday the Israeli Embassy in Germany strongly objected to the city council of Bayreuth’s vote on Wednesday to confirm that the U.S. peace and civil-rights organization CODEPINK will receive the 2016 Wilhelmine-Tolerance Prize from the city in a public ceremony on April 15th. CODEPINK was founded in 2002 and is led by women.
CODEPINK has designated seven of its members to go to Bayreuth to receive the the award. The internationally recognized U.S. peace organization has previously received numerous awards, including the prestigious Aachen Peace Prize in Germany in 2014. The CODEPINK delegates are planning a speaking tour in Germany from April 7th to 19th.
In the complaint yesterday, the Israeli Embassy again reiterated allegations against CODEPINK, of denying the right of Israel to exist and of having ties to Holocaust deniers in Iran, made by journalist Benjamin Weinthal in an article published on February 10th in the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post. In the article, Weinthal cited a statement by Rabbi ? Cooper of Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“We have already rebutted all these allegations in documents we submitted to the elected city council members of Bayreuth, who have the duty and the right to make the decision regarding the Wilhelmine-Prize,” said Elsa Rassbach, CODEPINK Speaker in Germany.
Prior to publishing his February 10th article in the Jerusalem Post, Weinthal had on February 7th sent a lengthy letter in German to the mayor setting forth his allegations against CODEPINK. Weinthal demanded that the mayor, a member of the local independent party “Bayreuth Community,” forthwith obtain a detailed response from CODEPINK to his allegations.
Without waiting for a response from CODEPINK, Mayor Mark-Erbe issued a press statement on February 11th stating that she would ask the Bayreuth city council to revoke the award because doubts had been raised about the worthiness of CODEPINK to receive it. The award to CODEPINK was first proposed by the University of Bayreuth and approved by the city council in the summer of 2014. Former Wilhelmine-Tolerance-Prize laureates include Madjiguène Cissé, founder of the Women’s Network for Sustainable Development in Africa, Hassan ibn Talal of Jordan, and the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim.
On the afternoon of February 11th, CODEPINK’s speaker in Germany, Elsa Rassbach, provided a detailed statement on behalf of CODEPINK to Mayor Mark-Erbe in response to Mr. Weinthal’s allegations. On February 12th, CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin wrote to Mayor Mark-Erbe in English, providing further information in response to the allegations.
But in its meeting on February 15th, the members of the city council denied the mayor’s request to revoke the award to CODEPINK and instead voted to suspend the award pending further investigation by council members. A group of city council members then informed Ms. Rassbach that they had not received most of the documents and supporting letters Rassbach said she had provided to the mayor. They requested that she send the documents to them directly, and she did so.
On February 19th, the four parliamentary representatives to the German-Israeli parliamentary group in the Bundestag wrote to the mayor and to all the city council members in Bayreuth, reiterating the allegations of Weinthal and urging the city council to revoke the award to CODEPINK. Behind the scenes the Israeli Consulate in Munich also wrote letters to the mayor, most recently on February 22nd, citing the allegations made by Weinthal and urging that she persuade the city council to revoke the award.
Nevertheless, the city council members voted, after an extended discussion in its meeting on February 24th, to immediately and fully confirm the award of 10,000 euro (ca. $11,000) to CODEPINK. The more than forty members of the city council, representing eight political parties, voted 23-18 on the Green Party motion to confirm the award to CODEPINK. Those who voted against the Green Party’s motion had made alternative proposals, either to delay the decision pending further investigation, or to grant the money award of 10,000 while at the same time suspending the public award ceremony because of fears that the ceremony might be disrupted by CODEPINK’s detractors. While a few council members criticized CODEPINK in some respects, not a single council member called for revoking the award to CODEPINK. And some members stated during the debate that they felt the attempts to exert outside pressure on them were inappropriate.
In issuing its formal public objections to the vote of the Bayreuth city council yesterday, the Israeli Embassy again repeated the allegations of Mr. Weinthal that CODEPINK is “an organization which openly denies the right of the State of Israel to exist.” Rabbi Cooper of Simon Wiesenthal Center stated on Thursday that CODEPINK is “devoted to a dangerous agenda that threatens six million Jewish citizens of Israel.” Though city council members of Bayreuth had not found this characterization of CODEPINK to be persuasive, nevertheless Rabbi Cooper on Thursday even called on German leaders across the spectrum to denounce the “shameful” vote, and the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office urged Bavarian state legislators “to publicly distance themselves from the Bayreuth award.”
Asked what she thought of all this, retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright, one of the CODEPINK delegates who will be coming to Germany in April, said: “Repeating a lie over and over does not make it true. It is sad and even a bit frightening when many in the media and even some members of the German parliament keep repeating such lies despite all the evidence to the contrary that we have provided. CODEPINK has never made statements denying the right of the State of Israel to exist. But we do insist that Israel stop its illegal policies in the West Bank and Gaza. We are firm that Israel must adhere to international law and also implement true equality for all its Jewish and Arab citizens. Many Jewish Israelis advocate the same positions.”
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, said: “I myself am Jewish as are many others in the leadership and membership of CODEPINK. We are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and many of us have friends and relatives living in Israel. Why would we want to threaten the Jewish people there? It is also disappointing that we are clearly being demonized because of our support for diplomacy with Iran. At CODEPINK we support diplomatic efforts that make our world a safer place, whether that means brokered nuclear deals or negotiations between Israel and Palestine to finally see a resolution to this decades-long conflict.”