From Nizar Sakhnini, Toronto, Canada
January 22, 2000
THE ZIONIST LOBBY IN THE USA

The American relationship with Israel and American attitudes toward the
Zionist-Arab conflict cannot be fully understood without consideration of
the influence of the powerful Zionist lobby in Washington.  No president or
member of Congress could defy its wishes and hope to be re-elected to
office.  Leaders of the Zionist lobby have instant access to top US
government officials, to whom they frequently express their wishes in
letters and telephone calls.  Almost all presidential administrations had to
justify every policy move in the Middle East to the president of the
conference of major Jewish organizations and to the heads of the
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJCm).  The
major force in the Zionist lobby was the AIPAC, which eventually
overshadowed other pro-Israeli groups.  (Michael Palumbo, Imperial Israel,
p. 137)

A confidential White House report ahead of the presidential elections in
1976 stated: "Of all ethnic groups in this country, Jews take the most
active interest in elections and vote more assiduously than almost any other
population group.  They also contribute heavily to campaigns and engage
actively in work at both the national and state level.  It is apparent that
a policy which hurts or appears to hurt Israel and appeases Arab demands
will carry a stiff political price in the US, and a price which the
Republican Party should not be asked to pay." (N. H. Finkelstein, "Friends
Indeed", p. 111, citing memorandum from Robert Goldwyn to Donald Rumsfeld,
May 1, 1975, from the Gerald R. Ford Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan)

The first contact between American and European Zionists was made in 1921
when Chaim Weizmann visited the U.S.A.  Details of this visit were given in
chapter xxiv of his "Trial and Error" in which he pointed out to the
conceptual and ideological differences between the American Zionists and the
Zionist Organization (ZO).  He also talked about how he managed to "overcome
these differences".

When the Zionist-British relationship deteriorated as a result of the White
Paper issued by the British government in 1939, the Zionists looked for a
new mentor: the United States of America. The wealthy and well-organized
Jewish community in the U.S. became an important and integral part of the ZO
network.  The impact of American Jewry in the Zionist movement was reflected
in the Biltmore Program in 1942.  A very special and unique relationship
started to develop between the Zionist movement and the US ever since.

This special relationship developed into a full-fledged strategic alliance
between the U.S. and Israel during the Reagan administration in the early
nineteen eighties.  An agreement on strategic cooperation was concluded
between the two states on Nov. 30, 1981.  The memorandum of understanding
signed by the Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and the U.S. Secretary
of Defense Caspar Weinberger spelled out their intention.  They agreed to
"strengthen strategic cooperation against threats to the Middle East caused
by the Soviet Union or Soviet-controlled forces from outside the region and
to provide each other military assistance to cope with threats to the
security of the entire region."  The two countries singed a free trade
agreement in June 1985.  An agreement on Israeli participation in the
Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars project) was signed on May 6, 1986.
(Naseer H. Arouri, "The Obstruction of Peace: The U.S., Israel and the
Palestinians", Common Courage Press: Monroe, Maine, 1995.  p. 93).

United States financial, military and diplomatic aid to Israel developed on
a track parallel to the evolving special relationship track between the tow
countries.  US aid to Israel increased from an annual average of $ 63
million in the period 1949 through 1965 to an annual average of $ 102
million between 1966 and 1970, and further increased to an annual average of
$ 1 billion between 1971 and 1975 which, in turn, increased to an annual
average of $ 2.5 billion between 1976 and 1984.  This aid escalated to reach
more than $ 5 billion per annum in recent years.  (Ibid, p. 85, citing Clyde
Mark, "Israel Foreign Assistance Facts", Foreign Affairs and National
Defense Division, Congressional Research Service.  The Library of Congress,
Sept. 4, 1991, pp. 4 - 5)

American aid and support gave Israel a quantitative as well as a qualitative
edge over the Arabs.  By subsidizing Israel's occupation and suppression of
the Palestinians which violates international law and human rights
conventions and challenges the whole world, the U.S. became "an accomplice".
Israel had been able to reject any political solution to the Zionist-Arab
conflict that accommodates the national rights of the Palestinians.  This
could not have been possible without the support of the U.S.  Noam Chomsky
criticized the U.S. policy in this respect by stating that: "Clearly, as
long as the United States provides the wherewithal, Israel will use it for
its pruposes.  These purposes are clear enough today, and have been clear to
those who chose to understand for many years: to integrate the bulk of the
occupied territories within Israel in some fashion while finding a way to
reduce the Arab population; to disperse the scattered refugees and crush any
manifestation of Palestinian nationalism of Palestinian culture; to gain
control over southern Lebanon.  Since these goals have long been obvious and
have been shared in fundamental respects by the two major political
groupings in Israel, there is little basis for condemning Israel when it
exploits the position of regional power afforded it by the phenomenal
quatities of U.S. aid in exaactly the ways that would be anticipated by any
person whose head is not buried in the sand.  Complaints and accusations are
indeed hypocritical as long as material assistance is provided in an
unending and ever-expanding flow, along with diplomatic and ideological
support, the latter, by shaping the facts of history in a convenient form.
Even if the occasional tempered criticisms from Washington or in editorial
commentary are seriously intended, there is little reason for any Israeli
government to pay any attention to them.  The historical practice over many
years has trained Israeli leaders to assume that U.S. 'opinion makers' and
political elites will stand behind them whatever they do, and that even if
direct reporting is accurate, as it generally is, its import will gradually
be lost as the custodians of history carry out their tasks".  (Noam Chomsky,
The Fateful Triangle, p. 2)

To coordinate their activities and avoid duplication of efforts in
supporting the "Exclusive Jewish State" created by the Zionist movement on
the lands ethnically cleansed and occupied in Palestine following the 1948
war, three "umbrella" organizations were created by the American Jewry
organizations.  The umbrella organizations were the American Zionist Council
(AZC), the National Community Relations Advisory Council (NCRAC), and the
Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (CPMJO).  In effect,
they created a politically powerful network to advocate for Israel in
Washington.  (N. H. Finkelstein, op. cit., p. 49)

Richard Curtiss shed light on the "The Lobby That Makes it Possible" in an
interesting article, excerpts of which are given hereafter.

"The CPMJO, a roof organization set up solely to coordinate the efforts of
national Jewish organizations on behalf of Israel, has 52 component groups.
Of these probably only one, Americans for Peace Now, the US sister
organization of Peace Now in Israel, cannot be counted upon ultimately to
support all the policies of 'any democratically elected government of
Israel'....  The fact that apparently the entire membership of the
Conference of Presidents, with only one exception, supports all of the
policies of any Israeli government, but regards with great reserve or
outright hostility the basic Middle East policy of the US and nearly all
other members of the UN, demonstrates the Israel lobby's power to ensure
conformity within the organized American Jewish community.

"There are also anti-Zionist organizations among American Jews.  Two of them
are the liberal American Council of Judaism, for many years identified with
the late Rabbi Elmer Berger, who died in 1996, and the ultra-conservative
Neturei Karta, an Orthodox sect within Judaism that believes a Jewish state
can only be established by the Messiah and not by mortals.  Unfortunately
both are regarded within the Jewish community as fringe organizations - the
former based upon 'old-fashioned liberals' with little popular support, even
on college campuses, and the latter one of the most extreme among Orthodox
Jewish sects.
The power of the pro-Israel lobby is attested to by the fact that after
fairly consistent support for the land-for-peace formula in Resolution 242
by six successive US presidents, the support of the seventh, President Bill
Clinton, clearly is eroding.  The pull of the Israel lobby is stronger in
the mind of this politically attuned president than that of either US
tradition or the consensus of the international community....

"Hadassah, the Zionist women's organization, organizes a steady traffic of
American Jewish visitors to Israel.  AJCm mobilizes middle-of-the-road and
conservative elements within the Jewish community to give unquestioning
support to Israel and also publishes 'Commentary', a monthly magazine that
has been around so long that probably few non-Jewish Americans even
recognize it as the Israel lobby's principal national publication.

"The American Jewish Congress (AJC) serves the same purpose among
left-of-the-center Jews, who in turn are closer to the national Jewish
mainstream....

"One of the best-funded components of the Israel Lobby, with a $34 million
annual budget, is B'nai B'rith's ADL.  It was established with the laudable
goal of protecting the civil rights of American Jews against acts of public
or private discrimination....  Under terms of a settlement with the San
Francisco police, the ADL's northern California office was required to
respond to inquiries by persons who suspected that office has compiled a
file on them.  Predictably, the files contained egregious errors of fact.
This libelous material presumably had been collected to turn over to
cooperative journalists, or possibly political, academic, or business
rivals, to damage careers of critics of Israel and inhibit further activism.
While the primary role of most major Jewish organizations is to recruit
active supporters for Israel from within the American Jewish community,
ADL's major role seems to be to stifle dissenting criticism from within that
same US Jewish community, and from non-Jews as well, working as much as
possible through the media.

"The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C. is
the best-known component of the Israel lobby, although the organizations
named above also have registered lobbyists on their Washington staffs.
AIPAC, backed by a budget said to be between $ 13 and $ 16 million, has five
or six registered lobbyists at any given time among a staff of 145 to 160
persons....

"Although the vast majority of American Jews traditionally vote Democratic,
AIPAC's efforts are non-partisan.  AIPAC's rule is to support friendly
incumbents, regardless of party.  Theoretically, the rule applies even if
the friendly incumbent is not Jewish and the challenger is.  This is done
primarily through a network of political action committees (PACs), most of
them originally established in the early 1980's in their home cities by
members of AIPAC's board of directors.  These PACs are distinguished by such
non-descriptive names as San Franciscans for Good Government, the Delaware
Valley Good Government Association, Beaver PAC (in Wisconsin), Cactus PAC
(Arizona), Mopac (Michigan) and even Icepac (New York)....

"Average beneficiaries of AIPAC support are expected to do very little in
return except not oppose foreign aid to Israel.  They may be asked to sign
an occasional 'sense of the Congress' letter drafted by AIPAC, or to read an
AIPAC-written speech into the Congressional Record or at the conventions of
AIPAC or other organizations.  The important work of earmarking aid for
Israel, or bargaining, for high tech weapons for Israel in return for
congressional approval of weapons sales to Arab countries, is done by
Congress members who are highly trusted friends of Israel.  These members
vie for leadership positions on congressional committees that deal with
foreign relations, military affairs, appropriations, intelligence and other
subjects of interest to Israel....

"AIPAC conducts only three major activities not directly related to electing
candidates who will follow its recommendations regarding aid to Israel and
arms sales to Arab countries:
(1) Publishing a biweekly newsletter, the Near East Report, for AIPAC
membership, which the organization claims has reached 60,000;
(2) Holding an annual AIPAC convention in Washington, DC at which many
members of Congress and, in recent years, the president, vice president, or
both, speak; and
(3) Keeping 'opposition research' files.

AIPAC denied this latter activity for a long time, but such files are kept
in a locked area under the supervision of Michael Lewis, son for Princeton
University 'Orientalist' Bernard Lewis.  Presence of the files was revealed
in an article in the Washington Report by Greg Slabodkin, a former AIPAC
employee. Although Slabodkin named some of the journalists who collaborated
in the AIPAC smear campaigns, the full workings of AIPAC and of ADL in this
regard remain murky....

"In the 1980's a former AIPAC official, Martin Indyk, founded a 'think
tank,' the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, funded by members of
the AIPAC board of directors and/or their spouses.  Funding from AIPAC
affiliated individuals remained the only visible source of Washington
Institute funding.  Its publications do not stray far from the AIPAC line,
which in turn is based closely on priorities of the incumbent Israeli
government.  Nor do Washington Institute seminars seem independent of
Israeli foreign policy objectives, with even most of the participants and
the invited audiences, aside from US government officials, heavily weighted
toward reliable supporters of current Israeli government interests....".
(Richard Curtiss, "US Aid to Israel: The Subject No One Mentions", an
article that appeared in "The Link", which is published by Americans for
Middle East Understanding, Inc., Vol. 30, Issue 4, September-October, 1997,
pp. 8-11)