HISTORY OF AMERICAN ISRAEL PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE (AIPAC)
AIPAC evolved from the American Zionist Council, which was established by I.L. Kenen in 1951. It was registered as a foreign agent for Israel. However, three years later (1954) the Council started operating as a domestic group and was given a new name, American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs. The newly named Jewish organization concentrated its lobbying effort on members of the United States Congress. The American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs carried out an intensive polling effort of all 750 candidates for the House and Senate in 1954. The only question the candidates were asked was about their views on Israel and the Middle East conflict. This was of first priority to the organization and endeavored to promote Israeli interests in Congress. Then Kenen decided (1959) to give his organization a new name, AIPAC. The previous years of field experiences had taught Kenen that the most effective way to influence members of Congress was through their own constituents. AIPAC went after the political activists that contribute money and time to members’ election campaign.
AIPAC became the most influential and best organized pro-Israel lobby in the United States. This is reflected in Congress approving extraordinary levels of financial aid and special benefits, all of them granted with barely a serious discussion. AIPAC moved its headquarters to Washington as well as established offices in 8 cities by the mid-1990s and had an annual budget of $15 million. The candidates for the U.S. Congress became cognizant that AIPAC’s endorsement resulted in contributions from pro-Israel political action committees (PACs) around the country. This IS why every presumed or running presidential candidate must visit Israel to secure American Jewish community blessing.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz issue of March 17, 2006 published extracts of a study made by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Chicago regarding pro-Israel lobbys’ influence in determining the United States Middle East policy. The researchers, John Mearsheimer at Chicago, and Stephen Walt at Harvard are well-known scholars in the fields of political science and government, stressed, “No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical..The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only U.S. security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the U.S. been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?”
They also remarked, “”Thanks to the lobby, the United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the Occupied Territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians,” and conclude that “Israel itself would probably be better off if the Lobby were less powerful and U.S. policy more even-handed.”
The study also documented accusations that the pro-Israel groups, especially AIPAC, had pressured the United States into war with Iraq. It listed senior Bush administration officials who supported the war and were well known to be very strong supporter of the Jewish State are also known to support Israel, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and David Wurmser. The researches indicated that these people had encouraged Israeli belligerence and prevented it from reaching a compromise with the Palestinians and neighbouring Arab states.
They pointed out that one reason for America being exposed to terrorism attacks was its total support of Israeli policies, which they believed, was not in America’s best interest. They noted, “Israel is in fact a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states,” and that “The United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around.” The paper also remarked that American administrations would not be worried about Iran, Iraq and Syria, if for its close ties with Israel.
“The inability of Congress to conduct a genuine debate on these important issues paralyses the entire process of democratic deliberation. Israel’s backers should be free to make their case and to challenge those who disagree with them, but efforts to stifle debate by intimidation must be roundly condemned,” they add, in the 12,800-word article published in The London Review of Books.
Israeli supporters in the United States were truly upset with the academic paper because it indicated that the Jewish State is not a worthy ally for America since it is not a true democracy. The paper stressed Israel resorts to the use of various torture methods that are against American values.
The paper reminded the Americans that the thrust of American policy in the region was mainly due to domestic politics, and especially the activities of the Israel Lobby that succeeded in securing Israel massive financial aid since the 1973 October War which dwarfed that provided to any other state. They wondered why Israel with a per capita income almost equal to that of Spain or South Korea received more than $140 billion (in 2004 dollars) since 1976. Moreover, the Israel lobby ensured that Congress, unlike other recipients that got their American aid in quarterly installments, received the entire United States at the start of each fiscal year, earning full interest on it, and as such was at liberty to use the American taxpayer dollars as it wished, including massive subsidies for its own defense industry. The academic paper criticized United States for turning a blind eye to Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and resorted to its veto to protect the Jewish State. Since 1982, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members.
The researchers quoted one American participant at Camp David in 2000 who lamented, “Far too often, we functioned . . . as Israel’s lawyer.”
Aipac held its annual conference this week. It was attended by hundreds of pro-Israel supporters, including Administration officials and Congress people.