Monday, October 29, 2007

[wvns] Foreign Agents: The History of AIPAC

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee from the 1963 Fulbright
Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal
By Grant F. Smith

Foreign Agents
Book Review by Terry Walz
Council for the National Interest Foundation, DC

Many citizens concerned by the undue influence of the Israel lobby are
dismayed by the action of the US Congress that adopts resolution after
resolution favoring Israel with nary of word about its failure to make
peace with the Palestinians, whose land it inhabits, or with its
neighbors, whose borders it abutts. Last year Stephen Walt and John
Mearsheimer, two professors from prestigious American universities,
began a public debate on the power of the lobby - a cause long
advocated by the Council for the National Interest - giving hope that
a public airing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC), its work, financing, and political connections would help
Americans understand the gross misdirection of Middle East foreign
policy over the last forty years. Grant F. Smith's new book, Foreign
Agents, decisively pushes this debate forward and shows just how
brazen and criminal the lobby has acted since its beginnings.

Smith traces the development of AIPAC from its early days under
founder Si Kenen, who in 1947 registered with the US Department of
Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as an employee of
the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs. He was representing
himself then as an agent working for Israel. He continued to register
as a foreign agent during the late forties and fifties, working for
various organizations funded by the Israel government, but in 1959,
the name of the American Zionist Committee was changed to the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to better reflect, as Kenen
said, that it "raised its funds from both Zionists and non-Zionists."
Its focus of work never changed, which was to promote the cause of
Israel in both the executive and legislation branches of government,
yet the organization no longer filed as a foreign agent. AIPAC
eventually developed an extensive grassroots national network of
organizations that engaged in all manner of illegal activities, from
transgressing federal elections laws, to economic and industrial
espionage, to flouting congressional laws regarding the use of arms
exported to foreign countries, and passing classified and secret
information to the Israeli government via the Israeli embassy in
Washington. In 2005, after a nine-year investigation by the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, two of AIPAC's top officials were arrested
for espionage, and the role that AIPAC played over the years as a
covert agent for Israel was given unusual light.

The book uses as a primary source the historic and remarkable hearings
that Senator William Fulbright held in 1963 to investigate the
"activities of agents of foreign principals in the United States." The
Committee's aim was to look at the work of all organizations working
on behalf of foreign countries, but in the process it discovered that
the American Zionist Committee (AZC) was funded by the Jewish Agency,
an arm of the Israeli government, and by the Israeli embassy, although
its principals were not registered as foreign agents. The hearings
disclosed the secret world of the AZC and the Jewish Agency, finding a
pattern of money laundering that became a hallmark of AIPAC in the
years to come. Both the Agency and the embassy typically hid the
support that they provided by using private foundations and
individuals as fronts so that it would appear the AZC was funded by
American, not foreign, sources. Thus they bypassed the terms of the
Foreign Agent Registration Act and sought to obscure their aim, which
was to represent the interests of the Israeli government.

To measure the influence of the emerging lobby, Smith covers a wide
spectrum of illegal and criminal activity. He begins by examining
AIPAC's efforts to promote Israeli economic interests to the
disadvantage of American workers. During the 1984 negotiations that
preceded the creation of a "US-Israel Free Trade Agreement," AIPAC
obtained a copy of the classified document spelling out the American
negotiating strategy. Thus Israeli negotiators were aware of American
positions well in advance of the meeting. AIPAC then managed to
persuade the House Ways and Means Committee to provide special
protections for Israeli imports of certain products should a
free-trade zone be established. Even Congressional members, with
long experience in Israeli lobby tactics, couldn't help but notice
AIPAC's heavy hand in this instance.

The pressure exerted by AIPAC during congressional and presidential
elections is well known, though consistently denied by the
organization. Smith here focuses on the California Senate race of
1986 and the role played by Michael Goland, a real estate developer,
who contributed $1 million via various conduits to derail a potential
dangerous opponent of Sen. Alan Cranston, who was seeking reelection
that year and was an AIPAC favorite. Goland was convicted and
sentenced to imprisonment for election fraud. Goland had been a
member of the board of AIPAC and had been highly visible in AIPAC's
successful effort to unseat Sen. Charles Percy of Illinois in 1984.

AIPAC also had a hand in the defeat of Sen. Fulbright in 1968, and of
Congressman Paul Findley in 1986. Findley's series of books about the
lobby, especially his Dare to Speak Out, have been noted for the light
they have thrown on the power of the lobby and its illegal activities.

AIPAC set up a series of political action committees (PACs), all with
innocuous names, with the aim of influencing the election of
congressional representatives all over the country. It made sure that
internal firewalls, as Smith describes them, were set up so that no
one could detect AIPAC's hand. But the line between them and the
actions of the committees was hardly invisible. One "activist," a
Chicago businessman, attempted to explain in a New York Times
interview in 1987 how he and AIPAC operated independently, in the
course of which it became apparent that the opposite was true, that
there was tight coordination between AIPAC and dozens on pro-Israel
committees. In 1988 the Washington Post published an internal AIPAC
memo, reproduced in Foreign Agents, revealing now active AIPAC was in
illegally coordinating PAC distributions to favored candidates.

The many instances of election fraud prompted a group of former US
government officials to sue the Federal Election Commission for
failure to require AIPAC to publish details of its income and
expenditures, which political action committees are required to do.
Among this group were George Ball, former secretary of state, Paul
Findley, former congressman and founder of the Council for the
National Interest, Andrew Kilgore, publisher of the Washington Report
for Middle East Affairs and former ambassador to Qatar, and James
Akin, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The FEC delivered a report
on the complaint that cleared the PACs but professed a desire to
further study the actions of AIPAC, but in fact the chief complaints
were ignored. Appeals to the Supreme Court were turned aside on
various points and the case remains in legal limbo to this day.

In the last twenty years, AIPAC has continued to develop its political
networks. Steve Rosen, AIPAC Director of Policy, notoriously likened
the lobby to "a night flower. It thrives in the dark and dies in the
sun." It funds dozens of congressional "educational" trips to Israel
every year through its affiliate the American Israel Education
Foundation; it continues to publish Si Kenen's Near East Report, which
serves as a propaganda arm of the Israel government; it established a
"think tank," the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which
maintains a roster of "experts" providing cover for Israeli government
positions (many of whose Board members have served as Board members of
AIPAC); it maintains a large public relations office in Manhattan; and
works in tandem with the new Saban Center for Middle East Policy,
whose president, Martin Indyk, was deputy director of AIPAC and a
former US ambassador to Israel. Thus Middle East policy at Brookings
Institution, once a formidable independent think tank, has been
usurped by pro-Israeli interests.

The growing arrogance of AIPAC, which in recent years acted with
brazen impunity, was not unnoticed by the FBI counterintelligience
which began probing the organization's activities as far back as 1999.
In 2005, Col. Lawrence Franklin, who was working in the office of
Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, was arrested and
charged with giving classified documents to two top officials at AIPAC
who passed them on to the Israeli embassy. The information concerned
US positions toward Iran. The AIPAC officials were also arrested and
charged with espionage. Lawrence was found guilty and sentenced to 12
years and seven months in prison and fined $10,000 for passing
classified information to AIPAC and an Israeli diplomat. The trial
against Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman has been delayed on several
occasions and is now scheduled to begin in January 2008. The
espionage charges have been dropped. A full analysis of the trial and
its various permutations can be found in Smith's Chapter Five.

The case appropriately summarizes the extent of the illegalities that
AIPAC has engaged in since its beginnings some fifty years ago.
Senator Fulbright was on to something much bigger than even he could
have imagined. Spawned by the Jewish Agency, it has abetted efforts
that have encouraged "charitable" organizations in the US to
contribute more than US $50 billion to illegal settlements in Gaza and
the West Bank while appropriating and developing lands that belong to
Palestinians. The money laundering activities of the Agency and the US
donors have been brought to the attention of the US Department of
Justice, thanks to work by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern
Policy and the Council for the National Interest but as yet no action
has taken place to stop the illegal operations. As Smith states,
"This follows an established pattern of law enforcement failures since
the Fulbright foreign agent hearings."

Foreign Agents shines light on the murky world of AIPAC and its
efforts to divert policy and push Israel's rightwing interventionist
agenda in Washington. It garnered support for a war and occupation of
Iraq in Congress. Contrary to the assertions of many now claiming how
AIPAC was not promoting war, Smith documents how it helped prompt the
American invasion of Iraq and now threatens to coordinate an
intervention by the US in Iran. The consequences for the American
public have been huge, as the response to Hurricane Katrina made
clear, and has rendered the US the least popular country in the world.
The book also discusses in detail how tenuous are AIPAC's claims to
even be a legally constituted nonprofit corporation. Most of all, it
serves to remind us that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
does not serve US interests, but works as a foreign agent for the
government of Israel and should be required to register as a foreign
agent. Only then will be operations and financing be made transparent
and public. In fact, this book makes a convincing case that America -
and the world - would be better off without AIPAC.



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