Hamas’ release of American hostages Judith and Natalie Raanan has spawned a dispute between their family and controversial activist Shaun King, who claimed on social media that he “worked frantically behind the scenes to help make this possible.”
Relatives of the Raanans, who were visiting Israel from Illinois when Hamas attacked on Oct. 7, disavowed King in a statement.
“First and foremost, we make it clear that he is lying! Our family does not and did not have anything to do with him, neither directly nor indirectly. Not to him and not to anything he claims to represent,” they wrote in a statement obtained by TMZ.
King—whose fundraising efforts and ambitious promises have been questioned by critics in the past—immediately fired back.
“I spoke directly and repeatedly with this family. I have a job, career, and family. I would be throwing everything away to make such a thing up,” King told The Daily Beast by email Saturday. “Thankfully I kept records of all of them.”
It does appear King was in contact numerous times with Natalie’s brother, Ben Raanan. After he was attacked by the family, King posted a slew of screenshots of messages between himself and Ben that indicate Ben sought his help because of his Palestinian contacts.
King also indicated that he had recorded all conversations with Ben “for my own protection” though it’s not clear if Ben knew he was being taped.
Ben did not respond to questions about his interactions with King or King’s public pronouncements. At one point in their correspondence, Ben asked King to remove a comment he left on one of King’s posts because he was getting death threats—and he also told King he was muting his feed because it was too difficult to see the stream of photos of Judith and Natalie.
In his Saturday evening tweets, King claimed he had been “lobbying nonstop for [Natalie’s] release behind the scenes with an eclectic group of 3src+ people that would normally never work together or get along” but provided no other details. He claimed the family was distancing itself from him because of pressure from “Israelis.”
King did not respond to a question about whether any of 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 Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch—an Israeli official who has been coordinating hostage work—received Judith and Natalie at the border, an Israeli official told The Daily Beast. The International Committee of the Red Cross helped facilitate the transfer, acting as a “neutral” party to bring them to the border.