Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs - 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]

  • Year established: 1977
  • President: Saul!. Stern
  • Executive Director: Shoshana Bryen
  • Address: 1411 K Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20005
  • Publication: Newsletter (monthly)

General Background

During the latter part of the 1970s, a Washington-based pro-Israel cluster of military analysts emerged to constitute a ‘Pentagon watch’ on strategic issues related to the Middle East. The appearance of this ‘Pentagon watch’ was inspired in part by the characterization of Israel as a military ‘burden’ to the United States by General George Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in 1976.

The major themes that these analysts emphasize in regard to U.S. relations with Israel are the following: (1) Israel is a strategic asset to the United States in the Middle East, whereas the Arab states are unreliable allies (2) U.S. support for Israel must be strategic, not merely moral and political (3) since the security interests of the United States and Israel are so closely intertwined, exposure of Israel to pressure from the Soviets or their surrogates endangers U.S. interests in the region (4) the Soviet Union has designs to control the Middle East, and its responsibility for most of the problems posed to Israel by Arab forces should be exposed. [2]

JINSA was established in 1977 to serve as a center for the ‘Pentagon watch’ and to affect national security policy. Stephen Bryen, former aide to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, was instrumental in founding JINSA.

Announcing its formation in June 1977, JINSA circulated a printed ‘Dear Friend’ letter signed by David Bar Elan (active in the Jerusalem based Jonathan Institute, which sponsors invitation-only seminars on international terrorism), Rita Hauser (of the AJC), Max Kampelman (U.S. ambassador to the Madrid Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and currently head of the U.S. delegation for negotiations on nuclear and space arms), Walter Laqueur, Norman Podhoretz, Eugene V. Rostow, and Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz (former ZOA president and chair of the Rabbinical Cabinet of the UJA). After wondering rhetorically ‘Why our national stocks of military equipment were so low that we lacked adequate reserves from which to resupply Israel in her hour of need during the Yom Kippur War’, and what led General Brown to characterize Israel as a ‘burden’, they argued that the answers required ‘a great deal of specialized information which is of crucial importance for all of us.’ There is a need, they reasoned, for a Jewish organization to provide the proper perspective on these issues

‘In our judgment, we Jews have a similarly vital stake in, and special perspective on, America's overall national security policy.’

JINSA promised to provide that perspective.

JINSA's first Newsletter projected a classical Cold War approach to the Soviet Union. ‘A serious problem faces the Free World ... as a consequence of the continuing Soviet arms buildup’, the Newsletter starts. The Jewish community (presumably the liberal segments of it) was admonished for not appreciating sufficiently the dangers of Soviet military buildup and for not acquainting itself with the appropriate technical data in this area. JINSA then vowed ‘to do our share to inform the American public, and in particular the Jewish community, about the dangers posed by the increasing Soviet military capability and the prudent actions we can take to respond to this danger.’

It appears that JINSA's establishment was in part a reaction to the liberal support for detente that was prominent within the Jewish community. Most of those associated with JINSA's establishment, and who are currently on its board of directors, represent the conservative segments of American Jewry.


Based on its IRS Form 990 for November 1980 to October 1981, JINSA's declared total revenues for that year were $99,000, of which 75 percent came from ‘direct public support,’ 11 percent from ‘indirect public support,’ and the rest from membership dues and interest. Its total expenditures for the year were slightly over $97,000. The largest expense category (28 percent) was ‘consulting fees’ (the bulk of it went to management); 15 percent was spent on the Newsletter, 13 percent on fundraising; and 13 percent on conferences, dinners, and meetings.


Since its establishment, JINSA has been primarily a liaison between the Jewish community and the defense establishment in Washington, and a point of the triangle connecting selected defense analysts in Washington with the Israeli defense establishment. In a 1983 progress report, JINSA claimed that it has succeeded in ‘fostering a dialogue with the U.S. military services’, in part by facilitating the process through which about two hundred Jewish community leaders were invited to the Pentagon since 1977. Furthermore, it helped to arrange smaller meetings for ‘many times that number’ with Pentagon officials in Washington and around the country.JINSA hosts dinners honoring staunch supporters of Israel and critics of the Soviet Union, such as the late Senator Henry Jackson, and arranges for delegations to Israel. According to a report by JINSA's president Saul

1. Stern, for example, a JINSA-sponsored delegation to Israel in October 1982, with the assistance of the Israeli Defense Forces, held high-level meetings aimed at strengthening Israel as a U.S. strategic ally.

JINSA's activities help to build a network of military-minded people who share the same ideological premises and who are willing to introduce them into the public discourse. JINSA-facilitated activities help to create an atmosphere of familiarity and constant contact among American defense officials, American Jewish leadership, and Israeli defense officials. As an American officer noted in JINSA's Newsletter

‘If push comes to shove the Israelis are in our pocket, and we are in theirs.’ [3]

The Newsletter is a monthly publication, ranging in length from six to eight pages. Its board of advisors has included Senator Rudy Boschwitz, Lieutenant General Devol Brett (Ret.), Representative Jack Kemp, AIPAC founder Si Kenen, Walter Laqueur and Max Kampelman (both on the advisory board of the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies), Ivan Novick (former president of ZOA), Jacques Torczyner (former president of ZOA and an officer of the WZO-American Section), Eugene Rostow, Edward Sanders (former adviser to President Carter), Lieutenant General Eugene Tighe (Ret.), General John Vogt (Ret.), and Admiral Elmo Zumwalt (Ret.).

Articles in the Newsletter stress the dangers posed by the USSR: how the Soviet arms buildup is outpacing NATO's, the growth of Russian facilities in the Horn of Africa, ‘rethinking the unthinkable’ about a Soviet attack on the United States, and ‘Why Did We Underestimate Soviet Military Spending for 10 Years?’

Prominent analysts, government officials, and retired military personnel write for JINSA's Newsletter. The lead article in the December 1982/January 1983 issue, for example, ‘The Bulgarian Connection’ (about the attack on the Pope) was contributed by Michael Ledeen, a JINSA board member, a senior fellow in international affairs at the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Affairs, and a former special advisor to Alexander Haig. Another article, on ‘The MX and U.S. Defense Doctrine,’ was written by Ronald Lehman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear policy. The main article in the February 1983 issue, ‘Electronic Combat: Warfare of the Future’, was written by Lieutenant General Kelly H. Burke (Ret.), former Air Force deputy chief of staff.

The Context of JINSA's Work

While JINSA is the only Jewish organization specifically directed toward security matters, it carries out its work in the context of a heightened interest in military affairs among the organizations of the Jewish establishment. The ADL, for example, has begun to arrange ‘military missions.’ The first delegation consisted of six former military commanders, including retired Major General George S. Patton, and was accompanied by Lewis M. Perlstein, of the Association of the U.S. Army. They went to Lebanon at the time of the Israeli invasion, ‘under ADL auspices to assess the situation for themselves. Their conclusion: Israel acted 'extremely cautiously' to avoid civilian casualties in Southern Lebanon.’ [4]

Thirteen retired U.S. generals and admirals participated in its second military mission to Israel and Lebanon. The retired officers included Major General Gerald J. Carey, USAF; Lieutenant General Richard E. Carey, USMC; Major General Robert Cocklin, USA; Admiral Donald Davis, USN; Lieutenant General Harry Kinnard, USA; Major General Doyle Larson, USAF; Lieutenant General Thomas H. Miller, USMC; Lieutenant General William R. Nelson, USAF; Lieutenant General Adolph G. Schwenk, USMC; Vice Admiral William St. George, USN; General Volney F. Warner, USA; and Admiral Maurice P. Weisner, USN. The delegation met with the Israeli chief of staff and other high-ranking officers and toured military installations, including an armored division headquarters in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. [5]

Similarly, AIPAC's literature now includes military analysis. Its monograph, The Strategic Value of Israel, for example, makes a detailed argument about the strategic benefits Israel offers to its U.S. ally, including an explicit discussion of the logistical advantages that use of bases in Israel could confer upon U.S. military units engaged in battle in the Gulf.

JINSA's basic perspective on the U.S.-Israeli alliance is also shared by other centers devoted to international security analyses. A number of experts associated with Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, for example, hold opinions similar to those advocated by JINSA and participate in its work, including Walter Laqueur, Michael Ledeen, and Max Kampelman.

The Center for International Security (CIS), although not specifically a Jewish organization and not limited in scope to concerns about Israel and the Middle East, has played a major role in publicizing the priorities about Israeli security that it shares with JINSA. The director and founder of the CIS is Dr. Joseph Churba. He was a childhood friend of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League. In 1965, the two men cooperated in setting up Consultant Research Associates, whose first task was to mobilize campus support for the war in Vietnam. In 1971, Churba taught Middle Eastern studies at the U.S. Air Force University on Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama; a year later, he was appointed as a special advisor on the Middle East to General George F. Keegan (Ret.). In 1976, he assailed General George Brown's pronouncements on Israel as ‘dangerously irresponsible’; he then lost his special security clearance and resigned. It was at this point that he founded the Center as an organization of former military officers. The Center's Advisory Board includes: Professor Gil Carl Alroy; Frank Gervasi; Lieutenant General Daniel O. Graham, USA (Ret.); Major General George F. Keegan, Jr., USAF (Ret.); Dr. lB. Kelly; Honorable William R. Kintner; Robert Morris; Professor William V. O'Brien; Merrill Simon; Rear Admiral Phillip W. Smith, USNR (Ret.); William R. Van Cleave; and Bernard Yoh.

2As the Center explains, in its geostrategic world view

‘peace requires strength, both moral and military.... For better or worse, America's future is tied to an international community in which Western Europe, Japan, Israel, Canada, Australia and New Zealand strive to remain democratic, secure and friendly, while Africa, Asia and Latin America remain independent of the Soviet Union and Communist China.’ [6]

CIS' position on Israel emanates from that of its director. In 1977, following his disagreement with the Pentagon, Churba published The Politics of Defeat. He specified that he wanted the book ‘to highlight the dangers inherent in the defeatist idea that Israel constitutes a 'burden'.’ The book was given further credibility by an introduction by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, chief of naval operations, USN (Ret.). ‘The purpose of this book is simple,’ Churba wrote in the preface. ‘It is to demonstrate that the vitality of Israel is crucial to the United States and that the United States must therefore categorically commit itself to the defense and preservation of that nation.’ This is so ‘primarily because she is-and will remain-of paramount strategic value to the security of the U.S.’

In a 1980 interview with Forbes magazine, Churba chastised President Carter for ‘lying’ about America's strike capability in the Arabian Gulf and accused American Middle East diplomacy of failure for not knowing ‘where the real ball game was.’ The real ball game, in Churba's analysis, is not the Palestine question, but the Arabian Gulf and how ‘to prevent ... the epicenter of world politics from disintegrating.’ [7]

His second book, Retreat From Freedom, carried an introduction by Richard V. Allen, who later became the chief of President Reagan's National Security Council. In it, Churba argued that ‘Israel is without question the only reliable and effective ally the U.S. has in the Middle East. ... It is essential, therefore, that American policy-makers force the leaders of the feeble regimes bordering the Persian Gulf to accept the overwhelming fact of this epoch-that their existence is bound up with American arms, and that those arms can be used effectively only in an alliance with Israel ... The inherently unstable Arab states can be auxiliaries to Israel-American might-they can never substitute for it.’ [8]


  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. These themes are elaborated in the JINSA Newsletter(s); AIPAC's, The Strategic Value of Israel; and in Joseph Churba's The Politics of Defeat: America's Decline in the Middle East. New York: Cyrco Press, 1977
  3. JINSA Newsletter, March 1983
  4. ADL Bulletin, October 1982
  5. ADL Bulletin, February 1984
  6. CIS, Statement of Purpose, Spotlight on the Americas (undated)
  7. Forbes, 27 October 1980
  8. Joseph Churba, Retreat From Freedom. Washington D.C.: Center for International Security, 1980. Introduction by Richard V. Allen: 2