• Is the end near for once all-powerful Zionist pressure group?
By Dave Gahary —
Whatever backroom deals and horse trading went on behind closed doors on Capitol Hill to secure approval of the Iran nuclear deal, formally named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the most significant aspect of the political drama that has played out over the past two decades may be the diminished power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), better known as the Israel Lobby.
AIPAC’s failure to prevent the deal’s passage, a done deal now based mainly on the number of supporters in Congress, represented a stinging defeat to the once all-powerful special interest group, which has been used to getting its way with American congressman and senators through the direction of campaign contributions from myriad of pro-Israel groups that infest our nation’s capital.
With more than 100,000 members, 17 regional offices and an almost $100 million war chest, AIPAC is arguably the most powerful lobbying group in the United States and the most important one where Israel is concerned. AIPAC doesn’t influence our politicians’ voting positions by raising funds for their reelection, but directs the plethora of groups loyal to the Zionist state on where to channel their money.
Critics accuse AIPAC as acting as a foreign agent of the Israeli government, a claim backed up by the language of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a U.S. law that requires agents representing the interests of foreign powers to disclose their relationship with the foreign government. Attempts were made to force AIPAC to register with FARA, but they were defeated by, you guessed it, AIPAC.
In fact, in 2005, a Pentagon analyst pled guilty to espionage charges for passing U.S. government secrets to the lobby. When it comes to the “special relationship” the U.S. has with Israel, which cannot even officially be called an ally by the strict definition of the term, there is no doubt that AIPAC has a stranglehold on at least the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.
One of the factors that contributed to AIPAC’s Iran deal defeat was, ironically, another pro-Israel lobbying group, J Street. Both lobbies are IRS-approved charities and are headed and staffed by mostly American Jews, but they differ in one great regard: “While both groups call themselves bipartisan, AIPAC has won support from an overwhelming majority of Republican Jews, while J Street is presenting itself as an alternative for Democrats who have grown uncomfortable with both [Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin] Netanyahu’s policies and the conservatives’ flocking to AIPAC,” according to The Washington Post.
Still, J Street’s executive director said the organization “is proud of AIPAC’s many accomplishments and clarified that the two groups have different priorities rather than different views.” Additionally, J Street just can’t compete with AIPAC. In 2014, J Street spent $400,000 on lobbying while AIPAC spent $3 million.
This $3 million figure pales in comparison to what AIPAC spent just on one offshoot whose sole purpose was to sway Congress to its side. In July of this year, a few days after Iran and the group of six nations reached an agreement “to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions,” it was revealed by another charitable group founded by two American Jews, the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for open government with a primary focus on the role of money in politics, that a “dark money” group airing ads across the country to defeat JCPOA had direct ties to AIPAC. Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran aired ads in dozens of markets running in at least 20 states, but perhaps up to 40. The New York Times revealed that the AIPAC offshoot planned to spend more than $20 million on the ads, although that figure may have reached $40 million. The pressure group has “a five-person board of directors that includes four former Democratic senators,” including one many are hoping will exit the public stage, Joseph Isadore “Joe” Lieberman.
Dark money refers to a 501(c)(4) charity, which can receive unlimited donations while not being required to disclose the donors. AIPAC is such a charity.
What will the new AIPAC look like in the future? A former AIPAC apparatchik believes this latest high-pressure stunt may mean the end of the goliath.
M.J. Rosenberg worked for the lobby in the 1980s, and shared an office with a staffer whose job it was to advise pro-Israel PACs, political action committees, and big individual donors on whom to give to and whom to boycott.
“AIPAC had lists of candidates to help and candidates to hurt, and it made its views known to anyone who asked and many who didn’t,” wrote Rosenberg on September 11 for The Nation, in an article entitled “AIPAC Spent Millions of Dollars to Defeat the Iran Deal. Instead, It May Have Destroyed Itself.”
“It is hard to exaggerate the damage inflicted on AIPAC by the congressional defeat of its efforts to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal,” wrote Rosenberg.” It is not as if AIPAC won’t live to fight again, because it will, but this defeat has ruptured the status quo, possibly forever.”
Rosenberg provided evidence of the damage that AIPAC was dealt.
“In 2014, it was hard to find a single Jewish member of Congress (not even Senator Bernie Sanders) who would break with AIPAC’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza,” he wrote. “One year later, nine of 11 Jewish senators and most of the Jewish House members are bucking AIPAC and the Israeli government on, of all things, the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.