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Can AIPAC have it both ways?


Ed Haas

Can AIPAC have it both ways? 

 

October 4, 2007 – Frequently found in American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) press statements is the following abstract.  Consistently ranked as the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill, AIPAC is an American membership organization that seeks to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel.  Specifically, AIPAC is keenly affixed to U.S. foreign policy towards the state of Israel and the broader Middle East.  This stands to reason. 

 

Yet there always seems to be a quick disconnect when AIPAC is scrutinized regarding the influence in which it boasts.  Can AIPAC have it both ways?  Can it be the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill while really not having that much influence on the U.S. Congress? 

 

Case in point is the recent blow up over comments made by Virginia Representative Jim Moran.  In an interview with Tikkun, a liberal Jewish publication, Moran is quoted as saying that AIPAC “pushed this war from the beginning.”  Moran was speaking of the Iraq War. 

 

On September 19, 2007 CNN ran a piece titled Congressman faces heat for comments on Jewish lobby.  In it, CNN reported that AIPAC told CNN that it has taken no position on the Iraq War. 

 

How is this possible?  If AIPAC is the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill as it claims, is it reasonable to believe that it has taken no position regarding the most important foreign policy decision the United States has made since the Gulf War, particularly a foreign policy decision within the Middle East?  A more accurate statement from AIPAC would be that it has not taken a public position on the Iraq War, either prior to the invasion or since.  But to claim that AIPAC has no position on the Iraq War defies the imagination.  AIPAC simply cannot have it both ways.  Either it influenced the decision to invade Iraq to a varying degree that has yet to be quantified, or it is not the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill.  There is no ambiguity involved.  It is one or the other. 

 

The recent concern over the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment, which declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization, has raised suspicions about AIPAC involvement and influence in the passage of this sense of the Senate.  The Asia Times reported on September 29, 2007 that AIPAC actually drafted the amendment. 

 

The Muckraker Report spoke with Josh Block, AIPAC spokesman, on Wednesday, October 03, 2007.  When asked if AIPAC drafted the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment, Block said, “AIPAC did not draft the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment.”  When asked if AIPAC lobbied in favor of the amendment, Block indicated that he was not certain. 

 

Again, the public is faced with a puzzle.  By declaring Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization, the U.S. Senate has further fortified the fact that the Bush Administration does not have to seek additional congressional approval to launch a military strike in Iran because the White House already has authorization to use military force against terrorist organizations.  No doubt, the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment has significant foreign policy implications for the Middle East, yet AIPAC, the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill, claims that it didn’t draft the amendment, didn’t have input or influence on the content of the amendment, and cannot say for certain whether any of its members lobbied in favor of the amendment. 

 

FOR THE RECORD

 

In September 2002, AIPAC spokesperson Rebecca Needler told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “If the president asks Congress to support action in Iraq, AIPAC would lobby members to support him.” 

 

How can Needler’s quote be interpreted as anything other than a favorable position on the Iraq War? 

 

In January 2003, according to the New York Sun, Howard Kohr, AIPAC executive director said, “AIPAC’s successes over the year also include guaranteeing Israel’s annual aid package and ‘quietly’ lobbying Congress to approve the use of force in Iraq.” 

 

Current AIPAC spokesman Josh Block now insists that Kohr was misquoted. 

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