American Israel Public Affairs Committee - excerpt from Lee O'Brien, American Jewish Organizations and Israel, 1986

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This page is an extract, reproduced with permission, from Lee O'Brien, American Jewish Organizations and Israel, Washington DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1986. [1]

  • Date established: 1959
  • Executive Director: Thomas A. Dine
  • Deputy Director: Arthur Chotin
  • President: Robert Asher
  • Senior Vice-President: Michael Stein
  • Address: 500 North Capitol Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001
  • Publication: Near East Report

General Background

Though the name AIPAC did not come into use until 1959, the lobby has been in existence since 1951. In that year Isaiah (Si) Renen, after much discussion and planning with Israeli leaders Abba Eban, Moshe Sharrett, and Teddy Rollek, joined the American Zionist Council(AZC) with the expressed aim of spearheading a pro-Israel lobbying campaign.

The immediate goal of the lobby was to increase U.S. economic aid to Israel. In his book, Israel's Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington, Renen recalled that in 1951 ‘Israel needed American economic assistance to enable her to absorb the huge influx of refugees ... ‘ and to stimulate economic development:

Unfortunately, the Department of State was then opposed to any U.S. grant to Israel because it feared the resentment of the Arabs, who were not requesting U.S. aid. American policy was inhibited by the fear that the Arabs would align with Moscow in the Cold War. The negative attitude of the State Department forced us to appeal to Congress... The early days of the lobby are very much the story of Si Renen. An ardent American Zionist, he worked with the now-defunct American Jewish Conference in the 1940s. In 1947, he became a press officer for the Jewish Agency in New York. When the state of Israel was established in 1948, Renen worked with Ambassador Abba Eban as a spokesperson for the new Israeli delegation to the UN General Assembly. In 1951, when he shifted to the AZC, he notified the Department of Justice that he was withdrawing as an agent of a foreign power and then filed with the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of State as a domestic lobbyist.

Kenen was the Washington representative of the AZC from 1951 to 1953. As a tax-exempt organization, the AZC could not engage in full-time lobbying. In 1954, after rumors of an impending investigation began circulating, Renen renamed his lobbying committee the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs, retaining the identical leadership and membership, but no longer accepting tax-exempt financing from the AZC.

The name of the lobby was changed to AIPAC in 1959, mainly because of pressure from ‘non-Zionist’ defense organizations. These groups, which were unable to lobby full-time themselves owing to their tax-exempt status, played a major role in AIPAC's development. Describing one of his first steps in building the lobby, Kenen recalls

‘We enlisted the cooperation of all major Jewish organizations, both 'Zionist' and 'nonZionist,' such as the defense organizations. They were unwilling to lobby, but they agreed to find prominent constituents to open Congressional doors for US.’ [2] The organizations that Kenen listed as most supportive in 1954 include B'nai B'rith, AJC, AJCongress, Jewish War Veterans, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Hadassah. Thus, the lobby arose from one of the earliest genuinely shared ventures between the American Jewish establishment and representatives of the Israeli government.


When the name AIPAC was adopted in 1959, a national council was formed from representatives of local and national leaders of organizations who were willing to engage in Israel support work and who, as Kenen wrote, ‘could raise funds for AIPAC or who were on friendly terms with their congressmen.... ‘ [2] The executive committee was expanded with the same goal of further incorporating American Jewish groups; today it includes presidents of thirty-eight major American Jewish organizations that claim a total membership of 4.5 million people. AIPAC regional centers coordinate for local members, in close cooperation with the Washington staff. Members pay minimum dues of $35 a year. Membership reportedly increased from 22,000 to 44,000 in 1982/1983, and there are plans to raise it further by more use of direct mail campaigns.

The Annual Policy Conference brings together active members, community leaders, representatives from target groups or close associates, scores of politicians, and prominent individuals from both Israel and the United States. It is the forum in which AIPAC presents its political positions and current lobby priorities, adopts political resolutions, trains and motivates the membership, and encourages politicians to make public pledges of their support to Israel.

The key position within AIPAC is that of executive director, the post occupied by Kenen from 1954 to 1974. His successor was Morris Amitay, a lawyer and former foreign service officer who, at the time of his AIPAC appointment, was a legislative aide to Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.). Kenen describes Amitay as ‘a tower of strength on the Hill, beginning in 1970 and continuing until I stepped down, as one of a group of legislative aides who helped our cause.’ [2]

In 1981, Thomas A. Dine replaced Amitay. Dine, a former Peace Corps volunteer, had worked for the State Department, directed national security issues for the Senate Budget Committee, and served as a legislative aide to Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Frank Church (D-Id.), and Edward Muskie (D-Me.)- ‘One of the small group who had been helpful on the Hill,’ in Kenen's words. [3]

The position of AIPAC president is usually filled by someone wealthy, influential, respected by and belonging to the American Jewish establishment. The first chairman, Rabbi Philip Bernstein of Rochester, New York, who was active in the AJCongress and World Jewish Congress, served until 1968. Irving Kane, president from 1968 to early 1974, had previously headed both CJF and NJCRAC. In 1974, Kenen took the post for a year, in order to be eligible for membership in the Presidents Conference. The next president was Edward Sanders, a lawyer and community leader from Los Angeles who, however, soon resigned to work on the Carter campaign and served as White House Jewish advisor from March 1978 to the next spring. He was replaced by Lawrence Weinberg, a businessman and active pro-Israel community leader from Los Angeles, who served until 1983.

When AIPAC began, Kenen was the only registered lobbyist, working with a staff of four. One of these was Fred Gronich, a former U.S. Army officer who had been Ben-Gurion's advisor on military affairs, and who toured southern states looking for cooperative local leaders. From the late 1960s on, AIPAC began recruiting and hiring young, active staff, most of whom were connected to Congress, to local organizations, or to Jewish institutions. Among the first to be added were Aaron Rosenbaum, the son of a Detroit rabbi, Leonard Davis, a Yeshiva University graduate, and Ken Wollack, who had worked on the McGovern campaign and became AIPAC's legislative director. Later AIPAC lobbyists or staff included Richard Straus, Douglas Bloomfield, F. Stephan McArthur, Michael Gale, who previously worked for the Republican National Committee, Richard Altman, who was AIPAC's political director under Amitay, and Steven Rosen, who joined AlPAC in 1982 as director of research and information, and who had previously been associate director of the National Security Strategies Program at the Rand Corporation and a political science professor at Brandeis.

AIPAC actively looks for staff and supporters among congressional aides and political campaigners. It is now seeking out younger Jewish political activists in local city councils, state legislatures, and the better law firms with the ‘generous support of local Jewish federations and community relations councils.’ [4] Along with a good salary, AIPAC offers valuable political experience. It acts as an effective training ground and placement center for those committed to continuing careers around pro-Israel work. Some former AlPAC staff have formed pro-Israel PACs to make direct campaign contributions, which AIPAC cannot do by law, or have moved on to different forms of Israel-support work. For example:

Morris Amitay: Founded pro-Israel Washington PAC and writes a column in The Jewish Press called ‘Report from Washington.’ Lobbyist for Nathan Lewin (for 47th Street Photo), Northrop Corp., and Pan American Airways. Ken Wollack : Co-editor of Middle East Policy Survey (MEPSj, described as a ‘bi-weekly Washington DC insiders newsletter.’ Richard Straus-Also with MEPS. F. Stephan McArthur: Works with the National Christian Conference for Israel in Washington, D.C. Richard Altman-Washington, D.C. representative of the largest proIsrael PAC, NatPAC. Leonard Davis: Director of American Associates, a political consulting firm in Jerusalem that appears to be the unofficial Israeli connection for AIPAC.

Michael Gale: Deputy special assistant to the President in the White House Office of Public Liaison. When only thirty-one years old, Michael Gale described his AIPAC White House journey as follows

I joined the Republican National Committee in July 1978 and was recruited by AIPAC in late fall 1979 to work with them as a lobbyist particularly. AIPAC sent me to the platform. I spent a lot of time lobbying the RNC to have a pro-Israel plank and we got a fairly good one. After the convention was over I was approached by Bill Casey and asked if I'd be interested in working on the Jewish vote for Reagan. I was interested, so I left AIPAC and worked for Reagan doing the Jewish vote. I went back to AIPAC the Monday after election day, and I was approached in January 1982 about this job ... I wasn't very interested ... I thought I could do more for the President and US-Israel relations at AIPAC. [5]

When Gale left his White House position at the end of 1983, he was replaced by Dr. Marshall Breger, an associate at New York Law School and a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

In AIPAC's 1983 mandatory report filed with the U.S. government, six persons were registered as salaried staff directly engaged in legislative activity, down from the nine listed in 1981 and 1982. Not listed were directors and staff for non-legislative programs, such as leadership development, research and information, political education, and Christian outreach.


AIPAC's original budget was around $50,000 a year, with Kenen receiving a salary of $13,000. He claims that it was difficult to raise even this much, because of the lack of the tax-exempt status, the concern of constituent organizations with their own needs, and the assumption that the Israeli government would underwrite the lobby. But all this changed with the upsurge of pro-Israel feeling that swept the United States during the 1967 war.

AIPAC is funded by dues and non-tax-deductible contributions from individuals and organizations. Its yearly income has consistently and dramatically increased: in 1973, the budget was reported as $250,000; in 1974, $400,000; and in 1977/1978, it was up to $750,000. Six years later it had more than tripled.

As a registered domestic lobby, AIPAC is obliged to file quarterly financial reports with the Secretary of State and the Clerk of the House of Representatives. For calendar year 1980, AIPAC listed receipts of $1,074,420; for 1982, the figure was slightly over $1.8 million. However, these reports must only show receipts and disbursements that relate to legislative interests, that is, lobbying. A more accurate picture of AIPAC's income emerges from its IRS files. AIPAC's Form 990 for the fiscal year from 1 March 1980 to 28 February 1981 lists total revenue as $1,458,714; total revenue for 1 March 1981 to 28 February 1982 is $2,444,533, and lobbying expenses total $1,551,423. The IRS forms for 1983 were not available; however, the 1983 Annual Report on lobby-related receipts shows contributions just a little short of $2.5 million, so it can be safely assumed that the actual total was substantially higher.

AIPAC targets large, individual givers; there are several hundred members in the Capitol Club, who give $2,000 or more, and plans are underway for a Washington Club for $l,OOO-plus donors. Of the $2.5 million total for 1983 contributions, over $2 million came from some 1,500 individuals who contributed more than $500 each, and this individual response is even more striking in view of the fact that the money is not tax-deductible.

Who gives to AIPAC? The name, address, and amount donated for every contributor who gives more than $500 are filed with the quarterly financial report. A quick glance shows that the large donations generally come from New York, California, Texas, Florida, and a few pockets in the Midwest.

A closer look at the big donors shows other patterns as well. Consistent contributors are individuals closely connected to AIPAC in particular or to political Israel-support work in general. Thus, AIPAC president Morton Silberman gave $5,000 in 1980, $6,000 in 1981, and $8,500 in 1983; former AIPAC president Lawrence Weinberg gave $25,000 in 1980, $30,000 in 1981 and 1982, and $35,000 in 1983; Leonard Davis gave $5,000 in 1980 and $10,000 each year thereafter; Marvin Josephson gave $5,000 in 1982 and 1983; the Swig family of San Francisco, owners of the Fairmont Hotel, gave $500 in 1980, $2,000 in 1981, $1,000 in 1982, and $10,000 in 1983; Max Fisher of Detroit gave $1,000 in 1980, $5,000 in 1981, $15,000 in 1982 and $5,000 in 1983; and Robert Asher of Chicago, who is AIPAC's current president, gave $15,000 in 1980, $14,000 in 1982, and $12,000 in 1983. These people have in common not only wealth, but also active political involvement. Max Fisher has been a leader of the Jewish Republican Coalition for Reagan-Bush; Weinberg, Josephson, Asher, and the Swigs either formed or support pro-Israel PACs; their names and the others will appear again in this chapter.

Another pattern found among the big-money contributors is a steady and sometimes dramatic increase in successive donations. In part, this tendency reflects AIPAC's ability to prove that it is an organization with political clout, savvy, and connections-that it promises and delivers results-but it also results from solicitations based on specific issues that only AIPAC can fight, since it is the only official lobby (the 1983 AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia is a good example of this). In turn, AIPAC's reputation as an organization with backers who are willing and able to give money further increases its political clout.

  • Some contributors who stand out, either for the sheer size of the sums involved or for the annual increments, include: Jacob Feldman of Commercial Metals Co. of Dallas, who gave $18,000 in 1980, $20,000 in 1981 and 1982, and $25,000 in 1983: B. Gottstein of Alaska, $10,000 in 1980, $15,000 in 1981 and 1982, and $20,000 in 1983: Peter Haas, of San Francisco's Levi Strauss Co., $3,250 in 1980 and $10,500 in 1983: Edward Levy of Detroit, $15,000 in 1980, $20,000 in 1982, and $23,000 in 1983: Albert Nerken of New York, $10,000 in 1980, $13,000 in 1981, $15,000 in 1982, and $20,000 in 1983; Samuel Soreff of I-t. Lauderdale, $17,500 in 1982 and $20,000 in 1983. The Greenbergs of Coleco Industries gave $3,000 in 1982 and $10,000 in 1983: Mote Friedkin of Ohio, $1,000 in 1980 and $12,000 in 1983: Charles Schusterman of Tulsa, $3,000 in 1980, $10,000 in 1981, and $12,000 in 1982 and 1983: Judd Malkin of Chicago, $1,000 in 1980 and $10,000 in 1983: and the Brachman family of Texas increased their 1980 gift of $4,000 to $14,000 in 1983.

AlPAC reports filed in the House of Representatives Clerk's Office for the 1983-84 election cycle list hundreds of people who gave more than $500 to AIPAC, including the novelist Herman Wouk. In 1984, at least nine individuals gave contributions of $20,000 or more to AIPAC. The highest single contribution was $51,000. [6]

Role and Israel Support Work

More than any other American Jewish organization, AIPAC maintains positions and conducts campaigns that mirror those of the Israeli government in power at any given time. The most publicized exception was Thomas Dine's vague support for the Reagan peace plan of 1 September 1982. After the Israeli government strongly rejected the plan, AIPAC proceeded to lobby against it.

In AIPAC's first decades, its lobbying priority was simply to increase U.S. aid to Israel, but its role later expanded to include lobbying against any arms sales to Arab regimes, beginning with Egypt, then Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. In the 1980s, another priority was the conversion of U.S. loans into grants-a request substantially met in 1983. Ideologically, AIPAC has stayed with a few broad themes: it is in America's interest to support Israel; Israel is, like the United States, a democracy and thus reliable; and, more and more in the Reagan years, Israel is the only viable strategically in the region able to deter the Soviet Union. AIPAC has agitated and lobbied on various topical issues as they have arisen. AIPAC took the lead in defending the Israeli invasion of Lebanon (Dine testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East on 13 July 1982) and lobbied behind the scenes in support of keeping the U.S. Marines in Lebanon. Other such issues adopted over the years are the same as those taken up by most pro-Israel organizations: the Arab boycott, the United Nations, the PLO, organizations critical of Israel, the myth of the refugees, and so forth.

At the 1982 AIPAC Annual Policy Conference, Dine presented the following demands for U.S. policy toward Israel and the Middle East:

  • 1. Conversion of U.S. loans to grants
  • 2. No arms to Jordan
  • 3. U.S. support when Israel is forced to respond to the threat in Lebanon
  • 4. U.S. action regarding the negative role of the United Nations
  • 5. Reversal of the U.S. decision to remove Iraq from the international terrorism list, along with no sale of cargo planes to Iraq
  • 6. Regarding the peace process, U.S. adherence to Camp David, reaffirmation of its alliance with Israel

through strategic cooperation, pressure on Jordan and Saudi Arabia, including punishment of them for unfriendly acts and reprisals for buying arms from the Soviet Union, support for a strong and independent Lebanon, with Syria ousted, and development of a U.S. policy of energy independence.

The 1983 policy conference, held that June, laid out the coming year's lobbying goals in order of priority:

  • 1. Higher foreign aid to Israel
  • 2. Greater U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation
  • 3. U.S. recognition of united Jerusalem as Israel's capital
  • 4. More beneficial trade and economic policies for Israel.

Each of these four priority issues received serious and systematic attention that went far beyond mere identification. The political arguments in support of each were outlined, as were the specific lobbying targets and actions. Arguments to support higher U.S. aid included diplomacy (Israel's alignment with and promotion of U.S. interests, its reliability and shared democratic traditions as opposed to the instability of the Arab world, Iran, and Afghanistan); defense (opposition to the U.S.S.R., the sharing of intelligence information, combat testing of U.S. weapons, the future potential for military coordination); economics (the end results of higher aid ‘are more American jobs and exports and a stronger American economy’); Israel's paying for the Camp David Accords; and that the only reason the money is needed is ‘the huge Arab military build-up.’ Over $2.5 billion was requested (and received) for Israel in :FY-1984; members of Congress were asked to support both the authorization and appropriation bills, to vote against any attempts to cut aid across-the-board or for Israel specifically, and to vote for final passage. [7]

Strategic cooperation is another AIPAC priority. The major political argument is Israel's unparalleled ability to protect U.S. interests and deter Soviet expansionism, as witnessed by its role in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon and generally against ‘international terrorism.’ According to a 1983 AlPAC memo

‘As a result of these Israeli actions, the eastern Mediterranean region, which once looked like fertile ground for Soviet adventurism, is now evolving toward stable relations with the Western world. Thanks largely to the actions of Israel, the Mediterranean basin is now virtually an American lake, with the exceptions of Syria and Libya.’

The memo concluded by listing how the U.S. would benefit from adopting the strategic cooperation agreement suspended in 1982: protection of lines of communication in a crisis, so that U.S. aircraft could be used elsewhere; valuable naval assistance; available airfields and ports; storage site for ammunition, fuel, and equipment; and hospitals for "the large number of American wounded likely to result from a Persian Gulf war. ... AIPAC's thrust is to pressure the Department of Defense to use Israel as the staging and supply area for the Rapid Deployment Force and to set up a separate section in that department to oversee the particular military aspects of strategic cooperation. [8]

AIPAC is calling for Congress to support a joint resolution to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv; this would also involve closing down the U.S. consulate general office in ‘East’ (sic) Jerusalem, which is considered to be proPalestinian. The trade and economic policies recommended include allowing some ‘shekel conversion’ of U.S. aid; increasing both export opportunities in the United States and U.S. government procurement, especially military, from Israel; securing U.S. assistance for increased NATO procurement of Israeli military production; and enforcing U.S. anti-boycott laws.

AIPAC's complete political resolutions, adopted in 1983 and published in Near East Report, covered the following points: legislation ensuring that Israel's annual debt service does not exceed domestic aid received in a given fiscal year; no U.S. arms sales to Jordan; no U.S. recognition of the PLO and no PLO participation in negotiations (with an oblique reference to the Jordanian option that reads, ‘It should be recognized that Jordan comprises 80% of what was the British Palestinian Mandate and that the majority of Jordan's people are Palestinian Arabs.’ Further, the U.S. and its allies should wage war against the international network that includes the PLO, the Soviet Union, and Libya; the Arab lobby campaign to discredit Israel and undermine the U.S.-Israel alliance must be recognized and countered; Israel's friends must establish close relations with the media and provide collective criticism; Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and the United States should move its embassy there; since Jews have the right to settle anywhere, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is not illegal, and settlements are not an obstacle to peace; the United States should encourage production of non-OPEC oil, support price competition, and intensify energy conservation and alternative sources; the United States should continue to threaten withdrawal from the UN if Israel is threatened with expulsion, and the United States should reduce its contributions by the amount that goes to support anti-Israel propaganda.

There were also resolutions on Jews in the Soviet Union and endangered Jewish communities. The last included a request for the U.S. administration ‘to support compensation from Arab countries for the lost property of thousands of Jews forced to flee since 1948.’

A pervasive theme at the conference was the concern that a crisis between Washington and Tel Aviv was inevitably approaching. Members and supporters were urged to be prepared; emphasizing the backwardness and corruption of Arab society was suggested as the most productive counter-argument.

Tactics: AIPAC on the Hill

AIPAC's effectiveness is based on the systematic and assiduous application of tested lobbying techniques. Its special skill is the cultivation and simultaneous interaction of two sets of support networks, the first consisting of powerful elites and the second of an active mass-based constituency.

AIPAC's network of elites has been built up since its inception, with the major focus on Congress. The lobby's first major campaign in the 1950s was the promotion of a $100 million grant to Israel. Si Kenen's first step was to meet with the leadership of established American Jewish organizations and get access to their congressional contacts; he also met with leading Jewish businessmen and personalities. One of these was Barney Balaban, the head of Paramount pictures, whose aide arranged meetings with Senators Wayne Morse (R-Ore.) and Paul H. Douglas (D-Ill.), who became the sponsors of the grant bill. Senator John Sparkman (D-Ala.), also a sponsor, was introduced to Kenen by a local businessman and campaign contributor. The process of building up the network in these early days is described by Kenen:

I visited many old friends on the Hill and in New York, including John Oakes of the New York Times and Harry Baehr of the New York Herald Tribune, and both publications carried excellent editorials.... We consulted the two Jewish congressmen on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representatives Jacob J. Javits (R-N.Y.) and Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.) Oveta Culp Hobby, who had led the American WACs and was a Houston publisher, came to Washington to host a dinner party for Eban and the Texas Democratic senators, Tom Connally, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and his youthful colleague, Lyndon B. Johnson. Democratic leader Wiley Moore of Atlanta arrived with his friend Abe Goldstein to dine with Eban and Georgia's two Democratic senators, Walter F. George, who later succeeded Connally, and Richard B. Russell, then chairman of the Armed Services Committee. One widely respected congressman, Brook Hays (D-Ark.), told me that he had been in doubt about the legislation but favored it because a Little Rock rabbi, Ira Sanders, was sympathetic to Israel.

Abraham.L.Feinberg of New York, who had helped to start Truman's 1948 campaign train, telephoned many senators and their aides. [9]Virtually all of these techniques are still used by AIPAC today with great success: cultivation of key people in the media; close consultation and coordination with supporters; hosting dinners and meetings with prestigious visiting Israelis, such as Abba Eban; using politicians' local constituents, such as the Little Rock rabbi, to exert pressure; and benefitting from the Jewish tradition of large campaign contributions, as in the case of Abraham Feinberg. Other techniques were also introduced in the 1950s. In 1951, for example, Kenen escorted a group of congressmen to Israel. Representatives:

  • Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.)
  • Emanuel CelIeI' (D-N.Y.)
  • Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.)
  • Tom Fugate (D-Va.)
  • Kenneth Keating (R-N.Y.)
  • Donald O'Toole (R-N.Y.)
  • William Barrett (D-Pa.)
  • Sidney Fine (D-N.Y.)

visited the country for twenty-three days. Whether or not a politician has visited Israel, and his or her behavior and comments there, are considered absolutely crucial; at the 1983 policy conference, members were told to avoid supporting even avowedly pro-Israel candidates if they hadn't actually been there.

Another early technique that has proved valuable is the cultivation of legislative aides. Amitay and Dine, among other AIPAC staff, had themselves been aides, and AIPAC has never lacked the support of strongly pro-Israel aides to key members of Congress. These aides have included Max Kampelman (Hubert Humphrey), Roy Millenson and Bess Dick (Jacob Javits and Emanuel Celler), Michael Kraft (Clifford Case), Albert Lakeland (Javits), Richard Perle (Henry Jackson), and Stephen Bryen(Case).*

  • Bryen, who had worked on the staff of Senator Clifford Case (R-N.J.), left his job with the Senate Foreig'n Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs following allegations that he offered classified information to Israeli officials; he went on to work with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, among other activities. Perle was considered instrumental in organizing a pro-Israel caucus within the House and in encouraging the late Senator Henry Jackson's (D-Wash.) pro-Israel position. Today Perle is an assistant secretary of defense and Bryen, one of his assistants, is deputy undersecretary for trade and security policy.

Legislative aides and congressional staff play an important behind the scenes role in advocating policies, presenting particular positions and making contacts for their representatives. Among their duties are correspondence with constituents, researching and writing speeches, serving on various committees or subcommittees, preparing issue papers, and attending meetings with constituents, interest groups, or foreign visitors and summarizing the results.

One example of the use of aides was seen in early 1983, when AIPAC campaigned against the administration's policy toward Israel and Lebanon at that time. On 4 February AIPAC sponsored a briefing for senior aides of about fifty prominent Senate and House members; it was given by an Israeli government specialist on Lebanon, who focused on why Israel had to remain in Lebanon and why the Reagan peace plan would not work. [10]

The briefing was followed by memos sent directly to members of Congress on the same subject, and by a 13 February Dine article in the Washington Post, ‘Pressuring Israel is Dumb.’ [11]

During the 1983 policy conference, when someone questioned Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) stand on Israel, Dine's only response was to say that Glenn's aide Carl Ford was ‘okay by me.’ Congressional staff present at the conference included James D. Bond, staff director of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations; Richard McCall, deputy staff director of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee; Michelle Van Cleave, Representative Jack Kemp's (R-N.Y.) legislative assistant for defense and foreign policy; Stephen Ockenden, legislative assistant on foreign relations and defense to Senator Dave Durenberger (R-Minn.), and Bernard Friedman, administrative assistant to Representative Larry Smith (D-Fla.). Bond helped conduct a workshop on how to lobby his own committee.

AIPAC's friends embrace all spheres of political life. Morris Amitay created his own informal advisory group, which included John Lehman (secretary of the navy), Elliott Abrams (assistant secretary for international organization affairs), Myer' Rashish (undersecretary of state for economic affairs), Ben Wattenberg (American Enterprise Institute), and former Senate aides Jay Berman and Ken Davis. [12] Among political party officials who attended the 1983 conference were the heads of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

A link to the White House has existed through various liaison officers and appears to have been strengthened by the increasing cooperation between the United States and Israel and consequent overlap in lobbying interests, as well as by AIPAC's close relationship to wealthy Republican Jewish supporters of Reagan. However, AIPAC still maintains its traditional policy of concentrating almost solely on Congress rather than the executive branch.

AIPAC's most valuable elite supporters continue to be a large number of pro-Israel representatives and senators from both parties. (Bipartisanship has been a guiding rule of AIPAC since the very first aid request, which was cosponsored by both parties.) Among the staunchest of AlPAC's Senate friends have been:

Senator Chic Hecht (R-Nev.) is a former state senate minority leader and active AIPAC member, while the recently elected New Jersey senator, Frank Lautenberg, is a former head of UJA and an AIPAC contributor. In late 1982, the Jerusalem Post described a ‘pro-Israel caucus’ in the House under the informal leadership of Sidney Yates (D-Ill.), with members including Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.), Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), the late Benjamin Rosenthal (D-N.Y.), Henry Waxman (D-Ca.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Jonathan Bingham (D-N.Y.), and Charles Wilson (D-Tex.). The Post wrote that they ‘meet informally to discuss legislative strategy in support of Israel’ and noted that Menachem Begin met with them as a group in 1982. [13] Other members of Congress crucial to the caucus were Representatives Howard Berman (D-Ca.), Mel Levine (D-Ca.), Tom Lantos,(D-Ca.), and Larry Smith (D-Fla.).

According to AIPAC's Legislative Update for the Year End Report 1982

There was much good news for friends of Israel on November 2 as Campaign '82 concluded.

All 14 prime supporters of Israel whose Senate seats were challenged this year were reelected. Both Jewish Senators up for reelection won handily, Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) and Edward Zorinsky (D-NE). Two new Jewish Senators were also elected: Chic Hecht (R-NV) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). They will be joining incumbents Rudy Boschwitz (R-MN), Carl Levin (D-MI), Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), for a total of eight.

In the House, every senior supporter of Israel has been returned. Only one of the 24 incumbent Jewish representatives was defeated, freshman Democrat Bob Shamansky of Columbus, OH, a member of the House ForeignAffairs Committee. Seven new Jewish members will be serving in the 98th Congress, raising the total to 30. The new members are:

  • Howard Berman (D-CA-26) (Los Angeles)
  • Barbara Boxer (D-CA-6) (San Francisco)
  • Ben Erdreich (D-AL-6) (Birmingham)
  • Sander Levin (D-MI-17) (Southfield)
  • Mel Levine (D-CA-27) (Los Angeles)
  • Norman Sisisky (D-VA-4) (Petersburg)
  • Larry Smith (D-FL-16) (Hollywood)

In a number of House and Senate races this year, friends of Israel were in the enviable position of having strong supporters of Israel on both sides (e.g., New Jersey, Minnesota, Missouri and Delaware Senate races) and in several House races both candidates were Jewish.

What is most striking about this AIPAC report is the unquestioned assumption that any Jewish representative is automatically pro-Israel and of special value to AIPAC.

One change in AIPAC over the years is that it is now more active in the Senate than in the House, a policy based on the assumption that senators are more valuable allies because of their greater influence and longer time in office. The major focus is on incumbents who belong to key foreign aid or policy committees, other incumbents with influence, and representatives who are heading toward the Senate. In addition, support for Jewish candidates and incumbents is almost always assured. These priorities are generally the same as those followed by pro-Israel PACs, with which AIPAC works very closely.

While both the House and the Senate consistently vote in support of Israel, not all congressmen are ardently pro-Israel, and not all proposed legislation is favorable. For this reason, AIPAC staffers, together with supportive aides and representatives, constantly monitor events in Congress and all actions of congressmen. Particular attention is given to events relating to foreign relations or foreign aid; a congressional aide who works with the House Foreign Relations Committee describes AIPAC as being ‘like a wet blanket over the Committee.’ An AIPAC representative attends every open committee meeting and aggressively approaches all staffers, whatever their rank. Closed meetings are always attended by someone from the pro-Israel caucus. Careful record is kept of every representative's speeches, informal remarks, and even letters to constituents. The Congressional Record is read regularly, and any remarks which raise concern trigger visits from AIPAC.

AIPAC benefits greatly from its friends in Congress. The most obvious gain is in legislation and the ever-increasing aid to Israel. Other benefits include pro-Israel mailings and speeches that affect constituents. Friends of Israel in Congress frequently put AIPAC-prepared speeches or AIPAC-prepared research into the Congressional Record, and once in this form it is circulated to newspaper editors, editorial writers, broadcast commentators and other opinion makers and community leaders who might be influential in spreading the views expressed.’ [14] In addition, AIPAC's own influence and power-and thus effectiveness-as an organization increase with each prestigious name or affiliation.*

AlPAC promotional literature, aimed at fundraising and soliciting membership, carries the following salutory quotes

‘Without AIPAC's persistent efforts over the past twenty years, Israel's security, and that of the western alliance in the Middle East might have been severely affected.’

Han. Clifford Case

'When I needed information on the Middle East, it was reassuring to know that I could depend on AlPAC for professional and reliable assistance.' [15]

Han. Frank Church

Speakers at the 1983 policy conference included Senators Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), and Representatives Howard Berman (D-Ca.), Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), Mel Levine (D-Ca.), Mark Siljander (R-Mich.), Larry Smith (D-Ca.), Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), and Jim Wright (D-Tex.), all of whom addressed a session called ‘The Legislative Process.’ Even more impressive was the list of senators and representatives who attended the evening banquet: Senators Max Baucus (D-Mon!.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Christopher Dodd, Charles Grassley (R-10wa), Howell Heflin (D-Ala.), Paul Laxalt, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Claiborne Pell (D-R.L.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa,), and Representatives Joseph Addabbo (D-N.Y.), Don Albosta (D-Mich.), Anthony Beilenson (D-Ca.), Howard Berman (D-Ca.), Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Richard Durbin (D-ILL.), Jack Edwards (R-Ala.), Ben Fredreich (D-Ah!.), Dante Fascell (D-Fla.), Bobbi Fiedler (R-Ca.), Martin Frost (D-Tex.), Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), John Kasich (R-Ohio), Ray Kogovsek (D-Col.), Tom Lantos (D-Ca.), Mel Levine (D-Ca.), Tom Lewis (R-Fla.), Clarence Long (D-Md.), .lim McNulty (D-Ariz.), Connie Mack (R-Fla.), Kenneth MacKay (D-Fla.), Kim Moody (D-Wis.), Solomon Oritz (D-Tex.), Stan Parris (R-Va.), Jerry Patterson (D-Ca.), Claude Pepper (D-Fla.), Larry Smith (D-Fla.), Mike Synar (D-Okla.), Henry Waxman (D-Ca.), Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.), Timothy Wirth (D-CoL.), Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.), George Wortley (R--N.Y.), and Sidney Yutes (D-ll!.).

Constituents' Clout

AIPAC's mass-based constituency has been drawn primarily from the organized Jewish community through two methods: coordination with the leadership of the established Jewish community and religious and Zionist organizations, most of whom are on AIPAC's board; and the development of AIPAC's own membership. These overlapping sectors are constituents of both AIPAC and of whomever represents them in Washington as senator or representative.

Since its inception, AIPAC has used Jewish community groups to establish contacts and raise funds. Lobbying work is coordinated with the AJC and the ADL, the two community relations groups that devote the most time to the Hill, and with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. AIPAC benefits from this existing network; the participation of other, non-lobby groups ensures that AIPAC's ‘reports on congressional action and its calls for grassroots pressure go far beyond its own contributors or members.’ [16] During the campaign against the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia, writer Roberta Feuerlicht described AIPAC's Activities

It must have used every Jewish mailing list in the country. I received several copies of a form letter asking for a contribution because ‘we intend to stop the sale in its tracks’ .... With the letter was a memorandum protesting the sale of the AWACS. I was to sign the memo, and a check, and send both back to Washington in the enclosed envelope, with the assurance that my protest would be personally delivered by an AIPAC lobbyist to my senator and representative. [17]

The focus on a wide base reflects AIPAC's vision of itself as much more than a simple lobby. In Thomas Dine's words, ‘We are not a PAC, we're a movement, a political factor, neither liberal nor conservative, neither Democratic nor Republican. We're the top of the iceberg of the pro-Israel community. We figure to expand support for Israel through the rest of the century.’ [18]

To achieve this goal, AIPAC has long stressed the need to claim representation of-and to be able to activate-a large mass base, and even more important, a mass base that is politically aware and active. Kenen recalls that ‘It's always necessary to appeal to the constituency. I urged the other Washington 'reps' to discuss the problems of legislation and to stimulate their constituents to act.’ [19] Sharing Kenen's concerns with the need for a politically aware community, Thomas Dine notes in an interview

‘Every Jew should be a member of a congregation and involved in a local Federation.... Every Jew must be deeply involved in the political process.’ [18]

AIPAC goes about creating such a constituency by soliciting and educating membership and providing concrete courses of action. The AWACS mailing typically combined both a solicitation for membership ($35) and a specific form of activity (a memo against the AWACS, for example). The use of multiple mailing lists is also common.

A February 1982 mailing aimed at recruiting new members began with the salutation "Dear Fellow American." It continued with a denouncement of the AWACS sale, a mention of how ‘we almost won’ laudatory comments from the press and politicians about AIPAC, and then a strong pitch for membership that included the following argument:

AIPAC is a lobby and only the direct lobbying of Congress helps make American foreign policy. What is more, thanks in great part to AIPAC, that foreign policy has, in the past three years, resulted in over six billion dollars of U.S. aid to Israel.

To look at this figure in terms of what your own membership in AIPAC means in aid to Israel, consider this: On a budget of just $1.8 million, AIPAC successfully lobbied Congress in 1981 for $2.2 BILLION in foreign aid. This means that every membership gift of $35 to AIPAC resulted indirectly in $42,777 of U.S. AID TO ISRAEL (emphasis in original).

Another membership recruitment mailing, sent out after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, was headed ‘Is America for Sale?’, with figures on Arab investment in the United States. An enclosed letter from Dine began, ‘Dear Friend, Israel's enemies have come out in the open.’ This was followed by examples of criticisms of Israel, and then an ominous call to join AIPAC because: The need is urgent. The time is now. And it is better to act on principle today than to regret tomorrow the steps that were never taken.

Training, educating, and mobilizing the membership is considered the key component of successful mass-based lobbying. By approaching this task in its usual systematic and exhaustive fashion, AIPAC ensures that its constituency is not simply another large mailing list, but a powerful force in its own right. Frequent mailings go out with information on Congress and current events, and members receive the annual legislative update and the Near East Report newsletter.

The Annual Policy Conference is also the major forum for training and involving members in the actual lobby process. Approximately twelve hundred members attended the 1983 conference. They were divided into six groups according to geographic region and each group underwent training sessions focusing on the following skills: how to monitor and influence their local media, how to lobby Washington from their home states throughout the year, and how to lobby Washington when visiting there. A workshop on ‘The Nuts and Bolts of Political Action’ dealt with campaign-related topics such as volunteer aides, fundraising, and media relations; it was led by Ann Frank Lewis, political director of the Democratic National Committee, Mitchell Daniels, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Billy Keyserling, planner of Senator Ernest F. Hollings' presidential campaign. Another workshop, ‘How to Lobby,’ was led by AIPAC staff. At a third, called ‘The Legislative Process,’ AIPAC members were addressed by Representatives Howard Berman, Mel Levine, Mark Siljander (R-Mich.), Larry Smith, and Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.).

  • Information on the Annual Policy Conference comes from AIPAC printed materials distributed there and from the notes of a conference participant.

The general focus at the conference was on Congress, with little or no mention of the executive branch or even the presidential candidates. Much stress was put on urging members to be pleasant and non antagonistic; for example, they were told never to accuse congressmen of anti-Semitism if statements critical of Israel were made. When some members proposed more confrontational tactics, AIPAC staff responded that the Israel lobby was secure enough to avoid tactics with possible negative side effects.

The conference was used to mobilize the membership and to lobby every senator and almost all representatives. AIPAC staff had previously made appointments on the Hill, and intense strategy sessions were held before sending members out in small groups. The lobbying goals were the same laid out by the conference as a whole for 1983-1984: members were provided with briefing memos outlining the political arguments for each point and the specific courses of action each representative was being asked to follow. In preparation, congressional staff and professional lobbyists briefed each group on the most effective approach.

In addition to the Annual Policy Conference, AIPAC also holds training sessions around the country at regional centers. At one such meeting, held in May 1978, a confidential guide entitled Effective Community Action was distributed. Among AIPAC's instructions to members and community activists were the following:

Identify key individuals in each Congressional District who can be called upon to contact your legislators on issues of concern. Such individuals, Jewish and non-Jewish, should know the Congressman well as personal friends, professional acquaintances, campaign workers, or contributors. The list of political contributors to a Congressman, available in the Secretary of State's office in every State House, provides one good source of potential key contacts for that Congressman. As long as they have a basic commitment to Israel's well-being, they can be briefed on specific issues. In districts with existing Federations or CRGs, such key individuals are more easily identifiable. Work within existing organizational frameworks whenever possible -but make sure people charged with the responsibility are really staying in touch with their legislators on our issues-not just casually.

Ideally there should be a few key contacts and they should not be labeled in the Congressman's or Senator's mind as the constituent who calls him only on Israel related matters. In some cases a legislator welcomes someone he can turn to exclusively for guidance on "Jewish" issues. A contact should be measured by the results he produced as well as his access. Be aware of the difference in impact between telegrams (fastest), the personal phone call or letter (most effective) and form letters (easily discounted).

Identify priority issues and distinguish those areas in which Congress can and cannot do much more than criticize one-sided U.S. resolutions or a biased comment in a State Department press conference, but they can appropriate more aid for Israel, block arms shipments to Arab countries and strengthen antiboycott laws.

Particularly in 1978, a Congressional election year, encourage involvement in election campaigns at all levels: fundraising, personal contributions, canvassing, volunteer work and hosting coffees. Be sure that candidates running for Congressional office are well briefed on issues of concern to us and encouraged to take a public stand on them during the campaign.

Encourage your Congressman and Senators and key aides to visit Israel, as nothing ‘sells’ Israel as much as the country and the people themselves. Constituents should consider the possibility of accompanying a Congressman on such a visit. When a Congressman makes a speech locally about relevant issues or says something important to a constituent, orally or in writing, please let us know about it. Or, if you have identified a friendly aide in the Congressman's office, let AIPAC know about it. When new key contacts are found, make certain that the new contact receives action and information memoranda and other materials.

In the 1980s, AIPAC began a series of political action workshops because: American Jewish voters need to hone their political skills and sophistication in order to ensure that candidates for national office are supportive of Israel. These AIPAC Political Action Workshops will provide leadership training for participants who can then transfer their skills to other Jewish voters in their home States. [20]

One such workshop scheduled for Chicago on 16 October 1983 was advertised as a ‘nuts and bolts workshop on how the political process works and how to become involved in it.’ The morning session was entitled ‘U.S.-Israel Relations: A Congressional Perspective,’ with presentations by Senator Bob Kasten, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, and Representative Larry Smith of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The afternoon sessions included how-to workshops, presented by AIPAC staff, on ‘Elements of Political Action,’ ‘Israel and American Jewry,’ and the ‘Campaign to Discredit Israel: How to Respond.’

The Intersection of the Elite and Constituent Networks

The key to AIPAC's success is not simply the cooperation of proIsrael politicians or the mobilization of American Jewry, but AIPAC's ability to use the intersection of the two networks to its advantage. While this intersection exists on a number of levels, it most commonly takes the form of putting pressure on Congress. As one Senate aide has said: ‘Other lobbies do the same sort of thing, or try to, but AIPAC has its system of playing Congress down to a fine art.’ [21]

In a 1981 Foreign Affairs article, Senator Charles Mathias (R-Md.) had this to say about the lobby

More important, in the long run, has been the success of the Jewish organizations in maintaining solid congressional support for a high level of military and economic aid to Israel. This is not to suggest that Congress supports Israel for no better reason than fear of the Israel lobby; on the contrary, I know of few members of either house of Congress who do not believe deeply and strongly that support of Israel is both a moral duty and a national interest of the U.S. It is rather to suggest that, as a result of the activities of the lobby, congressional conviction has been measurably reinforced by the knowledge that political sanctions will be applied to any who fail to deliver. When an issue of importance to Israel comes before Congress, AIPAC promptly and unfailingly provides all members with data and documentation, supplemented, as circumstances dictate, with telephone calls and personal visits. Beyond that, signs of hesitation or opposition on the part of a Senator or Representative can usually be relied on to call forth large numbers of letters and telegrams, or visits and phone calls from influential constituents. [22]

A former Senate aide put it even more clearly

‘It's a remarkable system they have. If you vote with them, or make a public statement that they like, they get the word out fast through their own publications and through editors around the country who are sympathetic to their cause. It's an instantaneous reward with immediate positive feedback, where the Senator's name, attached to a proposal or idea, becomes the subject of laudatory editorial or news show comment. Of course, it works in reverse as well. If you say or do something they don't like, you can be denounced or censured through the same network. That kind of pressure is bound to affect Senators' thinking, especially if they are wavering or need support.’ [21]

The issue of AIPAC's role in funding or endorsing politicians is complex, as the organization is officially not supposed to engage in either activity. However, there is no doubt that AIPAC does so, while carefully staying within the letter of the law. The major technique consists of using the political clout of its membership and supporters-clout that is based on their known wealth and size of political contributions, their political activity, and their willingness to follow AIPAC's lead in judging politicians by the single-issue standard of a pro-Israel position. Members are asked to contribute to congressional races in their districts and states and to report their contributions to AIPAC, whose staff can then use them for access, saying to a politician that ‘We were responsible for your receiving x amount of dollars.’ Special emphasis is put on contributing early; a refrain at the 1983 policy conference was, ‘If money talks, early money shouts.’ AIPAC's ability to control funding and endorsement has been greatly increased by the establishment of the PACs, which are the legal vehicle for campaign contributions; almost all of them were founded or are run by former AIPAC staff and members. Endorsement follows the same lines; AIPAC's publications and statements make clear who is looked on favorably and who is not. Members are urged to act as volunteers on campaigns of known pro-Israel candidates and of ‘neutral’ candidates, where the hope is expressed that the presence of AIPAC-connected Jewish activists will encourage the candidate to become more pro-Israel. At the 1983 conference, it was reported that over three hundred candidates solicited AIPAC support in 1982.

The conference also revealed how funding affects political party organizations as well as individual candidates. One participant in a political action workshop was Lynn Cutler, vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, who noted the ‘hunger’ of the party for money and the ‘ease’ with which the Jewish community could acquire ‘quickly and early considerable power’ by contributing. AIPAC members were urged to contribute and to request delegate status to the national convention Cutler even distributed delegate application forms. Mitchell Daniels, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, spoke along similar lines.

Pressure from the constituency takes other forms as well. One aide said that ‘it takes just one wishy-washy statement or letter’ to be picked up by AIPAC monitors and circulated to synagogues or community groups. Some aides believe that AIPAC has sent letters criticizing Israel to congressmen, simply to test their reactions. While this cannot be documented, the mere fact of such a rumor demonstrates the wariness that AIPAC evokes on the Hill. When it became known that one congressman was considering issuing a critical statement regarding the Lebanon war, a group of rabbis from his home state was flown in to dissuade him. As early as the 1960s, AIPAC began the regular policy of bringing constituents to Washington to appeal to wavering representatives. Kenen notes

‘Our technique was always to rouse the constituents to mobilize the Members of Congress to press the Administration that this or that policy was what the American people wanted.’ [21]

Congressman Mervyn Dymally (D-Ca.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been known to ‘grumble’ over aid to Israel. According to the Wall Street Journal, Whenever Rep. Dymally grumbles, he says, he receives a prompt visitation from AIPAC or one of the Jewish PACs, usually accompanied by someone from his district.

During one recent session, he explained that while he sometimes complains, in the end he always votes for more aid to Israel. ‘Not once,’ I told them, ‘have I ever strayed from the cause.’ And they said, ‘Well, you abstained once.’ That's how good they are. [23]

AIPAC also uses emotional pressure; during the AWACS debate, for example, every member of Congress received a complimentary copy of the novel Holocaust.

Another major technique is the letter campaign. Sometimes this entails postcards, which are distributed and signed in synagogues, B'nai B'rith lodges, and other community centers and sent out in the thousands. Less obvious are campaigns that focus on three or four related themes and use differently worded letters. Congressional aides say that such letter campaigns occur whenever there is a current issue relating to Israel or arms sales to the Middle East. Again, such campaigns often target waverers. In the summer of 1977, Representative Thomas J. Downey (R-N.Y.), an Israel supporter, expressed doubts about a foreign aid bill providing $1.7 billion to Israel.

Downey, whose mail was running high against any foreign aid, said he could vote for the bill only if it got a show of support from his district, which has a Jewish population of only 5 percent. Two days later, Downey got 3,000 telegrams from constituents saying they wanted a ‘yes’ vote. He obliged. [24]

Similar incidents in the same time period involved Senators Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.) and Abraham Ribicoff. When Stevenson was involved in a mark-up session on anti-boycott legislation, he received one hundred identically worded telegrams from Illinois residents, repeating AIPAC's call to ‘stand firm’ against ‘weakening amendments.’ In AIPAC's view, the upshot of the incident came in 1982 when, according to Dine, ‘The memory of Adlai Stevenson's hostility toward Israel during his Senate tenure lost him the Jewish vote in Illinois-and that cost him the gubernatorial election.’ [18] When Ribicoff criticized Prime Minister Begin's policies and AIPAC itself as doing ‘a great disservice to the United States, to Israel and to the Jewish community,’ telegrams and letters from Connecticut residents poured in. AIPAC sent a memorandum to its Connecticut members charging that Ribicoff had attended a lunch with Yasir Arafat, and the Jewish press then picked up the story.

AIPAC also maintains a computer list of key contacts for every member of Congress, drawn from its own resources and those of other pro-Israel groups around the country, particularly local federations and synagogues. If there is a need to pressure or simply approach a certain politician, the computer generates a list of potential contacts from the at-home constituency and others on the Hill; these might include former campaign workers, known large contributors to campaign funds, local community or religious leaders, or simply a close friend in the Senate or House.

Two 1975 incidents illustrate the peak of AIPAC's reliance on intersecting elite and constituent support. In both instances, the two networks were used to put pressure on the administration. The first occurred in response to the administration's proposal to sell Hawk antiaircraft batteries to Jordan. Benefitting from the elite network, AIPAC was ‘leaked’ the proposal by aides of former Senator Clifford Case and Congressman Jonathan Bingham. AIPAC head Morris Amitay then checked with the Israeli embassy and proceeded to send out a two-page memorandum against the sale to the entire Congress and to 397 city and regional Jewish organizations.

The second incident is considered AIPAC's ‘coup’: the May 1975 ‘76 Senators’ letter to President Gerald Ford requesting that the White House ‘be responsive to Israel's urgent military and economic needs.’Again, AIPAC worked closely with the elite network: the letter was co-sponsored and signatures solicited by Senators Henry Jackson, Jacob Javits, Abraham Ribicoff, Richard Stone (D-Fla.), Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.), Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), Walter Mondale (D-Minn.), Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.), and others. The key contact people were once again friendly legislative aides: Winslow Wheeler in Javits' office and Jay Berman in Bayh's. The letter was drafted by Amitay and reprinted in the New York Times and thus became available to pro-Israel groups around the country for use in their own work. The impact of the letter and its public dissemination went ever further; on 27 May 1975, the New York Times reported:

Buoyed by recent demonstrations of congressional support, Israel has decided to ignore repeated United States requests that it produce new negotiating proposals before the American-Egyptian meeting in Salzburg next Sunday, according to senior Israeli officials. [25]

This close coordination can also be seen more recently, as in 1983, when AIPAC and its friends in Congress moved to block any arms sales to Jordan. The Kennedy-Heinz Senate resolution and the Addabbo-Corcoran House letter, both opposing the sale, were prepared and circulated with AIPAC support and active coordination. The extent of this cooperation was revealed at the 1983 conference, where a memo on the Jordan arms sales was distributed to members being sent out to lobby. The memo stated in part: Both the letter and resolution are being held until after the AIPAC Policy Conference in order to get the maximum number of signatures. The House letter will be sent to the President at the end of this week. The Senate resolution will be dropped in the hopper at the same time (emphasis in original). [26]

Politicians who consistently take a pro-Israel position and work closely with AIPAC are lauded in the lobby's publications and memos and feted at conferences and dinners. Their voting records are prominently distributed, and among the widening AIPAC network they receive the highest accolade: ‘a true friend of Israel.’ While the most obvious reward is a positive report to at-home constituents and the assurance of receiving Jewish votes and funding, there are others. These include meetings with high Israeli officials (witness Begin's meeting with the pro-Israel congressional caucus in 1982) and, as reported by some legislative aides, offers from AIPAC to provide their friends with support on other issues that concern a particular politician, even if not related to the Middle East.

Broadening the Agenda: Non-Legislative Target Areas

An increasing proportion of AIPAC's energies is being turned to targets outside its traditional legislative lobby agenda. These reflect concerns shared by most other Israel support organizations. For example, AIPAC is soliciting support from fundamentalist Christian churches because of the more liberal Protestant church establishment's concern for Palestinian human rights. To this end, AIPAC has established a Christian Outreach Program, and the 1983 policy conference was attended by fifty Christians from thirty-five states. Meanwhile, former AIPAC staffer F. Stephan McArthur went on to work for the National Christian Conference for Israel.

In accord with the NJCRAC mandate for Jewish groups to attempt to improve relations and find ‘common ground’ with Black organzations, AIPAC has been holding meetings with Black politicians and organizations. In November 1983, AIPAC convened a weekend conference on ‘A Sharing of Agendas’ with the youth group of the NAACP. The conference was addressed by Thomas Dine and Rev. Edward Hailes, national vice president of the NAACP. The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Representative Julian Dixon (D-Ca.), also spoke and called on Jewish groups, particularly ADL, to ease up on their criticisms of presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. The Jackson campaign was a major source of both tension and dialogue between Jewish and Black groups. As of April 1984, AIPAC had held two meetings with Jackson to discuss these tensions.

A recurring theme at the 1983 policy conference was AIPAC's fear that American Blacks and other minorities were becoming anti-Israel as a result of their Third World orientation. To counteract this, it was suggested that emphasis should be put on the ill-treatment of minorities in the Arab world and on the argument that American Blacks, with their already overcrowded agenda, cannot benefit from supporting the Palestinians. Of the ten Blacks attending the conference, three wore AIPAC staff ribbons.

The major non-legislative activities of AIPAC now focus on the Arab lobby, as well as on the campus (to be discussed in Chapter 5). The resources and energy allotted by AIPAC to these areas show that they are considered political priorities and ‘targets’ particularly suited to AIPAC's skills.

The Arab Lobby

The increased focus on what AIPAC terms the ‘Arab lobby’ arises out of concern with some general trends in the U.S. These include a growing sympathy for the Palestinians among such sectors as students, liberal churches, and minorities; increased awareness of Israeli militarism and internal problems; and the formation of new groups that are critical of Israel, as well as the activities of more established groups.

AIPAC has decided that the most appropriate and effective political and ideological response is to portray Israel's Arab neighbors as backward and totalitarian, with emphasis on the oppression of women, the denial of equal rights to Christians (implying that Jerusalem is better off in Israeli hands), and Arab racism, allegedly proven by the historic involvement with the slave trade. All of these arguments are meant not only to defend and legitimize Israel, but also to forestall grassroots support for proPalestinian groups and thus prevent any serious challenge to Israel defense work.

Liberal and leftist critics of Israel are simply dismissed as pro-Soviet, anti-American, and extremist (they are only taken seriously in relation to campus work). AIPAC's attitude toward the more establishment groups the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), the Arab Women's Council, the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Educational Trust, the American-Arab Affairs Council -is more ambivalent. These are generally assessed as ineffective because of their lack of a mass base, votes, and often counterproductive campaigns; simultaneously, however, AIPAC lumps them all together as a monolithic, wealthy, and powerful Arab lobby.

In August 1982, AIPAC hired Amy Goott to engage in full-time monitoring and analysis of the Arab lobby. In her prime time speech at the 1983 policy conference, Goott stressed the need for constant monitoring and called on members to send all information and materials to her in the Washington office. (The scope of AIPAC's monitoring became apparent during Goott's speech, when she quoted freely from Gray and Co. memos dealing with their public relations work for the NAAA.) As a major tactic for dealing with the lobby, she recommended stressing that the corporate funding many pro-Arab groups receive is simply a clever substitute for direct funding from Arab states, and thus a form of ‘Arab blackmail,’ where the corporations are allegedly repaid by business contracts in the Arab world.


AIPAC puts out a steady stream of reports, memos, speeches, analyses, and letters. It obtains maximum impact from these materials because of their distribution to elites (senators, representatives and their aides) and to membership. A congressional aide noted that AIPAC materials are used routinely for speeches commemorating Jewish or Israeli holidays and for issues where more specific information is needed, such as arms sale debate.

Near East Report (NER): According to Si Kenen, the NER was conceived in 1957, when he spoke at a UJA meeting and was sent payment afterwards. Because a charitable organization cannot contribute to a lobby, he was unable to accept the check for AIPAC, and this incident sparked the idea of a subscription newsletter, legally separate from AIPAC, that could accept such funds.

The NER began as an occasional four-page newsletter and became a weekly in 1970. With a circulation of approximately fifty thousand, the NER is distributed free to members of Congress, media, embassies and senior administration officials. In addition to individual subscriptions, it is also distributed by other organizations; B'nai B'rith, for example, distributes the NER to Hillel and the campuses.

The NER has been able to involve the same sort of high-powered staff as AIPAC itself. In addition to the founders, Kenen and Allen Lesser, an AIPAC assistant, the staff has included Wolf Blitzer, Kenen's successor as editor, who went on to become the Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post; Aaron Rosenbaum; Tina Silber, who later joined the staff of Senator Henry Jackson; Charles Fenyvesi, now editor of the Washington Jewish Week and advisor to the Washington Times; Susan Dworkin; Leonard Davis; Alan Tigay, who resigned to become executive editor of Hadassah Magazine; Moshe Decter; and the current editor, M.J. Rosenberg, a former aide to Congressman Jonathan Bingham.

The content of the NER strictly reflects the line of AIPAC and the Israeli government. Coverage includes broad topical issues and Middle East-related current events and detailed information about legislation and voting patterns of all politicians. The NER is also used to promote AIPAC events and campaigns and it reprints AIPAC speeches and testimony.

In 1964, the NER began issuing special supplements, known as Myths and Facts. Topics presented in these supplements include the Middle East arms race, U.S. aid and commitment to the area, Iran, the ‘myth’ of the refugees, candidates' statements, convention platforms, the Arab boycott, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This publication is widely distributed, especially for campus and community pro-Israel work.

Some other AIPAC publications, briefly noted, include the following:

Saudi (A WACS) Watch: Begun the day after the Senate voted to pass the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia in 1981, this is billed as ‘an ongoing report on Saudi compliance with the assurances they gave at the time of the AWACS sale-a report directed at Capitol Hill.’ The report focuses on ‘exposing’ Saudi support for ‘PLO terrorism’ and branding Saudi oil policy as anti-American.

The PLO Papers: Described as ‘updates on current PLO programs and actions, PLO plans, and the background of PLO terrorism.’ Legislative Update: An annual report and assessment, in great detail, of all congressional, executive, and United Nations activities relating to the Middle East throughout the year.

The AIPAC Papers on U.S.-Israel Relations: A series of monographs, started in September 1982, that was part of AIPAC's ‘major new campaign to project Israel as America's best strategic asset in the region.’ [27]

In June 1983, AIPAC issued The Campaign to Discredit Israel, a handbook prepared largely by Amy Goott, the Arab lobby analyst. According to Thomas Dine's introduction, the handbook was prepared Because

In recent years, there has been a considerable growth in activity by other organizations that do not share our basic beliefs. An energetic campaign is being conducted by enemies of the U.S.-Israel relationship to undermine the moral and strategic ties between the two countries. Their method is to focus attention exclusively and relentlessly on any aspect of Israel which puts the Jewish State in a negative light, and thus to erode the relationship.

The handbook includes chapters on ‘The Artificial Constituency,’ ‘The Ideology-and its Weaknesses,’ ‘Lebanon and Beyond,’ and ‘A Directory of the Actors.’ This last chapter provides a list, with descriptions, of all organizations and individuals that are part of the ‘campaign.’ AIPAC acknowledges that there is great variety among the groups and individuals on the list, and possible doubt as to whether they all aim to ‘discredit Israel,’ but their inclusion is justified in the following way:

Many of the organizations describe their goals as fighting discrimination, advancing human rights, defending Lebanon, opposing war, improving U.S. relations with Arab countries, and other positive aims. In themselves, these objectives are not anti-Israel. Yet when an organization criticizes Israel's actions in Lebanon, but is not actively critical of PLO, Syrian and Iranian actions that have caused great suffering in that country, it is clear that the intention is to discredit Israel. Similarly, a committee that describes its purpose as defending human rights, yet concentrates its fire exclusively on alleged Israeli violations while ignoring extensive evidence of repression by Arab governments, manifestly has singled out Israel as a target. Promotion of Arab interests becomes an anti-Israel activity when the main policies being advanced would reduce the security of Israel or weaken the bonds between the United States and Israel.

AIPAC has announced plans to publish expanded and updated versions of the handbook on an annual basis.


  1. This page is reproduced by permission of the Institute of Palestine Studies, granted on 25 February 2014. The Institute retains copyright of all material.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Isaiah L. Kenen, Israel's Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington. Buffalo, N.Y, Prometheus Books, 1981: 66
  3. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, Middle East Lobbying, 39/34 (22 August 1981): 1525; Kenen: 113
  4. Wolf Blitzer, The AIPAC Formula, Moment 6110 (November 1981)
  5. Sue Hoechstetter, Michael Gale, Jewish Liaison for the White House, The American jewish Congress Monthly, 50/4 (June 1983): 14
  6. Quarterly Financial Reports, 1980-1984; and IRS Form 990 for 1980, 1981 and 1984
  7. AIPAC, Why U.S. Aid to Israel?, February 1983
  8. AIPAC, The Strategic Value of Israel, 6 June 1983
  9. Kenen:71
  10. Washington Post, 9 February 1983
  11. Washington Post, 13 February 1983
  12. Blitzer
  13. Jerusalem Post, 5 November 1982
  14. William J. Lanouette, The Many Faces of the Jewish Lobby in America, National journal, 13 May 1978: 751
  15. Both quotes from AIPAC promotional letter dated February 1982
  16. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, Middle East Lobbying: 1524
  17. Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht, The Fate of the jews. New York: Times Books, 1983: 271
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Rosenfeld: 15
  19. Lanouette: 751
  20. AIPAC, AIPAC Workshop on Politics, 16 October 1983
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Lanouette: 752
  22. Charles McC. Mathias, Jr., Ethnic Groups and Foreign Policy,Foreign Affairs, 59/5 (Summer 1981): 993
  23. Wall Street Journal, 3 August 1983
  24. U.S. News and World Report, 27 March 1978: 25
  25. Both incidents are described in Russell Warren Howe and Sarah Hays Trott, The Power Peddlers. New York: Doubleday, 1977: 271-273, 294-297
  26. AIPAC, The Jordan Arms Sale, 7 June 1983
  27. Jerusalem Post, 29 October 1982