American Israel Public Affairs Committee

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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a national membership based group which describes itself as "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and is frequently referred to as "The Lobby" with a capital "L".

AIPAC was established in 1963 by Isaiah L. "Si" Kenen, Isadore Breslau and Joseph Ottenstein. [1] amidst rising anti-Semitic sentiment in African American groups, notably the Nation of Islam [2]. During this period, Pan-Arabism gained clout in the Middle East and resulted in the growth of anti-Semitism in the region [3]. The growth of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic riots in the Middle East resulted in the expulsion and exodus of Jews from Aden, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. It also resulted in the decline of Jewish populations in countries outside of the Middle East, notably Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, [9]] and Afghanistan [4]. Between 1948 and 2000, many of these Jews immigrated to Israel, Europe, and the United States. Although Anti-Semitism was declining in the United States during this time period, the global manifestations of anti-Semitism in Pan-Arabic movements contributed to the rise of Zionism and AIPAC in the United States.

Its founder, Isaiah L. "Si" Kenen originally worked for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs [5] and later a lobbying group within the American Zionist Council. The Kennedy Department of Justice ordered the AZC to register as an Israeli foreign agent on November 21, 1963. [10] Kenen formed the AIPAC to avoid Foreign Agents Registration Act public registration requirements. In his book describing the history of AIPAC, Kenen wrote that AIPAC's Executive Committee decided to change their name from American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs to American Israel Public Affairs Committee "to enlarge constituency and support".[6]

According to Steven Spiegel, a UCLA political science professor: "the tension between the Eisenhower administration and Israeli supporters was so acute that there were rumors (unfounded as it turned out) that the administration would investigate the American Zionist Council. Therefore, an independent lobbying committee was formed, which years later was renamed [AIPAC]." [7]

AIPAC's web site states that it "has grown into a 100,000-member national grassroots movement."[8]

AIPAC's lobbying

AIPAC directly lobbies the U.S. government on behalf of the Israel. The lobby, originally called the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs, was founded in 1951 by I.L. (Sy) Kenen to appeal directly to Congress for legislation to provide aid to Israel to circumvent State Department opposition. It is a nonpartisan watchdog that seeks to deter anti-Israel policies from being adopted, but has not always been in agreement with the Israeli government. For example, the New York Times quoted AIPAC's Director Thomas Dine as saying that the Reagan peace plan had some good points after the Israeli government had rejected the plan.[citation needed]

Joel Beinin, a contributing editor of Middle East Report and a professor of Middle East history at Stanford University writes that AIPAC "became a significant force in shaping public opinion and US Middle East policy after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Its power was simultaneously enabled and enhanced by Israel's emergence as a regional surrogate for US military power in the Middle East in the terms outlined by the 1969 Nixon Doctrine".[9]

Its reputation for being a politically powerful lobby, Beinin argues, dates back to the 1970s and 1980s when it "was able to unseat representatives and senators who could not be counted on to support Israel without qualification, such as Sen. Charles Percy (R-IL), Rep. Paul Findley (R-OH) and Rep. Pete McCloskey (R-CA)".

"In 2002, the pro-Israel lobby successfully targeted African-American representatives Earl Hilliard (D-AL) and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) for defeat in Democratic primaries. Hilliard and McKinney were both vulnerable for reasons unrelated to Israel. McKinney, for instance, was defeated in part because the open primary allowed Republicans angered over her comments about the September 11 attacks to cross over and vote against her in the Democratic primary. Nonetheless, their defeat enhanced the impression that the pro-Israel lobby wields great power in electoral politics," Beinin wrote.

One strategy adopted by AIPAC for building political support is by organizing tours to Israel. In August 2003, a AIPAC foreign policy associate in Jerusalem told that in that month alone approximately 10% of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives had visited Israel on their tours.[11]

AIPAC is associated with the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which sponsors fact-finding trips for many members of Congress.

FBI investigation

In 2004 CBS News reported that an FBI investigation had gained evidence that a senior Pentagon analyst with close ties to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith had provided a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC that was then passed to the Israeli government.[12][13]

In March 2005 the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that Pentagon analyst on the Iran desk Larry Franklin, who had been suspended from the Defense Department while the FBI investigation proceeded, had returned to work. The report suggested that a plea bargain was being discussed under which Franklin and AIPAC would not be sanctioned but focus on "two AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman." Both Rosen and Weissman are on leave from AIPAC. [14] On May 28, 2005, Ha'aretz reported that Rosen will be indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917. [15]

The AIPAC conference of 2005, billed as its "biggest ever," ended a week earlier. Despite all the claims of undiminished power, its two conference goals were rejected by the White House within days. Bush met with Pres. Abu Mazen at the White House and offered him $50 million in direct aid. This despite AIPAC "talking point" that aid be linked to dismantling of Hamas (Bush did not even mention the dismantling issue). And, Bush approved Iranian entrance into WTO despite AIPAC "talking point" calling on US to apply new sanctions or go to war with Iran. [16]

Political fundraising network

In the July 4, 2005 New Yorker, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote:

AIPAC’s professional staff—it employs about a hundred people at its headquarters, two blocks from the Capitol—analyzes congressional voting records and shares the results with its members, who can then contribute money to candidates directly or to a network of pro-Israel political-action committees. The Center for Responsive Politics, a public-policy group, estimates that between 1990 and 2004 these pacs gave candidates and parties more than twenty million dollars.

Robert H. Asher, a former AIPAC president, told me that the PACs are usually given euphemistic names. “I started a PAC called Citizens Concerned for the National Interest,” he said. Asher, who is from Chicago, is a retired manufacturer of lamps and shades, and a member of the so-called Gang of Four—former presidents of AIPAC, who steered the group’s policies for more than two decades. (The three others are Larry Weinberg, a California real-estate developer and a former owner of the Portland Trail Blazers; Edward Levy, a construction-materials executive from Detroit; and Mayer “Bubba” Mitchell, a retired builder based in Mobile, Alabama.) [10]

Richard Curtiss, a former USIA official and diplomat, documents in his Stealth PACs book the constellation of PACs utilized by AIPAC to influence elections, or legislation.[11] AIPAC doesn't fund campaigns directly, but directs its satellite PACs, some with innocuous sounding names, to do so. Curtiss questions the apparent contravention of electoral laws given this practice.


Their website does not list personnel, but from other sources:

AIPAC Policy Conferences

Contact details

440 First St NW, Suite 600
Washington D.C 20001
Phone: 202 639 5200

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. [4]
  5. [5]
  6. Kenen, Isaiah (1981). Israel's Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington. Prometheus Books, 110. ISBN 0879751592. 
  7. Spiegel, Steven (15 October 1986). The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America's Middle East Policy, from Truman to Reagan. University Of Chicago Press, 52. ISBN 0226769623. 
  8. AIPAC Web Site [6] Accessed April 18, 2007
  9. [7]
  10. [8]
  11. Richard Curtiss, Stealth PACs: Lobbying Congress for Control of U.S. Middle East Policy, 1990 (updated 1997).
  12. Lee Rosenberg profile, The Washington Post, accessed November 2010.

External articles

Undated Resources