Hamas’s release of American hostages Judith and Natalie Raanan has sparked a row between their family and controversial activist Shaun King, who claimed on social media that he had been “working feverishly behind the scenes to make it happen.”
Relatives of the Raanans, who were visiting Israel from Illinois when Hamas attacked on Oct. 7, distanced themselves from King in a statement.
“First of all, let’s make it clear that he’s lying! Our family has not and had nothing to do with him, neither directly nor indirectly. Not him and nothing he supposedly represents,” they wrote in a statement obtained from TMZ.
Natalie’s father Uri later told The Daily Beast that her brother Ben had been in contact with King – but he still distanced the clan from the activist.
“We contacted many people from all over the world to help bring Natalie and Judith to safety. We are not affiliated with Mr. King,” he said. “Ben, my son has spoken to him until today without anyone in the family knowing. Our family in Israel released this statement denying that we knew him before we learned that Ben had spoken to him. We have nothing more to say.”
King – whose fundraising efforts and ambitious promises have been questioned by critics in the past – immediately hit back after being called a liar.
“I have spoken directly and repeatedly to this family. I have a job, a career and a family. I would throw everything away to invent something like this,” King told The Daily Beast via email on Saturday. “Luckily I kept records of everything.”
King posted a series of screenshots of messages between him and Ben, revealing that Ben sought his help because he believed he had Palestinian contacts.
King also stated that he recorded all conversations with Ben “for my own protection,” although it is not clear whether Ben knew he was being recorded.
Ben did not respond to questions about his interactions with King or King’s public statements. At one point in their correspondence, Ben asked King to remove a comment he left on one of King’s posts because he had received death threats — and he also told King that he was muting his feed because it was too difficult , to see the photostream of King Judith and Natalie.
In his tweets Saturday night, King claimed he had been “lobbiing non-stop.” [Natalie’s] “Behind the scenes release with an eclectic group of over 30 people who would normally never work together or get along,” but didn’t provide any further details. He claimed the family was distancing themselves from him due to pressure from “Israelis.”
King did not respond to a question about whether his efforts played a role in Friday’s release of the Raanans, which was orchestrated by the Qatari government in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Israeli government.
The IDF, other Israeli security forces and brigade. General Gal Hirsch — an Israeli official who coordinated the hostage crisis — received Judith and Natalie at the border, an Israeli official told The Daily Beast. The International Committee of the Red Cross assisted in the transfer and acted as a “neutral” party to bring them to the border.