American Israel Public Affairs Committee

American Israel Public Affairs Committee

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is an American lobbying group that advocates for pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States. It has been consistently ranked among the most powerful and most influential lobbies in Washington. [ Mearsheimer, J & Walt, S 2006, "The Israel Lobby", The London Review of Books.] Accessed 23rd September 2007.]

Describing itself as "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," AIPAC is a mass-membership organization whose members include Democrats, Republicans, and independents. The New York Times calls it " [t] he most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel." [AIPAC Web Site [] Accessed September 14, 2008] As an independent, not-for-profit entity, AIPAC is funded entirely through contributions from its members.


Founded in 1953 by Isaiah L. "Si" Kenen, AIPAC's original name was the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs. According to UCLA political science professor and author, Steven Spiegel, "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] ." [cite book
last = Spiegel
first = Steven
title = The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America's Middle East Policy, from Truman to Reagan
publisher = University Of Chicago Press
date = October 15, 1986
pages = 52
url =,M1
isbn = 0226769623

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"cite book
last = Kenen
first = Isaiah
title = Israel's Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington
publisher = Prometheus Books
date = 1981
pages = 110
isbn = 0879751592
] AIPAC's web site states that it "has grown into a 100,000-member national grassroots movement." [AIPAC Web Site [] Accessed April 18, 2007]

Aims and activities

AIPAC's stated purpose is to lobby the Congress of the United States on issues and legislation including pressuring the Palestinian Authority to adhere to its commitments to fight terrorism and incitement against Israel, strengthening the bond between Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem through shared intelligence and foreign military and economic aid to Israel, condemning the actions of Iran for pursuing nuclear status and questioning the Holocaust, and levying financial restrictions in order to hinder its nuclear development.

AIPAC regularly meets with members of Congress and holds events where it can share its views. Like many other American lobbying groups, AIPAC provides analyses of the voting records of U.S. federal representatives and senators with regard to how they voted on legislation related to its concerns. AIPAC is not a political action committee, and does not directly donate to campaign contributions.

AIPAC took no official position on the merits of going to war in Iraq. Some observers suggested the silence owed to concerns that linking Israel to the war "could alienate friendly Arab states by suggesting that the war is driven by Israel's interests." [ For Israel Lobby Group, War Is Topic A, Quietly] , "Washington Post", April 1, 2003.]

AIPAC's official position on Iran is to encourage a strong diplomatic and economic response coordinated among the United States, its European allies, Russia, and China. [ A Beautiful Friendship?] , "The Washington Post", July 16, 2006] In line with this approach, AIPAC has lobbied to levy economic embargoes and increase sanctions against Iran.

AIPAC's views of its strengths and achievements

AIPAC claims its strengths lie in its national membership base and great research capacity to understand both Israel's interest and the interests of other countries affecting U.S.-Israel relationship around the world. Some of AIPAC's achievements, quoted below from its web site, include: [ AIPAC - Learn About AIPAC ] ]

*Reiterating standards for the Palestinian government through letters signed by 259 House members and 79 senators urging the EU and United States not to provide aid or grant recognition to any Palestinian government until it fulfills internationally backed requirements.
*Strengthening U.S.-Israel homeland security cooperation by passing landmark legislation creating an office within the Department of Homeland Security to support joint research and development projects between the United States and key allies such as Israel.
*Securing critical foreign aid to Israel, which totaled $2.52 billion in 2006. (Note that United States direct economic assistance to Israel has been phased out as of 2007).
*Prohibiting U.S. aid and contacts with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) until its leaders recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and ratify previous Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements.
*Extending U.S.-backed loan guarantees to Israel until 2011 and renewing the authority to transfer U.S. military equipment to be stored in Israel for use in a potential crisis.
*Ratifying an agreement that led to the Israeli medical service Magen David Adom's admission to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IRC).
*Condemning Iran for holding a conference casting doubt on whether the Holocaust happened. The resolutions reproached the anti-zionist statements made by Iranian leaders and asserted the United States' commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran.
*Passing the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which renews and strengthens sanctions aimed at curtailing funds and international cooperation necessary for Iran to pursue nuclear weapons.
*Passing the Iran Libya Sanctions Act, which seeks to reduce funds for Iran's nuclear weapons program by allowing sanctions against foreign companies investing in Iran's energy sector.
*Reauthorizing the Iran Nonproliferation Act to include sanctions against entities providing technology to the missile and weapons of mass destruction programs of both Iran and Syria.
*Fostering U.S.-Israel homeland security cooperation by supporting the countries' efforts to sign a landmark Memorandum of Understading and taking U.S. homeland security professionals on trips to Israel to meet with their Israeli counterparts.
*Passing congressional resolutions that demonstrate overwhelming support for Israel's right to self-defense in the face of attacks by Hizballah and Hamas.
*Designating Hizballah's TV station as a terrorist entity through legislative language as well as support of a letter to President Bush signed by 51 senators.
*Passing the Syrian Accountability Act, which allows the president to sanction Syria for its continued involvement in Lebanon and support of terrorism.
*Increasing military aid to Israel by working for $1 billion in government grants that will help cover the escalating costs of the war on terrorism.
*Keeping world pressure on Hamas, by working to pass a House Resolution before PA elections that warned of serious policy implications for U.S.-Palestinian relations should Hamas be part of the Palestinian government.


AIPAC advises members of Congress about the issues that face today's Middle East, including the dangers of extremism and terrorism. It was an early supporter of the Counter-Terrorism Act of 1995, which resulted in increased FBI resources being committed to fight terrorism, as well as expanded federal jurisdiction in prosecuting criminal activities related to terrorism.

AIPAC has also supported the funding of a number of Israeli military projects that have resulted in new additions to the arsenal of the United States Armed Forces.Fact|date=April 2007 Israel's Arrow anti-missile system is now the most advanced working anti-ballistic missile system in the world. It is being mass produced at a Boeing plant in Huntsville, Alabama for use by both the United States and Israel. Additionally, the U.S. military has purchased Israeli-made tank armor, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other technologies for use in its operations.

AIPAC lobbies for financial aid from the United States to Israel, helping to procure up to three billion in aid yearly, although this amount has fallen sharply in recent years. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs has estimated total aid since 1949 at about $108 billion. [ [ A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: $108 Billion, Shirl McArthur. Washington Report, July 2006, pages 16-17.] ]

"The New York Times" described AIPAC on July 6, 1987 as "a major force in shaping United States policy in the Middle East." [cite news
first=David K.
title=On Middle East Policy, A Major Influence
publisher=New York Times
] In 1997, "Fortune" magazine named AIPAC the second-most powerful influence group in Washington, D.C. ["Jewish News of Greater Phoenix". (November 11, 1998). [ AIPAC listed 2nd most powerful group on Fortune list] .]


AIPAC has sometimes been the subject of controversy. Former Senator William Fulbright and former senior CIA official Victor Marchetti contended that AIPAC should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)Fact|date=September 2008. FARA requires those who receive funds or act on behalf of a foreign government to register as a foreign agent. AIPAC is a registered American lobbying group funded by private donations, and maintains it receives "no financial assistance" from Israel or any other foreign group. [cite web
title = What is AIPAC? A Voice for the U.S.-Israel Relationship
publisher =
url =
accessdate = September 9, 2008

In 2006, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota demanded an apology from AIPAC, claiming an AIPAC representative had described her vote against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 as "support for terrorists". McCollum stated that AIPAC representatives would not be allowed in her office until she received a written apology for the comment. [cite news
last = McCollum
first = Betty
title = A Letter to AIPAC
publisher = "New York Review of Books"
date = Volume 53, Number 10 · June 8, 2006
url =
accessdate = September 9, 2008
] AIPAC disputed McCollum's claim, and McCollum has since declared the incident over. [cite news
coauthors = Forward Staff
title = Lawmaker, Aipac Feud After Fight Over Hamas Bill
publisher = The Forward
date = May 26, 2006
url =
accessdate = September 9, 2008

In 1992, AIPAC president David Steiner was forced to resign after he was tape recorded boasting about his political influence in obtaining aid for Israel. Steiner also claimed to be "negotiating" with the incoming Clinton administration over who Clinton would appoint as Secretary of State and Director of the National Security Agency. [ Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Dec/Jan 1992/1993] ]

Espionage allegations

In April 2005, AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman were fired by AIPAC amid an FBI investigation into whether they passed classified U.S. information received from Franklin on to the government of Israel. They were later indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to Israel. [ [ "2 Senior AIPAC Employees Ousted"] , Washington Post, April 21, 2005] [Ticker, Bruce. [ AIPAC Charges Offer Opportunity] , "Philadelphia Jewish Voice", September 2005. Accessed March 27, 2006.]

In May 2005, the Justice Department announced that Lawrence Anthony Franklin, a U.S. Air Force Reserves colonel working as a Department of Defense analyst at the Pentagon in the office of Douglas Feith, had been arrested and charged by the FBI with providing classified national defense information to Israel. The six-count criminal complaint did not identify AIPAC by name, but described a luncheon meeting in which, allegedly, Franklin disclosed top-secret information to two AIPAC officials.Rozen, Laura and Vest, Jason. [ Cloak and Swagger] , "The American Prospect", November 2, 2004. Accessed March 27, 2006.]


AIPAC has a wide base of supporters both in and outside of Congress. Support among congressional members includes a majority of members of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. According to "American Prospect" magazine, "AIPAC's 2002 annual conference included 50 senators, 190 representatives, and more than a dozen senior administration officials."

Many political leaders have addressed AIPAC conferences, including Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Vice President Dick Cheney, Senators John McCain, Barack Obama and current and former members of the leadership of both parties in Congress, and current and former Prime Ministers of Israel.

Historian Michael Oren argued in his 2007 bestseller, "Power, Faith, and Fantasy", that strong American support for Israel derives from Puritan-Republican roots of the United States itself. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) has argued that America supports Israel because they share fundamental values as "freedom-loving people" who "deserve to have a free and secure state.'" [BBC News. [ "Analysis: America's new Christian Zionists"] . May 7, 2002] Nancy Pelosi similarly stated that "America and Israel share an unbreakable bond: in peace and war; and in prosperity and in hardship." [cite news
date=March 13th, 2007 |url=


The breadth of AIPAC's influence has been the subject of criticism, often relating to the group's positions on American and Israeli policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Critics argue that it has distorted American foreign policy in favor of Israel. [cite news
publisher=The Economist
title=To Israel with love
date=August 3rd, 2006 |url=
] and that Jewish-American public opinion is to the left of AIPAC and other mainstream Jewish organizations. [cite news
author=Philip Weiss
publisher=The Nation
title=AIPAC Alternative?
date=April 23, 2007

Among the best-known critical works about AIPAC is "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" by University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government professor Stephen Walt. The working paper and resulting book claim that AIPAC is a "de facto" agent for a foreign government", whose "success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it." [cite paper
first = Mearshimer
last = John
author =
authorlink =
coauthors = Walt,Stephen
title = "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"
version =
publisher = Harvard University
date = March, 2006
url =$File/rwp_06_011_walt.pdf
format =
accessdate =
] The AIPAC website says that the organization "receives no financial assistance from Israel, from any national organization or any foreign group. AIPAC is not a political action committee. It does not rate, endorse or contribute to candidates." [cite web
title = What is AIPAC? A Voice for the U.S.-Israel Relationship
work =
publisher = AIPAC
date = March, 2006
url =
accessdate = August 14, 2008

AIPAC has also been the subject of occasional criticism by American liberal politicians. In September 2007, Representative Jim Moran of Virginia stated that the Jewish community as a whole and AIPAC, in particular, drove the United States toward the war in Iraq. Moran later apologized.cite news
last = Barrett
first = Ted
title = Lawmaker under fire for saying Jews support Iraq war
publisher =
date = March 12, 2002
url =
accessdate = August 14, 2008
] Other prominent politicians who have criticized AIPAC include Representative Dave Obey of Wisconsin, [cite news
last = Edsall
first = Thomas B.
coauthors = Moore, Molly
title = Pro-Israel Lobby Has Strong Voice
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = "The Washington Post"
date = September 5, 2004
url =
accessdate = August 14, 2008
] former Senator Mike Gravel, [cite episode
title = Gravel Discusses Campaign Funding, Relations with Iran
episodelink =
series = "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer"
serieslink =
airdate = October 1, 2007
season =
number =
] and former Representative Cynthia McKinney. [cite news
last = Cockburn
first = Alexander
coauthors =
title = From Cynthia McKinney to Katha Pollitt, to the ILWU to Paul Krugman
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = CounterPunch
date = August 21, 2002
url =
accessdate = August 14, 2008

Further reading

*Kenen, Isaiah (1981). "Israel's Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington". ISBN 0879751592
*Mearsheimer , John J. and Walt, Stephen M. (2007). "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy". ISBN 0374177724
*Oren, Michael (2007). "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: The United States in the Middle East, 1776 to 2006". ISBN 0393058263
*Petras, James (2006). "The Power of Israel in the United States". ISBN 0932863515


ee also

*J Street
*Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
*Israel lobby in the United States
*Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal
*List of AIPAC officers

External links

* [ AIPAC:The American Israel Public Affairs Committee] official site
* [ Mitchell Bard "The Israeli and Arab Lobbies"]
* [ President Bush's address to the AIPAC policy conference, May 18, 2004]
* [,7340,L-3064502,00.html AIPAC Definition on Ynet News] , Online news and definitions of common Jewish and Israeli terms
*Dorf, Matthew, [ After Barak win, AIPAC reverses opposition to a Palestinian state] , "The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California", May 28, 1999. Accessed March 27, 2006
*Dreyfuss, Robert. [ "Agents of Influence"] , "The Nation", September 16, 2004
*Goldberg, Jeffrey. [ "Real Insiders"] , "New Yorker", July 4, 2005

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