American Israel Public Affairs Committee

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Group.png American Israel Public Affairs Committee
Formation 1963
Type lobby
Wikipedia page American Israel Public Affairs Committee

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a national membership based group which describes itself as "America's Pro-Israel lobby". [1]


File:Cheney AIPAC.jpg
Dick Cheney at AIPAC's Annual Conference

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]

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] website The FBI interviewed Steve 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 Steve Rosen. Predictably enough, Congress members rallied behind AIPAC, despite the seriousness of the charge. [11]


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.


  • 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. [12] 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. [13]
  • 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, [14] 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.


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.[15]


Some key funders of AIPAC include:


According to Ha'aretz, AIPAC has been 'more consistently potent and reliable' than any 'of all the weapons in Israel's policy arsenal'. [17] The list of achievements cited on its website affirms that this claim is anything but frivolous. [18]

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. [19]

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. Much of this money is distributed 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. [20]

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.

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, [21] Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney. [22]

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.' [23] AIPAC also has projects to intimidate and silence academic 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. [24] More recently, this project has been revived by Daniel Pipe's Middle East Forum through its own Neo-McCarthyite Campus Watch.

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. [25]

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 targetted 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.’ [26]

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'. [27]

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.' [28]

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). [29]

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'. [30] 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'.

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. But AIPAC are reported to have wanted more, which resulted in the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (this imposed sanctions on any foreign companies investing more than $40 million to develop petroleum resources in Iran or Libya).


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



  1. 'About AIPAC', AIPAC website, accessed January, 2009.
  2. Mitchell Bard, 'Israeli and Arab Lobbies', Virtual Library website, accessed 30 March, 2009.
  3. 'Who We Are', website, accessed 30 March, 2009.
  4. 'Who We Are', website, accessed 30 March, 2009.
  5. Joel Beinin, 'Pro-Israel Hawks and the Second Gulf War', East Report Online, 6 April, 2003. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  6. Laura Rozen and Jason Vest, 'Cloak and Swagger', Prospect Online, 1 Novemebr, 2004. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  7. Jim Lobe, 'How neo-cons influence the Pentagon', Times website, 8 August, 2003. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  8. 'Our Current Agenda', website, accessed 30 March, 2009.
  9. Bryan Bender, '2d probe at the Pentagon examines actions on Iraq', Boston Globe, 31 August, 2004. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  10. Richard B. Schmitt and Tyler Marshall, 'FBI Questions Israeli Lobbyists in Spying Probe', Angeles Times, 31 August, 2004. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  11. Janine Zacharia, 'FBI seizes computer from AIPAC offices', Jerusalem Post, 1 September, 2004. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  12. Julie Stahl, 'More US Lawmakers Visiting Israel This Summer Than Ever Before', News website, 18 August, 2003. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  13. 'Howard Dean congratulated on his election as Democratic Party Chair', Jewish Congress website, 14 February, 2005. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  14. Michael Massing, 'Deal Breakers', American Prospect, 11 March, 2002. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  15. Manfred Gerstenfeld and Ben Green Watching the Pro-Israeli Media Watchers Jewish Political Studies Review 16:3-4 (Fall 2004)
  16. Ron Kampeas, AIPAC stance irks donors, JTA, 16 November 2007
  17. Bradley Burston, '10 ways the Pentagon spy case may damage Israel',’aretz, 31 December, 2005. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  18. 'What We’ve Recently Achieved', website, accessed 30 March, 2009.
  19. 'Pro-Israel PAC Contributions to 2002 Congressional Candidates', website, accessed 30 March, 2009.
  20. Michael Massing, 'Deal Breakers', American Prospect, 11 March, 2002. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  21. Nathan Jones, 'National Capital Insiders Vote AIPAC', website, January/February, 1998. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  22. Alexander Cockburn, 'The Attacks on Cynthia McKinney', [], 21 August, 2002. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  23. Laura Rozen and Jason Vest, 'Cloak and Swagger', Prospect Online, 1 Novemebr, 2004. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  24. Kristine McNeil, 'The War on Academic Freedom', Nation, 11 November, 2002. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  25. Michael Massing, 'Deal Breakers', American Prospect, 11 March, 2002. (Accessed 30 March, 2009)
  26. Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S. (2006) The Israel Lobby London Review of Books. Accessed 8 July, 2008.
  27. Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S. (2006) The Israel Lobby London Review of Books. Accessed 8 July, 2008.
  28. Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S. (2006) The Israel Lobby London Review of Books. Accessed 8 July, 2008.
  29. Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S. (2006) The Israel Lobby London Review of Books. Accessed 8 July, 2008
  30. Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S. (2006) The Israel Lobby London Review of Books. Accessed 8 July, 2008.
  31. Neal Sher, 'An AIPAC ‘stranglehold’ on US foreign policy? Huh?', Jewish, 22 November, 2006.