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

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

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: 1906
  • President: Howard 1. Friedman
  • Executive Vice President: David M. Gordis
  • Chair, Executive Committee: Rita E. Hauser
  • Address: 165 East 56th Street, New York, NY 10022
  • Publications: American Jewish Yearbook, Commentary, In the Communities, News and Views, Present Tense

General Background

The AJC was established in 1906 in reaction to the 1903 and 1905 Kishinev pogroms in Russia. Its stated goal was to defend the civil and religious rights of Jews in the United States and abroad. The AJC's founders were a select group of ‘uptown’ New York German Jews who, in contrast to the waves of poor immigrants from eastern Europe filling the city's ‘downtown’ tenements, were the successful elite of American Jewry. This elitism was a conscious policy; when it was suggested that the AJC should be formed with a broader base, B'nai B'rith President Adolf Kraus responded

If the Committee represents the representative and high class Jews of America, that is enough. [2]

In its first decades, the AJC was mainly involved with providing immigrant aid and education, combatting eastern European anti-Semitism, and supporting civil rights legislation against religious discrimination. Its approach was to avoid overt controversy: wealthy, powerful, and intellectual members would approach their counterparts in government, business, or the media and quietly negotiate. This tactic reflected the class position and perspective of an acculturated sector whose aspiration was to fit securely into mainstream American life. Thus, the established German Jews of the ATC were unreceptive to both the Zionism and the radical socialism that the newer eastern European immigrants brought to America. Describing this early period, one recent ATC pamphlet notes

while the members of the Committee spoke of their 'religious brethren,' the 'downtowners' spoke of 'peoplehood' .... [3]

The first direct challenge to AJC leadership came in 1915 from prominent Zionists such as Rabbi Stephen Wise and Louis Brandeis. The following year they convened an American Jewish Congress as an immediate response to the crisis in Europe, but with the idea of forming a democratically elected umbrella organization for all Jewish groups. However, the broader aims of the Congress failed (it led only to the creation of the AJCongress as a separate organization). Not until the 1940s, when ATC was unable to respond adequately to Nazi genocide in Europe or to present a viable alternative to Zionism, did its dominance diminish. The AJC's approach of quiet negotiation, no fuss, no demonstrations was so unsuited to the scope of the Holocaust that other organizations and groups were able to move into leadership roles in Jewish life.

Like the AJCongress and ADL, the AJC turned to community relations after World War II. In a retrospective pamphlet called Milestones, the AJC cites the following post-war activities (apart from Israel-related programs): sponsoring major studies on topics such as the authoritarian personality, executive suite discrimination, and intermarriage; participating in interreligious dialogues, often on a high level; filing an amicus brief in the Bakke case against affirmative action quotas; creating the Institute of Human Relations; sponsoring Commentary, an important magazine of opinion.

While the AJC has expanded its base and membership, it is still known as an essentially ‘select’ organization. Daniel Elazar notes that the AJC's major criterion for membership seems to be actual or potential influence, and that its membership is especially powerful because it is strategically placed in leadership positions of other organizations, such as the federations and synagogues. When former AJC President Morris Abram was asked by Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion how many members the AJC had, Abram answered

We don't count AJC members, Mr. Prime Minister, we weigh them. [4]

While this is not quite so true today, the AlC continues to be the Jewish organization with the most direct access to the ‘corridors of power’ by virtue of its leadership connections and class position rather than the size and activity of its membership.

The AJC and Zionism

In its current pamphlets, the AJC highlights its historic support for Zionism, including endorsement of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, opposition to the British White Paper of 1939, cooperation with the Jewish Agency, and support for the UN Partition Plan of 1947. However, in the pre-1948 days, the AJC was known as the leading non-Zionist American Jewish organization. Its formulation of Judaism as a religious or, at most, a cultural identity existing within a pluralistic America precluded an acceptance of Jewish peoplehood. Also, since the AJC's leadership had emigrated freely to the United States and successfully become part of American society, they found the Zionist vision of immigration to Palestine unattractive. Thus, when the American Jewish Congress reconvened in 1943 to deal with the crisis in Europe, the only four votes against a Jewish state in Palestine were cast by the AJC. In fact, the AJC withdrew from the Congress in opposition to the demand for a state, and Zionist sympathizers in turn left the AJC. In 1944, a resolution put before the U.S. Congress included a call for the encouragement of colonization in Palestine leading to a Jewish commonwealth. Greatly to the dismay of the Zionist movement, opposition from and debate within the Jewish community caused the resolution to be shelved. Now-declassified documents on the subject from the Office of Strategic Services note

‘American Jewish Committee, which is non-but not anti-Zionist, presented a statement suggesting an amendment to the Resolution which would defer final determination of the question of a Jewish Commonwealth.’[5]

Even as the AJC's rejection of a Jewish state changed after World War II, in direct response to the needs of the thousands of survivors and displaced people flooding Europe, and although they supported and lobbied for the creation of Israel, it is clear that an ambivalent attitude persisted. The nationality or ‘peoplehood’ issue was still a sticking point, as witnessed by the joint statement of Ben-Gurion and AJC President Blaustein at the time, which emphasized that ‘Israel represents and speaks only in behalf of its own citizens.’ It was only after 1967 that the AJC actively and wholeheartedly took up pro-Israel work, to the extent of opening an office in Israel. By 1981, AJC President Maynard Wishner could say in a speech

Let no one misunderstand the rock of commitment and love of Israel that shapes the work we do.... We will demonstrate that devotion day in and day out. ... We shall do it with mind and heart and resources and energy. We have no higher priority. [6]

Structure and Funding

The AJC is still a relatively small organization, with less than fifty thousand members nationally. Its literature lists twenty-three regional offices that serve eighty chapters and units in over six hundred communities. In addition, there is a Washington, D.C. office and an overseas service with offices in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, and Jerusalem. The headquarters in New York houses the AJC's Institute of Human Relations, with a staff of over 250 professionals, including specialists in community relations, education, law, social science research, social work, religion, foreign affairs, communications, and the mass media. The AJC's organizational structure includes a board of trustees and all attendant officers, with vice presidents representing various regions. The honorary chair of the national executive council is Max M. Fisher, a leader of the Republican National Jewish Coalition and member of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency, while the list of honorary presidents includes Morris B. Abram, former president of Brandeis University and co-chair of the White House Conference on Civil Rights in 1965 (1964-1968); Arthur J. Goldberg, former associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1968-1969); Philip E. Hoffman, a former member of the UN Human Rights Commission, as well as state and national civil rights commissions (1967-1973); Richard Maass, former mayor of White Plains, N.Y. and former chair of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (1977-1980); Elmer L. Winter (1973-1977); and Maynard Wishner, a Chicago executive active in the local federation and Hillel (1980-1983). The current president is Howard 1. Friedman, a Los Angeles attorney and federation leader.

The AJC's organizational structure appears to be closely linked to fundraising: there are numerous committees, task forces, institutes, and special studies that arise primarily through endowments or special fundraising campaigns. According to a 1983 pamphlet, ‘AJC's funds are provided through its nationwide Appeal for Human Relations. In New York City and Chicago the Committee conducts its own direct fundraising campaign. Outside these cities its support comes from Jewish Welfare Funds, direct individual gifts and support for special projects, endowments, bequests and legacies.’[7]

What this means in practice is that as a community relations agency, the AJC participates in CJF's Large City Budget Conference (LCBC) and receives an annual allocation from the welfare fund. However, because this allocation is relatively small, the AJC also conducts its private fundraising campaign, which is structured not to overlap with the UJA-Federation appeal. This system was instituted after 1962, when the AJC ended its joint fundraising program with the ADL. The AJC is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code.

Some of the major ongoing programs that the AJC has established, primarily through endowments, are the:

There are also divisions within the national Institute of Human Relations, such as domestic affairs, energy, foreign affairs, and interreligious affairs.

In its IRS Form 990 return for calendar year 1982, the AJC reports a total revenue of nearly $14 million, 79 percent of which was generated from direct and indirect public support (namely contributions and allotments), and 7 percent from membership dues. Of the total expenditures for that year, nearly 81 percent went to program services and 12 percent to fundraising.

Israel Support Work

The shift to Israel support work that characterizes Jewish community relations agencies is most strikingly seen with the AJC: once the leading non-Zionist organization, it has adopted a stance whereby, according to a leading staff member, ‘Community relations around Israel and the Middle East is the number one subject in the AJ Committee. There is no question about that.’ [8]

Describing its current program, the AJC stresses: The development of early warning systems to alert us when dangers threaten, effective counteraction, and an ongoing tracking of American public attitudes toward Jews, Israel and other issues which require our attention. Personal representations to government officials as well as widely read AJC background memoranda, pamphlets and briefing papers help interpret Israel's position to U.S. policy makers, business, church and labor leaders, newspaper columnists and radio and TV broadcasters. Meetings of AJC leaders with officials of the State Department, the Commerce Department, the World Bank, and the Federal Reserve Board have sought to combat the Arab boycott and alert Americans to the dangers of Arab economic warfare. Soviet anti-Semitism ... the subversion of the United Nations ... the new challenges to Jewish security and well-being in America ... all have shaped AJC's worldwide efforts to defend Jewish security. [9]

Much of the AJC's Israel-related work takes place on two main levels: (1) writing, publishing, and disseminating information and position papers, and (2) continuing its traditional approach of quiet but influential pressure meetings with prominent individuals and groups representing other sectors (such as politicians, labor, and ethnic leaders), with special emphasis on the Christian religious establishment. The effectiveness of these tactics rests on the prominence and influence of the AJC's leadership, their intellectual and establishment credentials, and their personal and organizational connections with the various sectors of American Society.

Since 1967, the AJC's Washington representative has been Hyman Bookbinder, a former special assistant to Hubert Humphrey. Bookbinder maintains especially good relations with the White House and the State Department-an informal division of labor that leaves Congress mainly within AIPAC's scope. In a 1978 interview, Bookbinder described how that special relationship works

Every Administration has been friendly, access to this one has been, if anything, better than average.... There are many people I deal within the White House

quite regularly. Not just the Jews-Lipschutz and Eizenstat-but also [Hamilton] Jordan and even [Vice President] Mondale. He calls me regularly to ask how I react to things, and I can get through to him when I call. So we have a good relationship. [10]

Indeed, one reason that the AJC has not joined the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations but remains only an observer, is its reluctance to relinquish the freedom of action granted by its own special relationship with the executive branch. (The reason publicly cited by the AJC is that the monolithic image of the Presidents Conference is an inappropriate one for American Jewry.)

The AJC is not a registered lobby; however, Bookbinder has been very clear as to what his role entails: ‘I consider it my job, as an involved, acknowledged, unembarrassed friend of Israel, to get whatever information I can from the Israelis, from our State Department, from any sources, and to put the best possible light on the Israeli case.’

An example of his quiet diplomacy was seen in 1974, when then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt had some pro-Nixon Jewish businessmen invite Jewish leaders to his home, where he argued for an increased military budget, citing concern over adequate arms for Israel. It was Bookbinder who, following the talk with Zumwalt, called a meeting of American Jewish groups ‘to take another look at the arms budget.’[11]

Though the AJC does deal with other issues in Washington, its priority is clearly Israel-related. In 1981, both budget cuts and the Voting Rights Act were on the AJC's agenda, but the only mass membership mailing to Congress was one opposing arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In 1983, the AJC took credit for lobbying Interior Secretary James Watt to rule that Santa Fe International, an American oil company owned by Kuwait, could not hold oil and gas leased on federal land, on the grounds that Kuwait discriminated against U.S. oil companies.

The AJC's political clout and positions can also be seen in the proceedings of its annual meetings. At the 1976 meeting, the agenda included off-the-record briefings with the Israeli Embassy, the White House, the State Department, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Areas covered included the Middle East situation and the Arab boycott of Israel (a major issue for the AJC), as well as domestic concerns. The general meeting was addressed by President Gerald Ford, Senator Hubert Humphrey, State Department official Joseph. Sisco, Israeli ambassador Simcha Dinitz, and Chaim Herzog, then Israeli representative at the UN. In the 1983 meeting the major speaker was Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

The AJC's annual meetings also provide a forum for passing political resolutions, which are then issued and distributed as statements to the media, other organizations, and politicians. A resolution adopted at the seventy-fourth annual meeting in 1980, for example, reaffirms the importance of the Camp David Accords, while attacking Western European initiatives as ‘engaging in patent appeasement of the Arabs at Israel's expense for reasons of oil and hoped-for economic gain.’ It also criticizes the Carter administration for its stand on Israeli settlement policy: We believe that they are not contrary to international law where required for security purposes. We further believe that Jews have a right to live on the West Bank. While recognizing this right, however, we note that there has been much criticism in Israel and abroad in recent months as to the political wisdom of the establishment of additional Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Only Israel can decide through its democratic process what its settlement policy should be. Nonetheless, to prevent erosion of support, we urge Israel, its right notwithstanding, to show restraint in the creation of new settlements at this time. In the meantime, continued emphasis by the U.S. on the alleged illegality of Israeli settlements in administered territories serves no useful purpose. [12]

According to the resolution, the real obstacle to peace is not settlements, but the intransigence of the Arab countries. In addition to overt political intervention, the AJC serves as a think tank for pro-Israel activity. Important to this role are the many public opinion polls and special studies that the AJC either researches directly or commissions from others; many of the polls have been underwritten by funds allotted from NJCRAC's Israel Task Force, indicating that the other community relations agencies in fact accept the AJC's claim to this role.

One recent study, prepared in 1981 by Gary S. Schiff, addresses ‘Middle East Centers at Selected American Universities.’ As the conclusions indicate, the primary concern of the report, which examines the Middle East Centers at Columbia, the University of Michigan, Princeton, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California at Los Angeles, is not with academic excellence but with the orientation of the centers in relation to Israel. The report accuses all the centers of a ‘growing tendency to regard Israel as an entity separate from the rest of the Middle East,’ citing as evidence a lack of federal funding for the study or teaching of Hebrew; the acceptance of funding from Arab governments or corporations that deal with Arab countries, which, ‘guidelines notwithstanding, exercises at least a subliminal influence.... ‘; and the tendency for Jewish graduate students to enroll in Jewish studies rather than Middle East studies programs. The report concludes with the following recommendation:

Since no realistic view of the Middle East can deny the existence of Israel, this enumeration of trends suggests that, at a minimum, the federal government should reevaluate its priorities for its support of language and area studies. Moreover, the extreme importance and sensitivity of the issues aroused by any consideration of the Middle East suggest that universities offering Middle East studies should exercise close oversight of appointments, course content, source of funding, and outreach programs in the interest of preserving the scholarly objectivity which they have traditionally valued so highly. In the case of outreach programs, closer university oversight might perhaps be reinforced by federal oversight ... in the meanwhile, however, the tendency to deny Israel and the Hebrew language their fair share of attention and resources in the universities should be recognized and resisted, not only by the federal government and the universities themselves, but also by anyone concerned to preserve peace in the Middle East, and perhaps, the world.

Another AJC study reports findings of a 1981 national survey sponsored by the AJC to measure anti-Semitism in the United States. Prepared by Yankelovich, Skelly and White, Inc., a national research organization, the study attempts to measure whether anti-Semitism has increased or decreased by comparing the 1981 survey results with past surveys. According to this scale, which is based on a measurement of traditional anti-Semitism, the AJC concludes that anti-Semitism has decreased in the United States. However, the 1981 survey also measures anti-Semitism in terms of attitudes toward Israel and perceptions of American Jewry's relation with Israel. The results here indicate some erosion of America's support for Israel and a large increase in the view that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States. The study concludes

Since support for Israel is so pervasive at the current time, the impact of attitudes toward Israel on negative attitudes toward American Jews has been quite small.

However, the relationship which does exist between attitudes toward Israel and attitudes toward American Jews raises the issue of the possible future deterioration in American attitudes toward Israel on the position of American Jews. [13]

In 1982, the AJC established the Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations ‘to increase understanding and dialogue between the two largest, most vibrant Jewish communities in the world.’ The Institute's activities are intended to survey opinion, to facilitate an exchange of views on controversial issues, and to develop programs to overcome stereotyping and misunderstandings. One of its first major projects was the study, Attitudes of American Jews Toward Israel and Israelis: The 1983 National Survey of American Jews and Jewish Communal Leaders, mentioned in the Introduction (see Appendix).


The AJC's think tank role has generated a large publications network; in fact, among all the organizations dealt with in this study, the AJC publishes the greatest number of magazines, pamphlets and memos, while relying least on the electronic media or mass mobilization. At the same time, the AJC is clearly aware that the production of these written materials calls for an equal effort in terms of distribution. To this end, pamphlets or articles excerpted from its magazines are regularly sent off to the appropriate politicians, church and labor leaders, AJC members, or other Israel support groups, depending on the nature of the materials. With the mailing is a personalized cover letter, signed by the AJC president or other officers. For publications a press conference is called, as was the case with George Gruen 1982 book, The Palestinians in Perspective.


Commentary, established in the 1940s, is the best known of AJC's periodicals and the one aimed at the broadest audience, especially in political and intellectual circles. Recognized today as a leading advocate of neoconservatism, the magazine was originally rather liberal, with a focus on cultural rather than political affairs. Though editorially independent of the AJC, it receives an endowment of approximately $150,000 a year. Norman Podhoretz is the name most associated with Commentary. Podhoretz became editor in 1960, and his leadership soon made Commentary greatly respected as a forum for new Jewish fiction, criticism, and ideas. Its pages were filled with the work of writers such as Saul Bellow, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and Norman Mailer. Liberal social critics Paul Goodman, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, and Jane Jacobs used Commentary as a forum for their ideas. As early as 1964 and 1965, strong positions were taken against the Vietnam war and the invasion of the Dominican Republic. [14]

During this period, Commentary's attitude toward Zionism was similar to that of the AJC: supportive but critical. (Indeed, Midstream was founded by the Theodor Herzl Institute to be a more pro-Zionist alternative.) Among the articles published in the 1960s was a strong criticism of the Israeli Supreme Court decision in the ‘Brother Daniel’ case (where a Jew who had converted to Catholicism during the war and later became a monk, yet still claimed he was ethnically Jewish, was denied admission to Israel under the Law of Return, although he was allowed to settle there.) In the August 1967 issue, after the June War, the absence of jubilation or gloating is striking; rather, that issue contained an article by Israeli writer Amos Elon warning against the future dangers of occupation and a thoughtful piece by rabbi and historian Arthur Hertzberg on the Zionization of secular Jews in the wake of the war.[15]

1967 soon proved to be a turning point for Commentary, however, with the adoption of increasingly conservative positions on both domestic and international issues. Commentary since 1967 has been described as approaching every issue by asking ‘Is it good or bad for the Jews?’ It perceives American Jewry as a corporate entity or special interest group, whose very survival-much less success -necessitates abandoning traditional liberal positions. On the domestic level, authors such as sociologist Nathan Glazer proclaimed that social planning and affirmative action were bad for Jews, while Milton Himmelfarb (of Commentary's editorial board) posited that even the Democratic Party was bad, and that Jews had to break with their liberal alliances to move ahead in American society. In a critique of Himmelfarb's article later published in the more liberal Jewish magazine Dissent, Bernard Avishai pointed out how this attitude is related to the perception of Israel:

Israel might now be a cause for celebration-the same issue boasted a piece by Gil Carl Alroy suggesting that tough, technological Israel could trounce any combination of Arab armies for a generation -but it was Israel's image, not its culture or problems, that the new Commentary wanted. What would 'Israel' do if it lived in Brooklyn and not amongthe Arabs? It would, Himmelfarb suggested, vote Republican, or at least threaten the Democrats with abandonment.

A basic tenet of Himmelfarb's argument, and of Commentary as a whole, is that Jews must shift to the right because ‘only a strong America can guarantee the existence of Israel.’ A ‘strong America’ also involves advocating extreme anti-communism and forceful U.S. intervention internationally. The expansion of U.S. power was linked to support for Israel by such figures as UN representative Jeane Kirkpatrick, Robert W. Tucker, professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University, and Edward Luttwak, senior fellow at Georgetown's Center for Strategic and International Studies-all popular Commentary writers.

Commentary has taken the lead in advocating hawkish positions on Middle East issues. A January 1975 article by Robert W. Tucker urged U.S. military intervention in the Gulf as the solution to the energy crisis; in November of the same year he proposed that Israeli military strategy should be based on nuclear weapons. In 1977, Commentary printed a scathing denouncement of Breira, a Jewish organization formed in the early 1970s by moderate supporters of Israel who were critical of Israeli government policies and advocated the need to search for peace through negotiations with the Palestinians (Breira means ‘alternative’ in Hebrew). Other critics of Israeli policy, such as the American Friends of Peace Now, have also come under attack in its pages. In September 1982 Norman Podhoretz issued his own version of Emile Zola's ‘J'Accuse’, now a passionate vindication of Israel's invasion of Lebanon and denunciation of the media and those liberals who criticized the war. [16]

In recent years, Commentary's subscribers have actually decreased in number, from 60,000 in 1971 to 38,500 in 1981, but the magazine's impact should not be measured by this criterion alone. Especially with the advent of the Reagan administration, the magazine has gained credibility. UN Representative Jeane Kirkpatrick and Carl Gershman, her official counselor, both used Commentary as a forum for their views before their 1981 appointments. Richard Pipes' Cold War view of the Soviets and advocacy of a hard-line nuclear policy-as printed in Commentary-are said to have led to his 1981 appointment to the National Security Council. Likewise, it was after Menachem Milson's views on Israeli policy in the occupied territories were published in Commentary that he was appointed by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon as civil administrator of the West Bank in November 1981. [17]

The AJC's other major periodical is Present Tense, a glossy quarterly that was established in the 1970s with a grant from the AJC's Bergreen Institute of Foreign Policy Studies. Its stated aim is ‘to broaden American Jewry's understanding of the condition of world Jewry.’ Unlike Commentary, its audience is limited to AJC members and the general Jewish organizational community; it is also much less political and dogmatic, and thus provides a counterpoint to Commentary's increasingly neoconservative and hawkish positions. The advisory board includes such writers as Betty Friedan, Alvin Toffler, and Elie Wiesel. There is at least one article on Israel and/or the Middle East in each issue; if a topic is controversial, usually both extremist and moderate positions will be printed.

Two periodicals that are geared solely for the membership and other Jewish community groups are News and Views and In the Communities. The first reports on activities within the Committee itself, mainly on the national level; the second, issued by the AJC's Community Service Department three or four times a year, reports on various local chapter activities.

The AJC has also co-published and prepared The American Jewish Yearbook for over seventy years. The Yearbook, currently edited by Milton Himmelfarb, includes a directory of Jewish organizations along with several articles on major demographic, social and political issues; it is widely considered the definitive reference work on Jewish communal life in North America.

Occasional Publications

The AJC also issues materials through its various departments and sections to respond to current events, provide information, or make a political statement. During the 1981 AWACS debate, for example, it issued ‘15 Questions and Answers on U.S. Arms for Saudi Arabia,’ (and similarly, ‘10 Questions and Answers on Lebanon,’ published during the 1982 invasion), both of which present the official Israeli position on the issues involved. This kind of Israel support work is not limited to AJC's Foreign Affairs Department; Israel-related material is also published by such divisions as the Public Relations Department, the Energy Information Service, and the Discrimination Division of the Domestic Affairs Department.

AJC's Energy Information Service reprints and distributes articles stressing the danger of Arab dominance over Middle East oil. In 1982, reprints published by the Energy Information Service included ‘Oil, Petrodollars and the U.S. Economy,’ by Dr. Peter B. Kenen, Walker Professor of Economics and International Finance at Princeton; ‘The Diminishing Importance of Middle East Oil: Its Future Implications,’ by Eliyahu Kanovsky, professor of economics at Bar Han University; and ‘Hastening OPEe's Demise,’ by Dr. Lawrence Goldmuntz, chair of the AJC's National Energy Committee and the president of Economics and Science Planning, a Washington, D.C. consulting firm.

Foreign Affairs Department Background Memoranda are brief memos on topical issues sent out under personal cover letters to the media, politicians, minority organizations, women's groups, AJC members and supporters, labor unions, and churches. Often enclosed in the mailings are copies of newspaper or magazine articles or transcripts of speeches that support the view presented in the memorandum. Memoranda dealing with Israel have included ‘Israeli, U.S. and Egyptian Positions on Jerusalem,’ by George E. Gruen, director of AJC's Middle East Affairs Division (21 January 1980); ‘Jerusalem: Renewed Focus of Controversy,’ by Georg'e E. Gruen (29 September 1980; this memo was published one month after the Israeli Embassy issued an information background sheet on Jerusalem that was virtually identical not only in information but also in language):

  • ‘The Golan Heights Controversy: Symptom of a Deeper Crisis in U.S. Israeli Relations," by George E. Gruen (23 December 1981)
  • ‘The Golan Heights Controversy as Seen in Israel,’ by Gershon Avner, director of political affairs, AJC Jerusalem office (20 January 1982)
  • ‘President Reagan's Middle East Initiative,’ by George E. Gruen (15 September 1982)
  • "United States-Saudi Relations: Time for a Reevaluation," by Lois Gottesman, research analyst, Middle East Affairs Division (March 1983)
  • "Moscow's Moves in the Mideast," by Allen L. Kagedon, research analyst, Foreign Affairs Department (16 May 1983).

News from the Committee are press releases issued by the AJC's Public Relations Department. These often contain a summary of the AJC's recent research and are linked to current events. In February 1983, for example, one of these press releases reported the results of an AJC-commissioned Gallup poll on U.S. citizens' support for Israel; issued during a time when the situation in Lebanon had resulted in extreme friction between the United States and Israel, it thus served to remind the U.S. government of the weight of pro-Israel public opinion.

The AJC's Trends Analysis Department identifies and studies general issues or specific events of concern to the Jewish community, and its findings are printed in periodic reports. After the 1981 AWACS vote, a Trends Analysis Report entitled ‘The AWACS Debate: Is There an AntiSemitic Fallout?’ was published by the Domestic Affairs Department of AJC's Discrimination Division. Based on monitoring of the media and interviews with various public figures, the report concludes that there was little or no rise in traditional anti-Semitism. However, certain ‘dangerous trends,’ considered actually or potentially anti-Semitic, are stressed: criticism of Israel's special relationship with the United States; criticism of the Israeli government's strong public position against the AWACS sale; criticism of or even any reference to the pro-Israel or Jewish lobby in the United States, and especially any statement implying its disproportionate strength; any implication that American Jews may face a conflict between Israeli and U.S. interests; and all activities supporting the AWACS sale. Another Trends Analysis Report is titled ‘Ad Hoc Groups: New Pleaders for the Arab Cause’ (11 October 1982). Prepared by AJC staff member Sheba Mittleman, it discusses the emergence of what are characterized as new ‘anti-Israel’ groups after the Lebanon war, but is actually a very brief synopsis of studies done by the ADL and AlPAC.


  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. Melvin 1. Urofsky, Do American Jews Want Democracy in Jewish Life?, interChange, March 1976
  3. Henry L. Feingold, A Jewish Survival Enigma. The Strange Case of the American Jewish Committee, AJC, May 1981: 2.
  4. . Feingold: 11.
  5. 0SS Document No. B-165, American Zionists and the Palestine Resolution, 9 March 1944.
  6. Feingold: 15.
  7. AJC, Decades of Decision: A Brief History of the American Jewish Committee, May 1983.
  8. Quoted in Schiff: 177
  9. AJC, Decades of Decision
  10. William J. Lanouette, The Many Faces of the Jewish Lobby in America, National Journal, 13 May 1978.
  11. Detroit Free Press, 18 April 1974.
  12. AJC, Statement on Arab-Israel Peace and the Middle East, adopted 18 May 1980.
  13. Yankelovich, Skelly, and White, Anti-Semitism in the United States, vol. 1, The Summary Report, AJC Study, 1981: 45-46
  14. Sec Oscar Gass, "Vietnam-Resistance or Withdrawal?" Commentary 37/5 (May 1964); David Halberstam, "Getting the Story in Vietnam," Commentary 39/1 (January 1965); Maurice J. Goldbloom, "Foreign Policy," Commentary 39/6 (June 1965); Theodore Draper, "The Dominican Crisis," Commentary 40/6 (December 1965)
  15. See Marc Galanter, "A Dissent on Brother Daniel," Commentary 36/1 (July 1963); Amos Elon, "Letter from the Sinai Front;" and Arthur Hertzberg, "Israel and American Jewry," Commentary 44/2 (August 1967)
  16. Joseph Shanan, "Why Breira?" Commentary 63/4 (April 1977); also Ruth Wisse, "'Peace Now' & American Jews," Commentary 70/2 (August 1980)
  17. See Jeane Kirkpatrick, Dictatorship and Double Standards, Commentary 68/5 (November 1979); Richard Pipes, "Soviet Global Strategy," Commentary 69/4 (April 1980); Menachem Milson, "How to Make Peace with the Palestinians," Commentary 71/5 (May 1981).