Why is the US at war in Iraq?
Why does the US align itself so strongly with Israel?
Why hasn't Congress conducted investigations or even had meaningful discussions about US policy in the Middle East as it relates to Iraq, Palestine, or Israel?
- American Israel Public Affairs Committee
- Pro-Israel lobby
- American lobby, not an Israeli lobby
- Draws on a broad sympathy for the cause of Israel in the Administration, Congress, and the American public
- Operates from tightly guarded office just north of capitol
- Power includes: Influence Presidential candidates choice of staff
- Block arms sales to Arab countries
- Catalyst for close relations between Pentagon and Israeli Army
- Consulted by White House and State Department policy makers, Senators, and generals.
- Bane of Middle East specialists who want to strengthen ties with pro-Western Arabs.
AIPACS POWER GREW UNDER REAGAN
AIPACS and Israels lobbying for U.S. and Israeli strategic relationship had Reagan Administrations sympathy.
In 1981, US and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding for a formal relationship of strategic cooperation.
Israel became a "non-NATO ally" entitled to bid on classified defense contracts.
In 1985, the two countries established a free trade zone.
In 1986, the Administration signed an agreement on Israels participation in research on a spaced-based missile defense system. Only Britain, West Germany, and Italy had similar agreements.
In 1981, ironically, the Administrations respect for the lobby was enhanced when AIPAC lost a tough battle to block the sale of AWACS surveillance aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Although, the U.S. Administration won that political battle, they did not want to go to the mat with AIPAC again. AIPACs grass-roots support also grew after the AWACs battle in years that included the friction with United States over Israels attack on Iraqs nuclear reactor in 1981, its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and its Jewish settlement policies in the West Bank through the 1990s.
In May of 1987, the Reagan Administration notified Congress of its intention to sell 1600 Maverick anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia. Within half an hour, lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the only group registered to lobby Congress on legislation affecting Israel, were on the telephone to lawmakers about the proposal. Over the next 13 days, the committee mobilized its nationwide network of supporters with a series of memorandums and telephone calls urging them to lobby Congress. Though it is unclear whether AIPAC can take all the credit, more than 260 members of Congress co-sponsored resolutions to block the sale, prompting President Reagan to withdraw it.
In a concerted effort to expand, AIPAC grew from 9,000 contributing households in 1980 to 55,000 in 1987, from an annual budget of $1.4 million then to $6 million in 1987. For the same time frame, AIPAC said that 90 to 95 percent of its contributors were American Jews, and that nearly all of the remaining 5 to 10 percent were evangelical Christians who were avid supporters of Israel. The donations are not tax deductible.
HOW AIPAC INFLUENCES U.S. MIDDLE EAST POLICY
In November, 1984, more than 600 members of the Middle East Studies Association unanimously passed a resolution condemning the New England chapter of the Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith for circulating what the association called "blacklists" of professors and speakers deemed anti-Israel.
In 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, President George Herbert Walker Bush got the approval of the United Nations Security Council to use military force against Iraq, but he wanted Congressional approval, too. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis failed -- Bush demanded immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and compliance with all of the U.N. Security Council Resolutions, but Saddam Hussein tried to "link" his withdrawal of forces from Kuwait to a commitment to a Middle East peace conference to settle the festering and long-time Palestinian issue. The U.S. did not negotiate with Saddam, and AIPAC persuaded certain members of Congress to support the warOperation Desert Storm.
On May 2, 2002, the Senate, in a vote of 94 to 2, and the House, 352 to 21, expressed unqualified support for Israel in its recent military actions against the Palestinians. The resolutions were so strong that the Bush Administration attempted to soften its language so as to have more room in getting peace talks going. But its pleas were rejected, and members of Congress from Joe Lieberman to Tom DeLay competed to heap praise on Ariel Sharon and disdain on Yasir Arafat. Reporting on the vote, theNew York Times noted that one of the few dissenters, Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, "suggested that many senators were after campaign contributions."
AIPACs financial support to U.S. Congressmen is how it wields its enormous power. AIPAC is widely regarded as the most powerful foreign-policy lobby in Washington. Its 60,000 members shower millions of dollars on hundreds of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. It also maintains a network of wealthy and influential citizens around the country, whom it can regularly mobilize to support its main goal, which is making sure there is "no daylight" between the policies of Israel and of the United States.
According to members of Congress, AIPAC is one of the most successful lobbies on Capitol Hill for these reasons: It is motivated by single-minded devotion to a cause. Unlike business lobbies, the AIPAC lobbyists are not seeking financial benefits for their members. Though AIPAC does not endorse or give money to candidates, it is perceived as influencing many campaign contributions. Israels friends in Congress are often rewarded with such contributions from individual AIPAC members and from pro-Israel political action committees.
AIPAC keeps a meticulous record of lawmakers votes on foreign aid, arms sales and other issues affecting Israel. On request, it distributes such information to members with a disclaimer saying, "We do not rate or endorse members of Congress." But individual members of the staff and officers of the organization may give a nod to some candidates. "AIPAC, in effect, gives the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on whether a candidate, left or right, is good on the issue of Israel," said Richard B. Strauss, a former lobbyist who edited a newsletter on Middle Eastern affairs.
PRESIDENTS OF MAJOR AMERICAN JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS
The following is what The Forward, a reputable Jewish newspaper, had to say about the influence of other major Jewish organizations on U.S. foreign policy as it relates to Israel:
"AIPAC is not the only pro-Israel organization to escape scrutiny. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, though little known to the general public, has tremendous influence in Washington, especially with the executive branch. Based in New York, the conference is supposed to give voice to the fifty-two Jewish organizations that sit on its board, but in reality it tends to reflect the views of its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein. Hoenlein has long had close ties to Israel's Likud Party. In the 1990s he helped raise money for settlers' groups on the West Bank, and today he regularly refers to that region as "Judea and Samaria," a biblically inspired catch phrase used by conservatives to justify the presence of Jewish settlers there. A skilled and articulate operative, Hoenlein uses his access to the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council to push for a strong Israel. He's so effective at it that the Jewish newspaper the Forward, in its annual list of the fifty most important American Jews, has ranked Hoenlein first.
Hoenlein showed his organizing skills in April 2002, when he helped convene the large pro-Israel rally on Capitol Hill. While the event itself was widely covered, Hoenlein, and the conference, remained invisible. An informal survey of recent coverage turned up not a single in-depth piece about Hoenlein and how he has used the Presidents Conference to keep the Bush Administration from putting too much pressure on the Sharon government.
REPORTING ON THESE GROUPS IS NOT EASY
AIPAC's power makes potential sources reluctant to discuss the organization on the record.
Employees who leave it usually sign pledges of silence.
AIPAC officials themselves rarely give interviews, and the organization even resists divulging its board of directors.
Journalists often do not write about the influence of organized Jewry because throughout the Arab world the "Jewish lobby" is seen as the root of all evil in the Middle East, and many reporters and editors--especially Jewish ones--worry about feeding such stereotypes.
Jewish organizations are quick to detect bias in the coverage of the Middle East, and quick to complain about it; thus, the main obstacle to covering these groups is fear.
As the Forward observed in late April, 2002, "rooting out perceived anti-Israel bias in the media has become for many American Jews the most direct and emotional outlet for connecting with the conflict 6,000 miles away." An estimated 1,000 subscribers to the Los Angeles Times suspended home delivery for a day to protest what they considered the paper's pro-Palestinian coverage. The Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Miami Herald had all been hit by similar protests, and NPR had received thousands of e-mails complaining about its reports from the Middle East.
Congressmen do not dare to even criticize the Israeli lobby or Jewish supporters for fear of being castigated unmercifully and publicly humiliated. For example, Representative James Moran, Jr., Democrat, Virginia, addressed an anti-war forum in Reston, Virginia on March 3, 2003; and he said:
"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this."
He further said that Jewish leaders "are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should. As a result of these comments, which could have been made about Roman Catholics or the Christian Right or the neoconservatives, he was asked to resign by some Jewish leaders; and they refused to accept his apologies.
I asked you "Why is the U.S. at war in Iraq?" The truth of the matter is that Israel and its supporters wanted the U.S. to go to war with Iraq even though there were no weapons of mass destruction and Saddam was not tied to Al Qaeda.
"Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday (February 19, 2003) that Iran, Libya and Syria should be stripped of weapons of mass destruction after Iraq.These are irresponsible states, which must be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, and a successful American move in Iraq as a model will make that easier to achieve, Sharon said to a delegation of American congressmen. Sharon told the congressmen that Israel was not involved in the war with Iraq but theAmerican action is of vital importance." (Emphasis added). (See "Sharon Says US Should Also Disarm Iran, Libya and Syria" by Aluf Benn, Haarets Daily, Thursday, February 20, 2003, <haaretzdaily.com>).
AIPACS TACTICS HAVE BEEN EXPOSED
In August, 2005, important details of the FBI investigation of the U.S.--Israeli espionage case involving Larry Franklin, the Pentagon spy, two officials of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, and an intelligence official at the Embassy of Israel emerged in the indictment. Two AIPAC officialswho have left the organizationwere indicted along with Franklin on charges of "communicat[ing] national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it." The full text of the indictment shows that the conspiracy involved not just Franklin and the AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, but at least several other Pentagon officials who played intermediary roles, at least two other Israeli officials, and one official at a "Washington, D.C. think tank".
The "Franklin case"better called the "AIPAC case," since it was AIPAC that was really under investigation by the FBIis a spy story. The FBI and the Justice Department might just unravel a larger story, which is beginning to look more and more like it involves the same nexus of Pentagon civilians, White House functionaries, and American Enterprise Institute officials who thumped the drums for war in Iraq in 2001-2003 and who are now trying to whip up an anti-Iranian frenzy as well.
All of this information got short shrift from the mainstream media when it was revealed.
The basic facts of the case are Lawrence Anthony Franklin, a Department of Defense official, was caught red-handed giving highly classified papers to two officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, of AIPACin part, concerning U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq and the war on terrorism. Robert Dreyfuss, a writer for The Forward, raised six interesting questions based on his reading the indictment. Paraphrasing him, he said:
First, the indictment says that from "about April 1999 and continuing until on or about August 27, 2004" Franklin, Rosen and Weissman "did unlawfully, knowingly and willfully conspire" in criminal activity against the United States. What triggered the investigation in 1999, and how much information has FBI surveillance, wiretaps and other investigative efforts collected?
Second, the indictment makes it absolutely clear that the investigation was aimed at AIPAC, not at Franklin. The document charges that Rosen and Weissman met repeatedly with officials from a foreign government (Israel, though not named in the indictment) beginning in 1999, to provide them with classified information. In other words, the FBI was looking into the Israel lobby, not Franklin and the Defense Department, at the start, and Franklin was simply caught up in the net when he made contact with the AIPACers. Rosen and Weissman were observed making illicit contact with several other U.S. officials between 1999 and 2004, although those officials are left unnamed (and unindicted). Are more charges or defendants to come?
Third, Franklin was introduced to Rosen-Weissman when the two AIPACers "called a Department of Defense employee (DOD employee A) at the Pentagon and asked for the name of someone in OSD ISA [Office of the Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs] with an expertise on Iran" and got Franklin's name. Who was "DOD employee A"? Was it Douglas Feith, the undersecretary for policy? Harold Rhode, the ghost-like neocon official who helped Feith assemble the secretive Office of Special Plans, where Franklin worked?
Fourth, Rosen and Weissman told Franklin that they would try to get him a job at the White House, on the National Security Council staff. Who did they talk to at the White House, if they followed through? What happened?
Fifth, the charging document refers to "Foreign Official 1," also known as FO-1, obviously referring to an Israeli embassy official or an Israeli intelligence officer. It also refers later to FO-2, FO-3, etc., meaning that other Israeli officials were involved as well. How many Israeli officials are implicated in this, and who are they?
Sixth, was AEI itself involved? The indictment says that "on or about March 13, 2003, Rosen disclosed to a senior fellow at a Washington, D.C., think tank the information relating to the classified draft internal policy document" about Iran. The indictment says that the think tank official agreed "to follow up and see what he could do." Which think tank, and who was involved?
This AIPAC story, arguably, is one that has greater implications for national security than the scandal involving the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Unfortunately, the media frenzy attending to the Plame affair is matched by nearly total silence about the Franklin-AIPAC affair. This gives credence to the assertion that reporters are more courageous about pursuing a story that involves the White House than they are about plunging into a scandal that involves Israel, our No. 1 Middle East ally.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Isnt it interesting that we can criticize U.S. policies, the tenants of the Muslim religion, the philosophy of the liberal Democrats, the wisdom of Supreme Court decisions, but we cannot and do not even talk about the role AIPAC plays in influencing and perverting our political system for the benefit of Israel? AIPAC has awesome power to, in essence, buy and intimidate the U.S. Congress which supposedly represents the interests of the people of the United States. Congress has abdicated its responsibility to determine if and when the U.S. needs to go to war, how the war is conducted, and whether U.S troops comply with international principles of warfare. There are no Congressional oversight hearings seeking the truth about matters which affect the survival of the American people. As a result, America has become weaker economically and militarily; it has become despised by much of the rest of the world; it has lost its moral superiority regarding human rights; and its national security has been greatly compromised.
All Jews do not support the Likud party and its right wing, heavy-handed politics in Israel. In 2003, four former chiefs of Israels powerful domestic security serviceShin Betsaid in an interview that the Israeli governments actions and policies during the three-year old Palestinian uprising have gravely damaged the country and its people.
The four who headed the agency from 1980 to 2000 under governments that spanned the political spectrum said that Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and that no peace agreement could be reached without the involvement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and that the government must stop what one described as the immoral treatment of Palestinians. "Former Security Chief Critical of Israeli Policy" by Molly Moore, Washington Post, as reported in The Arizona Republic, November 15, 2003, p. A-27.
"We must once and for all admit that there is another side, that it has feelings and that it is suffering, and that we are behaving disgracefully," said Avraham Shalom, who headed the (Shin Bet) from 1980 until 1986. "Yes, there is no other word for it: disgracefullyWe have turned into a people of petty fighters using the wrong tools." Id.
All Jews are not bad or good, as all Muslims are not bad or good, as all Christians are not bad or good. There must be justice before there is peace.
What we must do?
- Continue to educate ourselves and others. Discuss these issues often with family, friends, bloggers, web sites, mainstream media, and radio talk shows.
- Reach out to others with similar viewsnot just similar races, creeds, or colors.
- Bring the criminals (all the Bush co-conspirators) to justiceeither in U.S. domestic courts or before international criminal courts.
- Dont support a candidate because he or she is a Republican, Democrat, or Libertarianonly if they are independent of AIPAC. AMERICA FIRST!
- Do not live in fear of those who call you anti-Semitic for discussing these issues. Its a fine line. Dont be anti-Jew, but fight for your country in a sincere, intelligent, dignified way. Promote legitimate discussion. You know youre right.
Joseph E. Abodeely
November 10, 2005
1. "Lobbying for Israel--The American Israel Public Affairs Committee" by David K. Shipler, New York Times, July 6, 1987First of two articles.
2. "Lobbying for IsraelThe American Israel Public Affairs Committee" by Robert Pear and Richard L. Berke, New York Times, July 7, 1987Second of two articles.
3. "Lobbying for IsraelThe American Israel Public Affairs Committee" by Robert Pear and Richard L. Berke, New York Times, July 7, 1987Second of two articles.
4. "Pro-Israel Lobbyists Quietly Backed Resolution Allowing Bush to Commit U.S. Troops to Combat", Wall Street Journal, January 28, 1991, pp. A14-A15.
5. "The Israel Lobby" by Michael Massing, The Forward, June 10, 2002.
6. (See "Lawmaker Criticized for Words" by Eric M Weiss and Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, as printed in the Arizona Republic, March 12, 2003, p. A 16).
7. (See "Sharon Says US Should Also Disarm Iran, Libya and Syria" by Aluf Benn, Haarets Daily, Thursday, February 20, 2003, <haaretzdaily.com>).
8. "Bigger Than AIPAC" by Robert Dreyfuss, The Forward, August 9, 2005.
9. "Former Security Chief Critical of Israeli Policy" by Molly Moore, Washington Post, as reported in The Arizona Republic, November 15, 2003, p. A-27.