American Israel Public Affairs Committee

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<youtube size="tiny" align="right" caption="AIPAC student activities czar Jonathan Kessler explains how the lobby muzzles congress">7VDYGLY1WBQ</youtube> The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a national membership based group which describes itself as "America's Pro-Israel lobby".[1]


Dick Cheney at AIPAC's Annual Conference

See main article AIPAC's origins

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is considered one of the three most powerful lobbies in Washington. Founded in 1951 as American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs by I.L. (Sy) Kenen, the lobby sought to circumvent the State Department to appeal directly to Congress to provide aid to Israel.[2] The lobby changed its name to American Israel Public Affairs Committee by the end of the decade. AIPAC is a membership organization and currently boasts 65,000 members across all 50 of the American states. [3] According to the organization's website, 'through more than 2,000 meetings with members of Congress' it's activists 'help pass more than 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives a year'.[4]

With the fatal blow to Arab nationalism in 1967,'[AIPAC]'s power was simultaneously enabled and enhanced by Israel's emergence as a regional surrogate for US military power in the Middle East'. [5] Wielding enough influence over the congress to pressure Gerald Ford into backing down from threats of suspension of aid to Israel, AIPAC really came into its own during the Reagan years. While in 1981, the lobby had an annual budget of a little more than $1 million and a mere 8,000 members, by 1993, the budget had risen to $15 million, administered by a staff of 158, while the membership had swollen to 50,000. [6] During the same period, establishment of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) greatly expanded the lobby's influence over policy in Washington. While maintaining a fasade of moderation, WINEP serves more as a platform for extremist voices such as Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer. By the mid-'80s, AIPAC had been a prime factor in the defeat or crippling of initiatives and legislators deemed not friendly enough towards Israel, and the passage of billions in grants.

Initially AIPAC had been supportive of all Israeli governments, but lately, it has exhibited a more pronounced slant towards the right-wing Likud. While the Clinton years saw a temporary eclipse of the lobby due to the administration's penchant for unobtrusive diplomatic solutions, 2001 marked the arrival of a resurgent AIPAC which sought to integrate Israel's actions in the Occupied Territories into the wider 'War on Terror'.

Through WINEP, the lobby has been supplying right-wing intellectuals to Republican administrations, who employ their positions to support Likud policies from within the U.S. government. [7] Given its strong ties to the Neo-Conservatives ascendant in the Bush administration, AIPAC has been instrumental in steering the US government towards following a precipitous policy in the Middle-East. AIPAC was quite enthusiastic about the US war in Iraq, and more recently has been urging actions against other perceived threats to the state of Israel - namely, Iran and Syria. [8]

Espionage Allegations

AIPAC courted more controversy recently when four of its senior members were served subpoenas in an espionage investigation being conducted by the FBI. The investigation involved a Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin passing classified policy documents on Iran to a pair of AIPAC lobbyists - who allegedly passed them to the Israeli government.[9] The FBI interviewed Steven Rosen, the group's director of foreign policy issues and Keith Weissman, a senior Middle East analyst for AIPAC. [10] The FBI also copied the computer hard drives of Steven Rosen. Predictably enough, Congress members rallied behind AIPAC, despite the seriousness of the charge. [11]

According to investigative journalist James Bamford, Rosen and Weissman's actions were 'the selling of ideology, trying to sell a viewpoint.

Larry Franklin is not going to knock on George Bush’s door, but he can get AIPAC, which is a pressure group, and the Israeli government, which is an enormous pressure group, to try to get the American government to change its policy to a more aggressive policy.[12]

As a result of the investigation, Goldberg notes that AIPAC "now seems acutely sensitive to the appearance of dual loyalty."

The theme of this year’s aipac conference was “Israel, an American Value,” and, for the first time, “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, was not sung. The only anthem heard was “The Star-Spangled Banner.”[12]

Details of the case

Steven Rosen was charged with receiving classified US Government documents from Larry Franklin who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2006:[13]

Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman were charged in an indictment in August 2005 with conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to journalists and an unnamed foreign power that government officials identified as Israel. Aipac dismissed the two men in April 2005.
The indictment said the two men had disclosed classified information about a number of subjects, including American policy in Iran, terrorism in central Asia, Al Qaeda and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment in Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 Americans, mainly members of the military. Lawyers for the two men have sought to have the indictment against them dismissed.
As Aipac's director of foreign policy issues, Mr. Rosen was a well-known figure in Washington who helped the organization define its lobbying agenda on the Middle East and forged important relationships with powerful conservatives in the Bush administration.[14]

According to Goldberg, after receiving classified information from Franklin,

According to aipac sources, Rosen and Weissman asked Kohr to give the information to Elliott Abrams, the senior Middle East official on the National Security Council. Kohr didn’t get in touch with Abrams, but Rosen and Weissman made two calls. They called Gilon and told him about the threat to Israeli agents in Iraq, and then they called Glenn Kessler, a diplomatic correspondent at the Washington Post, and told him about the threat to Americans.[12]

During the espionage trial Rosen was represented by Abbe Lowell who also represented disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He also received public support from Martin Indyk.[12]

Rosen claims he was indicted "not because I violated AIPAC policies, but because I followed them:"[15]

Rosen says the organization altered its policy on classified information in late 2005, retroactively, after he and Weissman were dismissed. "I think [AIPAC's] behavior is terrible," he says. "When they lose the case, I hope they'll learn something. It's very unjust - I served them for 23 years, they praised everything I did ... and now they are treating me this way. It's unjust and I think they'll regret it." Rosen adds that AIPAC tried to persuade him to withdraw his claim.[15]

The charges against Rosen and Keith Weissman were dropped in 2009[16] even though the "FBI claimed that it had enough evidence for convictions."[17]

Steven Rosen's Defamation Suit Against AIPAC

On March 2, 2009 Steven Rosen filed a civil lawsuit in a Washington, DC court against AIPAC for defamation, arguing that AIPAC used him as a "scapegoat"[17] for their own actions and because they "feared a widening federal investigation into its ties to Israel."[18] In Rosen's words: "They sent me out to do a job, I did the job for 23 years. Trouble came - they have to sacrifice me to save the ship. I was a good soldier..."[15]

Rosen is asking for a total of 21 million in damages ($5 million from AIPAC and punitive damages of $500,000 each from former board member).[19]

Former AIPAC staffer turned political analyst MJ Rosenberg argues that Rosen's suit has the potential to destroy the lobby:

The Rosen vs. Aipac case is grinding its way through the courts and could well destroy the lobby without ever making its way on to the front page. Aipac is under siege, and is spending millions to stay alive. But that will not be easy - even if Steve Rosen ultimately accepts a payoff from the organisation and refrains from telling what he knows.[20]

AIPAC on the defensive

In its defense AIPAC is claiming that Rosen was dismissed for employee misconduct. From an AIPAC statement sent to Haaretz:

As the AIPAC pleadings indicate, this defamation lawsuit has absolutely no merit. AIPAC has made it clear during this litigation that it disagrees with Mr. Rosen's characterizations with regard to the events relevant to the litigation. As the pleadings demonstrate, it is AIPAC's position that Steve Rosen's claims are wildly inaccurate, and are undermined by Mr. Rosen's own admissions under oath in his deposition.[15]

Rosenberg argues that AIPAC is attacking Rosen "personally"[20] and although he has harsh criticisms for Rosen's reported Islamophobia and for acting as a "peace-wrecker"[20] throughout negotiations between Israel and Palestine, Rosen calls AIPAC's actions "despicable."[20] So far AIPAC has released a 260 page deposition[21] showing that Rosen visited pornography sites and solicited sexual relations with other men while at work. Rosen shot back by arguing that this was not an unusual occurrence at AIPAC and promised to unveil further reports proving AIPAC's own regular history of employee workplace misconduct.[22]

Rosen shot back that he had "witnessed" AIPAC's executive director Howard Kohr "view... pornographic images on AIPAC computers," as well as "his secretary do it repeatedly, and call people over to see it, including Howard Kohr." He said he "witnessed other members of staff do it," too.[23]

Rosen also claims that AIPAC "threatened" him with the pornography charges to try to intimidate him into not pursuing the case: "They warned me directly that if I persist with this case, they will start up with this pornography business," Rosen relates, referring to AIPAC's claim in its court-submitted dossier that pornographic materials were found on his work computer. "It's nonsense...The pornography threat, he adds, "is something they came up with later and tried to bully me with this ... it's right out of 'The Sopranos.'"[15]

AIPAC's alleged promise to Rosen

Rosen argued that in 2007 his previous attorney Abbe Lowell told him in an email that during a conversation with AIPAC it became clear that while AIPAC claimed it couldn't act now because that would confirm beliefs that it feared further FBI investigations into their actions, they would eventually "do right" by him. In an e-mail dated 8:08 am on December 15, 2007, Lowell says the following to Rosen:

Phil reiterated that ‘when this is all over we will do right by Steve’ but said that nothing can be done now as … we cannot have a situation where on the eve of trial after 3 years all of a sudden AIPAC is paying off Steve not to say things or to say things. He is right. Will discuss.[24]

AIPAC public relations representative Patrick Dorton argued that Rosen's evidence was taken from his counsel's "interpretation" of a conversation and taken out of context:

"If our counsel made such assertions,” Dorton continued, “they were offered as a personal opinion and did not reflect AIPAC’s position. In fact, no payment or benefit was promised by AIPAC and no payment or benefit was ever conveyed, which is why AIPAC is now defending itself against Mr. Rosen's merit-less defamation claim."[24]


The AIPAC policy is generally determined by a board of directors who are selected more on the basis of how much they can contribute than on how well they can represent. The board features many corporate lawyers, Wall Street investors, business executives, and heirs to family fortunes. Even within the board, power is concentrated in the hands of a wealthy elite of past AIPAC presidents.

Coordination with Presidents Conference

AIPAC works closely with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations: the two groups have interlocking directorates. According to Goldberg,

AIPAC is one of the fifty organizations that make up the Presidents Conference. The members of Presidents Conference each have one seat on AIPAC's executive comittee, adn whoever chairs the Presidents Conference is a member of AIPAC's inner ruling body, the officers' group.[25]

However, according to Goldberg, following the Israeli invasion of 1982, AIPAC tried to consolidate its control.

...AIPAC doubled the size of its executive committee, so that the Jewish organizational leaders could be outvoted by a bloc of individuals chosen directly from among AIPAC's mass membership.[26]

IRS Asked to Revoke AIPAC's Tax Exemption

On November 22, 2010 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) received a 1,389 page filing[27] demanding that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC's) tax exempt status be retroactively revoked. The filing was submitted by the IRmep Center for Policy and Law Enforcement, headed by director Grant Smith. The filing spans nearly 60 years, from the moment AIPAC's founder left the employment of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the present.[28]

The two core charges are:[28]

False Charitable Purpose. AIPAC has been investigated several times by the FBI and is currently in a civil suit over the ongoing acquisition and movement of U.S. government classified information. The filing argues that such activities reveal AIPAC does not function as a bona fide "social welfare" organization.
Fraudulent Application for Tax Exempt Status. AIPAC's original application for tax exempt status contains fraudulent representations and omissions. It fails to mention that AIPAC's parent organization, the American Zionist Council (AZC) was shut down by a U.S. Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act order in 1962. AIPAC incorporated six weeks later and applied for tax exempt status, but failed to reveal that the majority of its startup funding came from Israel, funneled through the AZC.

In January 2010 Smith called in to Diane Rehm Show's on National Public Radio and challenged IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman about the claim that the "IRS goes after powerful violators" of charity tax law, arguing that the US needs to crack down on US charities laundering tax exempt donations into illegal Israeli settlement.[29] IRMEP's filing against AIPAC appeared less than one year later.


  • American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) is a supporting organisation for AIPAC, which sponsors trips for many members of Congress. Visits by prominent names, such as Sen. John McCain have been sponsored by AIPAC through AIEF, culling favours for which the rewards were not long in coming, since the Senator duly endorsed the separation wall, which has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. [30] Howard Dean, the new Chair of the Democratic Party is also an erstwhile beneficiary, and has returned the favor by moving from calls for an even-handed approach to the conflict, to an unequivocal support of Israeli assassination of Palestinian leaders. [31]
  • Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO) is a coordinating body composed of leaders of 55 different organizations and is responsible for formulating and articulating the "Jewish position" on most foreign policy matters. All the members of CPMAJO sit on AIPAC's executive committee, [32] but the actual lobbying is always done by AIPAC and its constituent PACs. While the focus of CPMAJO is on the executive branch of the U.S. government, AIPAC concentrates on the Congress.
  • Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) was established in 1985 by AIPAC as a pro-Israeli alternative to the Brookings Institution, which - according to Juan Cole, the Middle-East expert and Professor of History at the University of Michigan - it perceived to be insufficiently supportive of Israel. WINEP enjoys enormous influence in Washington with State Department and military personnel regularly detailed there for an education in the Middle-East. This naturally leads to the development of a much skewed understanding of the region and its conflicts, since WINEP is a heavily ideological think-tank, with a distinct agenda; the type of 'group polarization' that is most evident in the current US administration. Position papers developed by WINEP are routinely distributed not only in government circles, but also to private sectors working for the government.
  • Jerusalem Post (JPost) - Editor-in-Chief of JPost David Horovitz is a frequent featured speaker at AIPAC events[33][34][35] and notes on his official biography that he regularly gives "the introductory briefing on Israel to Congressional delegations brought to Israel under the aegis of AIPAC."[36]


Manfred Gerstenfeld and Ben Green, writing in Jewish Political Studies Review in 2004:

In the mid-1970s Si Kenen, editor of the AIPAC-affiliated, Washington-based Near East Report, initiated a media-monitoring column titled The Monitor. Its purpose was to clarify "controversial issues and to expose negative propaganda... One of NER's prime targets was the team of Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, whose column was syndicated in about 250 American cities. When the columns contained errors about Israel, Kenen would send out telegrams to local activists who would then write critical letters to the papers that carried the columns. The climax of this campaign came after Evans falsely claimed that Israel had made a secret request of $4 billion per year for U.S. arms. Evans, who initially refused to retract, had to do so after several weeks. Under the ongoing pressure from letter writers, Evans and Novak stopped writing on the Middle East for several years.[37]


Some key funders of AIPAC include:


According to Haaretz, AIPAC has been 'more consistently potent and reliable' than any 'of all the weapons in Israel's policy arsenal'. [39] The list of achievements cited on its website affirms that this claim is anything but frivolous. [40]

Campaign Contributions

While AIPAC as an organisation does not contribute to electoral campaigns, it has carefully cultivated an immense support base through the contributions of its members and various Political Action Committees towards the campaigns of pro-Israel candidates. [41]

Between 1997 and 2001, the 46 members of AIPAC's board together gave well in excess of $3 million, or more than $70,000 apiece. At least seven gave more than $100,000, and one -- David Steiner, a New Jersey real-estate developer -- gave more than $1 million and that's just the board. Many of AIPAC's 60,000 members contribute funds as well, in sums ranging from a hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. [42]

AIPAC has also been very successful in mobilising the Jewish community as a voting block. As far back as the Truman era, this block wielded enough power to influence foreign policy; however, AIPAC has further consolidated their position through strategic alliances - most notably with the Christian Zionists.

Today AIPAC wields enough influence that according to William Quandt, a member of the National Security Council in the Nixon and Carter administrations, "Seventy to 80 percent of all members of Congress will go along with whatever they think AIPAC wants." During the 80s, AIPAC was instrumental in securing an annual aid package of $3 Billion for Israel. [43]

In the end the most significant criticism of AIPAC has come from other Jewish organizations which claim that it does not represent views of the majority of US Jewry. On every issue, AIPAC is significantly to the right of the generally progressive US Jewish population in its views. This has led to the emergence of new challengers for the leadership of American Jewish politics, which are far more attuned to views of the population. Most notable amongst them is the Israel Policy Forum (IPF). However, it will be some time before they are able to match the strong fundraising, and organizing capabilities of AIPAC.

AIPAC's success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda and to punish those who challenge it. It ensures that those with a pro-Israel stance receive strong financial support from many pro-Israel political action committees and anyone deemed hostile to Israel 'can be sure that AIPAC will direct campaign contributions to his or her political opponents'. Letter-writing campaigns are organised by AIPAC and they also encourages newspaper editors to endorse pro-Israel candidates. During the 1984 elections, Senator Charles Percy from Illinois was targeted by the AIPAC. In the words of a prominent Lobby figure, Percy had ‘displayed insensitivity and even hostility to our concerns’. According to Thomas Dine (who was head of AIPAC at the time), ‘All the Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians – those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire – got the message.’ [44]

AIPAC is described as 'de facto agent for a foreign government' which has a 'stranglehold' on Congress. According to former AIPAC staff member Douglas Bloomfield, AIPAC is ‘often called on to draft speeches, work on legislation, advise on tactics, perform research, collect co-sponsors and marshal votes’ and ‘it is common for members of Congress and their staffs to turn to AIPAC first when they need information, before calling the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, committee staff or administration experts.’ In the words of former Democratic senator Ernest Hollings, ‘you can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.’ The result is that debate on US policy towards Israel is stifled with critics of Israel becoming an 'endangered species' in the foreign policy establishment. As Mearsheimer & Walt state, the 'inability of Congress to conduct a genuine debate on these important issues paralyses the entire process of democratic deliberation'.[44]

When it comes to presidential elections, the Washington Post estimated that Democratic presidential candidates ‘depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 per cent of the money’. Key organisations in the Lobby also 'make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs.'[44]

According to Jeffrey Goldberg,

[AIPAC] analyzes congressional voting records and shares the results with its members, who can then contribute money to candidates directly or to a network of pro-Israel political-action committees (PAC). The Center for Responsive Politics, a public-policy group, estimates that between 1990 and 2004 these pacs gave candidates and parties more than twenty million dollars.[12]

At the Camp David summit in July 2000, some of Clinton’s closest advisers from prominent pro-Israel organisations, such as Martin Indyk (former deputy director of research at AIPAC and co-founder of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP)) and Dennis Ross (who joined WINEP after leaving government in 2001). [44]

AIPAC was also actively involved with a letter sent to Bush in 2001 'demanding that the US not restrain Israel from retaliating against the Palestinians'. [44] The article continues by stating that...

'Maintaining US support for Israel’s policies against the Palestinians is essential as far as the Lobby is concerned, but its ambitions do not stop there. It also wants America to help Israel remain the dominant regional power. The Israeli government and pro-Israel groups in the United States have worked together to shape the administration’s policy towards Iraq, Syria and Iran, as well as its grand scheme for reordering the Middle East'.

Political Intimidation

The other prong of AIPAC's strategy has been the political intimidation of critical voices. AIPAC's victims include two former chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Arkansas Democrat J. William Fulbright and Illinois Republican Charles Percy, and Sen. Roger Jepsen. They have also helped defeat Paul Findley and Paul N. McCloskey, [45] Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney. [46]

Paul Findley

In 1982, Asher led a campaign to defeat Paul Findley, a Republican congressman from Springfield, Illinois, who was seen as being unfriendly towards Israel. According to Asher he recruited an obscure Democratic lawyer Richard Durbin to run against Findley. After Durbin assured Asher of his pro-Israel credentials his campaign became a beneficiary of AIPAC munificence. Asher told Goldberg:

He beat Findley with a lot of help from Jews, in-state and out-of-state. Now, how did the Jewish money find him? I travelled around the country talking about how we had the opportunity to defeat someone unfriendly to Israel. And the gates opened.[12]

Earl Hilliard

In 2002, Mayer Mitchell led a campaign against Earl Hilliard of Alabama who had criticized Israel during Sharon's Operation Defensive Shield. Mitchell helped direct funds to Hilliard's challenger Artur Davis, who who won the primary and the seat.[12]

Stealth PACs

AIPAC does not itself contribute to campaigns. Instead it directs funds to favoured candidates through a network of pro-Israel PACs. Often, when an individual candidate is favoured, these PACs will organise multiple fundraisers in different parts of the country. [47] The PACs are deliberately given generic names to obscure their pro-Israel provenance. According to former AIPAC president Robert Asher the PACs are usually given 'euphemistic names': “I started a pac called Citizens Concerned for the National Interest,” he told Jeffrey Goldberg.[12]

The anti-Semitism charge

The charge of anti-Semitism is another means for AIPAC to silence critics of Israel. Even the recent FBI investigation into the charges of espionage - according to Michael Rubin - was merely an 'increasing anti-Semitic witch hunt.' [48] AIPAC also has projects to intimidate and silence academics across campuses throughout the US. In 1979 it formed the Political Leadership Development Program, which "educates and trains young leaders in pro-Israel political advocacy" hundreds of college students were enlisted to collect information on pro-Palestinian professors and student organizations. [49] More recently, this project has been revived by Daniel Pipe's Middle East Forum through its own Neo-McCarthyite Campus Watch.

Legislation backed by AIPAC

AIPAC's focus on Iran was also evident in 1995, when they pressed Clinton who then toughened up policy by imposing an economic embargo on Iran. In 1996, according to Goldberg, 'Rosen and other AIPAC staff members helped write, and engineer the passage of Iran and Libya Sanctions Act which imposed sanctions on foreign oil companies doing business with those two countries.'[12]

AIPAC has also behind a series of new legislation targeting Iran, including the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.[50]

Influence over the executive

AIPAC underwent major organizational and operational improvements under Thomas Dine and Steven Rosen who were brought on board at the urging of AIPAC president Larry Weinberg.[51] Under Tom Dine's leadership in the 1980s AIPAC extended its influence to the executive branch. Tivnan describes Dine's thinking thus:

He knew that those who write the books and papers and pamphlets and 'studies' that US policy makers read will own the policy makers. Policy makers need arguments, and those who supply those arguments will be most appreciated.

For this purpose Dine, backed by Weinberg, hired former Rand analyst Steven Rosen and Australian academic Martin Indyk. According to Indyk it was Dine's strategy that 'the premier American Jewish organization vis-a-vis Israel has to develop an ideology and the research to back it up. The Arabists try to delegitimize us just like they try to delegitimize Israel--that it's a strategic liability to US interests. They write the papers but are not accountable to public opinion. We have to combat them by ideas and arguments.[52] Not long afterwards WINEP was established with Weinberg's wife Barbi Weinberg as president and Martin Indyk as executive director. [53]

The 'Strategic Asset' argument

Traditionally Israel was supported in the United States on moral and humanitarian grounds and most of its supporters were liberals, even radicals. But the support waned with the Israeli colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the rise of the Likud Party, and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. AIPAC therefore went about establishing a new rationale. Journalist Edward Tivnan writes:

While the Arabists tried to portray Israel as a liability in the region, AIPAC would prove it a strategic asset. Israel deserved US aid, not out of charity, the argument went, but because the US was, in effect, paying for its political stability, military skills, and intelligence. And for the services rendered, the more than $2 billion that the US sent to Israel each year, much of it in grants that did not have to be repaid, was, as AIPAC would soon begin arguing, a 'bargain.'[54]

In 1982, writes Tivnan, AIPAC began publishing a series heavily footnoted of 'position papers' under Steven Rosen's editorship that focused on Israel's strategic value to the United States. The papers had descriptive titles like Israel and the US Air Force or Israel and the US Navy, and touted the strategic assistance that Israel could supposedly offer.[55] Tivnan observes,

the lobby's pamphlets were challenging the Arabists on their own turf, an ivy-covered spot where specialists thrive on such information as Israeli hospitals have "4.7 beds per 1,000 people versus .64 in Egypt" and swoon to such prose as "In short, tank farms in Israel would give USAF both a 'fall-back' facility for Persian Gulf operations and a 'swing' facility for Mediterranean contingencies."[56]

The 'strategic asset' argument was also accompanied by overt attempts to court the US right.

Yet the strategic asset argument, in its more blatant anti-Soviet form, has wider public-relations implications. While AIPAC was romancing hardline policy makers with arguments about "prepositioning" and "lift-times" to "CONUS" (better known as the "Continental United States"), the lobby was also seeking to create a new pro-Israel coalition with the far right in the US whose commitment to Israel has little to do with the US government's traditional support of the Jewish states.[57]

An AIPAC insider told Tivnan:

The other side is playing up the Palestinian issue as a human rights problem--a concern that touches Americans. We want to offset that with the argument that Israel has been forsaken by the left [because of the invasion of Lebanon and the West Bank]; therefore we're becoming more 'neo-conservative.' We want to broaden Israel's support to the right--with the people who don't care about what's happening on the West Bank but care a lot about the Soviet Union.[58]

The AWACS Battle

In 1981, the Reagan administration confronted the organized Jewish community in a prolonged battle over the proposed sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. After an eleven month battle, Reagan finally prevailed. The incident has often been presented as evidence of the Israel Lobby's relative weakness.[59][60][61] Neither AIPAC, nor the Reagan Administration saw it that way. Indeed, the actual sequence of events shows that it was a major triumph for AIPAC. According to Goldberg, after the battle AIPAC 'emerged as one of the preeminent forces in Washington power politics.'[62]


'The administration drew two lessons from the experience,' writes Goldberg,

One was that Jewish lobbyists could be a formidable opponent. The second was that they could be an equally formidable friend. Starting just days after the Senate vote on AWACS, administration officals began seeking out AIPAC oficials and inviting them to join in the planning of government policy...Involving AIPAC in shaping policy helped ensure that the lobby would not oppose policy later on.[63]

The administration also saw AIPAC as a useful ally which could 'often sell administration policies that the White House itself could not sell.'

AIPAC was regularly enlisted to line up congressional support for the overall foreign-aid package, an unpopular program with little grass-roots backing outside the Jewish community...In February 1983, AIPAC director Tom Dine was the only professional lobbyist named to a blue-ribbon citizens' commission assembled by Secretary of State George Shultz to review the US foreign aid program. The following October, President Reagan personally enlisted AIPAC's help to fight a congressional resolution that would have forced him to pull US Marines out of Beirut.[64]

For an in-depth account, see The Battle over AWACS (1981)

Killing Detente

One of AIPAC's greatest successes was to work alongside the budding neoconservative movement to derail detente during the Nixon administration. The vehicle was the Jackon-Vanik amendment which made trade with the Soviet Union conditional on the emigration of Jewish refugees. The linkage was cooked up by Bertram Podell, a Jewish Democrat from Brooklyn, and relayed to Richard Perle, an aide to the influential senator Henry Jackson, by AIPAC's Isaiah Kenen. Perle worked closely with future AIPAC executive director Morris Amitay to get Senator Jackson's backing. They also found a sponsor in the House of Representatives in Charles Vanik, whose chief of staff Mark Talisman was a lobbyist for Cleveland's influential Jewish community. Together Perle, Amitay and the fellow lobbyists succeeded in securing 72 members of senate and 258 members of the house to back the amendment. The amendment was strongly opposed by the Nixon White House, and Henry Kissinger recruited Republican luminaries of the Israel Lobby -- CMPAJO chairman Jacob Stein and Council of Jewish Federations president Max Fisher -- to reach a compromise solution. (He even arranged for Stein and Fisher to meet Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, and president Leonid Brezhnev) Nixon begged lawmakers not to complicate US-Soviet relations. But eventually the lobby prevailed and the amended Trade Reform Act passed the House 388 to 44 and months after Nixon's resignation it also passed the senate 77 to 4, even after the Soviets had agreed to a humiliating compromise. Kissinger blamed Amitay and Perle, who released to the press a letter from Kissinger to Jackson in which he mentioned the Soviets secret compromise.[65] JJ. Goldberg, author of the acclaimed insider account Jewish power : inside the American Jewish establishment (1996) concludes:

...while the amendment may have done little to improve the lot of the Jews in the Soviet Union, it brought about a sea change in the status of Jews in America. Jewish activists had taken on the Nixon administration and the Kremlin and won.[66]

Goldberg adds:

Jews became the poster children of a renewed Cold War. The credibility of American anti-Communism, crippled by the McCarthy excesses of the 1950s, had been utterly decimated by the Vietnam debacle. Jackson-Vanik gave it new life by giving it a new moral argument. The Jewish lobby, for years a central element in coalitions of the liberal left, now became an important factor on the national-security-minded right. In fact, the Jewish community now assumed a crucial role in Washington: it was one of the only major players with close ties to both the left and the right.[67]

Target Iran

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program have been the main focus of AIPAC lobbying. During AIPAC's 2005 annual policy conference at the Washington Convention Center, Goldberg reported:

Ariel Sharon and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, addressed five thousand aipac members. One hall of the convention center was taken up by a Disney-style walk-through display of an Iranian nuclear facility.

"It was kitsch, but not ineffective," Goldberg concluded.


AIPAC employs about a hundred people at its headquarters.[68]


Former Presidents

For years, the real power in AIPAC was held by four ex-presidens who were also part of its influential 'officers' group'. They came to be known as the "Gang of Four".[70]

Contact, Resources, External links, Notes

Contact details

440 First St NW, Suite 600
Washington D.C 20001
Phone: 202 639 5200
Fax: 202 638 0680

External links



  • J. J. Goldberg Jewish Power : Inside the American Jewish Establishment (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1996).
  • Edward Tivnan, The Lobby : Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987).


  1. 'About AIPAC', AIPAC website, accessed January, 2009.
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