AIPAC eludes US law, part of international lobby for Israel

AIPAC eludes US law, part of international lobby for Israel

Former Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with AIPAC leaders at the annual convention in Washington, D.C., March 3, 2014. Giraldi: ‘The unrelenting pressure to make criticism of Israel illegal is particularly dangerous as it is international.’

By Philip Giradi, American Conservative

Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee postponed a meeting ostensibly convened to discuss the failure to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA). Originally rescheduled for this week, the postponed meeting would have featured Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort testifying about their controversial Trump Tower meeting, but their subpoenas were canceled at the last minute after they arranged to turn over documents. The June 2016 meeting under investigation included Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, publicist Rob Goldstone, businessman Ike Kaveladze, and translator Anatoli Samochornov. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner was also in attendance, apparently only briefly.

The Judiciary Committee hearing was originally set up to look at the possible Russian links of former journalist and head of the research firm Fusion GPS Glenn Simpson, who was behind the infamous Trump dossier that appeared in January. Yet in reality it is part of the broader effort to determine whether Moscow interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of the Donald Trump campaign.

FARA was created in the lead up to World War II to help monitor the activity of Italian, German and Japanese agent-lobbyists who were believed to be working hard in the U.S. to influence opinion as well as congressional votes in favor of their respective sponsoring nations. The intention was to force the “foreign agents” to register with the Department of the Treasury so they would have to identify their government sponsors and be required to reveal their sources of income.

FARA is not very rigorously enforced, which was one of the points that the Judiciary Committee was prepared to address in regards to Russia, but there can be consequences for those who ignore it. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was recently compelled to register as an agent of Turkey after he received $530,000 in payments to support Ankara’s view regarding those it believed to be behind last year’s coup.

AIPAC has broken the law for 55 years

Ironically, the most powerful and effective foreign-government lobby in Washington is so dominant that it has been able to avoid registering for the past 55 years. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was last confronted by FARA when its predecessor organization the American Zionist Council was pressured by John F. Kennedy’s Justice Department in 1962 and 1963. Kennedy’s death stopped that effort—and ended White House attempts to hold Israel accountable for the development of its secret nuclear weapons program (which depended on nuclear material removed illegally from the United States with the connivance of a company located in Pennsylvania called NUMEC).

AIPAC’s website declares that it is “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby,” so by its own admission it functions pretty clearly as Israel’s proxy. It spent $102 million in 2015, had 396 employees in 2013, and claims to have 100,000 members, many of whom are organized into state and city chapters. It also benefits from being a tax exempt 501(c)4 organization classified as promoting “international understanding.” Its annual Summit in Washington attracts more than 15,000 participants, including scores of congressmen and other senior government officials. It blankets Capitol Hill with its lobbyists and is a prolific source of position papers explaining Israel’s perception of what is taking place in the Middle East. Its easy access to the media and also to politicians in Washington is so widely accepted on Capitol Hill that it reportedly frequently drafts bills that Congress then goes on to propose.

No Washington lobby is benign. Lobbies exist to subvert the public interest. They promote particular agendas and are not intended to enhance the general well-being of the American public. Lobbyists would argue that they are in the information business, that they make lawmakers aware of facts that impact on pending legislation, but the reality is that every lobby is nevertheless driven by self-interest.

The power of the Israel Lobby and of AIPAC is not cost free for the American public. The current $3 billion plus that Israel, with a thriving first world economy, receives in military assistance is on top of the $130 billion that it has received since 1949. Protecting Israel in international organizations like the United Nations has sometimes marginalized the U.S. in such bodies and the lobby’s influence over American foreign policy has often been noted. In 2010 General David Petraeus stated that Israeli policies were putting American military personnel in the Middle East in danger. He quickly recanted, however.

Once upon a time AIPAC’s Steven Rosen boasted to an interviewer, “You see this napkin? In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.” He meant that congressmen would sign on to anything if they thought it would please Israel. Recently the U.S. Congress has been working on bills that would criminalize individuals or groups that support a boycott of Israel. It would not be the first such legislation. The 2015 omnibus trade agreement with Europe included an amendment mandating that nations engaging in anti-Israel boycotts, to include “Israeli controlled territories,” should be subject to retaliatory action by the U.S.

AIPAC’s unconstitutional anti-BDS bills

There are currently two bills constituting the Israel Anti-Boycott Act of 2017 (S.720 and H.R. 1697) being considered by the Senate and House that outdo any previous deference to Israeli interests. The Senate bill was introduced by Senator Ben Cardin, who also had a hand in the trade-legislation amendments protecting Israel. According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the bill was drafted with the assistance of AIPAC. The legislation, which would almost certainly be overturned as unconstitutional if it ever does in fact become law, is particularly dangerous, and goes well beyond any previous pro-Israeli legislation, essentially denying free speech when the subject is Israel.

The two versions of the bill that are moving through Congress have 238 sponsors and cosponsors in the House and 46 in the Senate. If you do your math, you will realize that those numbers already constitute a majority in the House and are only five short of one in the Senate, so passage of the bills is virtually assured. The bill’s sponsors include many congressmen who have in the past frequently spoken out in defense of free speech, with Senator Ted Cruz having said in 2014, for example, that “The First Amendment was enacted to protect unreasonable speech. I, for one, certainly don’t want our speech limited to speech that elected politicians in Washington think is reasonable.”

The movement that is particularly targeted by the bills is referred to as BDS, or Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. It is a non-violen  t reaction to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land on the West Bank and the continued building of Jewish-only settlements. BDS has been targeted both by the Israeli government and by AIPAC. The AIPAC website, which describes the group’s lobbying agenda, includes the promotion of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act as a top priority.

The Israeli government and its American supporters particularly fear BDS because it has become quite popular, particularly on university campuses, where administrative steps have frequently been taken to suppress it. The denial of free speech on campus when it relates to Israel has sometimes been referred to as the “Palestinian exception.” Nevertheless, the message continues to resonate, due both to its non-violence its and human rights appeal. It challenges Israel’s arbitrary military rule over 3 million Palestinians on the West Bank who have onerous restrictions placed on nearly every aspect of their daily lives. And its underlying message is that Israel is a rogue state engaging in actions that are widely considered to be both illegal and immoral, which the Israeli government rightly sees as potentially delegitimizing.

Twenty-one state legislatures have already passed various laws confronting BDS, in many cases initiating economic penalties on organizations that boycott Israel or denying state funds to colleges and universities that allow BDS advocates to operate freely on campus. The pending federal legislation would go one step further by criminalizing any U.S. citizen “engaged in interstate or foreign commerce” who supports a boycott of Israel or who even goes about “requesting the furnishing of information” regarding it, with penalties enforced through amendments of two existing laws, the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Act of 1945, that include potential fines of between $250,000 and $1 million and up to 20 years in prison.

Interestingly, a number of churches, to include the Presbyterians, Mennonites, and United Church of Christ, have divested from companies participating in the occupation of the West Bank and could be subject to the punitive steps authorized by the legislation. And it also is interesting to note that the bills would not punish anyone who does not have a business relationship with Israel for reasons other than politics. The punishment comes solely when one states that he or she is not engaging in business with Israel due to objections regarding what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.

Daniel Larison has observed that even if one assumes that the legislation will face judicial hurdles and will never be enacted, it is nevertheless discouraging to consider that a clear majority of congressmen thinks it is perfectly acceptable to deny all Americans the right to free political expression in order to defend an internationally-acknowledged illegal occupation being carried out by a foreign country. That the occupation is illegal has even been acknowledged repeatedly by Washington, which contradicts its own policy with this legislation.

Those co-sponsoring the bills include Democrats, Republicans, progressives, and conservatives. Deference to Israeli interests is bipartisan and crosses ideological lines. Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim, writing at The Interceptobserve that “…the very mention of the word ‘Israel’ causes most members of both parties to quickly snap into line in a show of unanimity that would make the regime of North Korea blush with envy.”

The powerful international lobby for Israel

French police arrest woman for wearing ‘illegal t-shirt’ with “Boycott Apartheid Israel” printed on it – March, 2016.

Finally, the seemingly unrelenting pressure to make criticism of Israel illegal is particularly dangerous as it is international. Indeed, it is a global phenomenon. Wherever one goes—Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States—there is a well-organized and funded lobby ready, willing, and able to go to war to protect Israel. In France it is illegal to wear a t-shirt supporting BDS or to demonstrate in favor of it. Britain has introduced laws that include defining criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. In Canada, support of BDS has been regarded as a hate crime.

Will FARA registration of AIPAC as a foreign lobby fix all that? Of course not, but it would be a good first step. AIPAC would have to publicly acknowledge that it is acting on behalf of a foreign government and its sources of income would be subject to review. While the Congress is busy searching for Russian agents under FARA it just might spend some time also examining the pernicious influence of the unregistered and unrestrained Israel Lobby.


Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

RELATED:

International campaign is criminalizing criticism of Israel as ‘antisemitism’

Israel’s global lobby works to take down UK and US politicians [VIDEO]

Israel’s global lobby works to take down UK and US politicians [VIDEO]

[Photo from Unz Review]

Ali Abunimah and Philip Giraldi report on Israel’s powerful lobby in the UK, the US, and beyond.

Ali Abunimah writes in Electronic Intifada: “AIPAC is hoping to turn UK politics into a carbon copy of the US Congress, where the powerful lobby group has long quashed virtually all open criticism of Israel’s violent suppression of Palestinian rights.

“The final episode of The Lobby, Al Jazeera’s groundbreaking investigation of the Israel lobby’s activities in the UK, casts light on the extent of AIPAC’s transatlantic ambitions.”

Abunimah continues:

Though AIPAC’s influence is increasingly under challenge, it remains one of the best organized and effective players in US politics.

Episode four of The Lobby, which can be viewed above, shows Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter attending a meeting of City Friends of Israel, a group established with the help of Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot to build support for Israel within London’s financial district.

The meeting was coordinated with AIPAC and is addressed by Joe Richards, the lobby group’s “Wall Street director,” who explains how it focuses on building relationships with lawmakers.

“The real strategic goal is to get the UK to behave more like the US than Europe, when it comes to Israel, pull them, tug them into the US sphere,” another of the US attendees at the meeting explains to Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter.

The embassy’s Shai Masot also tells the undercover reporter that he took a delegation of dozens of donors from “rich families” in the UK to AIPAC’s conference in Washington, DC.

The donors to Conservative Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Israel met with AIPAC’s head of strategy to glean “ideas for Britain.”

Zionism on campus

Adam Schapira and Elliott Miller, two pro-Israel activists, reveal in the first episode of The Lobby that AIPAC provided them with funding to set up the Pinsker Centre, an advocacy group to promote Zionism on UK campuses.

Schapira made an unsuccessful bid to be elected president of the Union of Jewish Students, which has received funding from the Israeli embassy. Miller spent a year working at the Israeli foreign ministry’s division that handles relations with the US Congress, which put him in close contact with AIPAC.

In October, Miller was filmed being violent and abusive during student protests against a speech by a former Israeli army officer at University College London.

Videos online show Miller using Islamophobic abuse against students. “It’s a violent religion,” he shouts at one protester.

When the Pinsker Centre was launched last March, Miller marketed it as “vibrant and grassroots.”

One of its first activities was hosting a talk on the theme of “libelous myths of Israeli war crimes.”

It also led a delegation to AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington, and plans more such trips in the future.

Corbyn demands inquiry

The revelations in The Lobby have roiled pro-Israel advocates in the UK, who have gone into damage control mode.

The Israeli ambassador has apologized for Masot’s role in the plot revealed in The Lobby to “take down” UK lawmakers, including a deputy foreign minister deemed too critical of Israel.

The Israeli government has also made implausible claims distancing itself from Masot and attempting to portray his activities, clearly coordinated with his colleagues, as those of a loose cannon.

Masot was particularly focused on trying to engineer “grassroots” support for Israel within the main opposition Labour Party, while encouraging pro-Israel activists to lodge complaints against supporters of Palestinian rights who have been falsely accused of anti-Semitism.

The UK government has tried to downplay the revelations in The Lobby by accepting the ambassador’s apology and declaring the matter “closed.”

But on Friday, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May to call for a full investigation.

“Many members of Parliament and the public will be extremely concerned at this evidence of attempts to undermine the integrity of our democracy,” Corbyn says in a letter to May released to the media.

“This is clearly a national security issue,” Corbyn adds. “I would therefore ask that you treat the matter as such and launch an inquiry into the extent of this improper interference.”

All four parts of The Lobby can now be viewed onlineRead Full article

Israel Lobby in US and Other Countries

Philip Giraldi, executive director of the Council for the National Interest, writes in the Unz Review:

“It does not require much in the way of imagination to realize that the Masot meetings probably occur every day right out in the open in Washington, including Israeli officials and Congressmen as well as heads of political advocacy organizations and lobbies.”

Giraldi notes the list of American politicians taken down by Israel: Cynthia McKinney, Adlai Stevenson III, Paul Findley, Chuck Percy, William Fulbright, Roger Jepsen, and Pete McCloskey.

Giraldi writes that analyst Jeff Blankfort has reported that many US nonprofits are headed by Jewish Americans very willing to criticize the U.S. but reluctant to say anything bad about Israel. “Whether they are actually directly or indirectly on the Israeli government payroll would be an interesting project for a good investigative journalist.”

Giraldi points out that Israel’s interference in the US is “far more damaging than anything Moscow has done. Yet Russia is being excoriated by the U.S. and European media daily, investigated by Congress and sanctioned because of what are little more than unproven allegations.”

“It all recalls Pat Buchanan’s description of the U.S. Congress as an Israeli occupied zone,” Giraldi writes.

“Indeed, lobbying on behalf of Israel is a global phenomenon with organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) existing in various forms in a number of other countries.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an AIPAC clone located in London. It is well funded and politically powerful, working through its various “Friends of Israel” proxies. Americans might be surprised to learn that in Britain Jewish organizations uniquely are allowed to patrolheavily Jewish London neighborhoods in police-like uniforms while driving police type vehicles and there have been reports of their threatening Muslims who enter the areas.

Indeed, wherever one goes – Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States – there is a well-organized and funded mechanism in place ready, willing and able to go to war to protect Israel. Most of the organizations involved take at least some direction from officials in Tel Aviv. Many of them even cooperate fully with the Israeli government, its parastatal organizations and faux-NGOs like the lawfare center Shurat HaDin. Their goal is to spread propaganda and influence the public in their respective countries of residence to either hew to the line coming out of Tel Aviv or to confuse the narrative and stifle debate when potential Israeli crimes are being discussed.

Israel’s diaspora allies are backed up by a formidable government organized machine that spews out disinformation and muddies the waters whenever critics surface. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has a corps of paid “volunteers”who monitor websites worldwide and take remedial action and there is a similar group working out of the Prime Minister’s office. That is why any negative story appearing in the U.S. or Britain about Israel is immediately inundated with pro-Israel comments, many of which make exactly the same coordinated points while exhibiting the same somewhat less than perfect English. On sites like Yahoo they are actually able to suppress unwelcome comments by flooding the site with “Dislike” responses. If a comment receives a large number of dislikes, it is automatically blocked or removed.

The sayanim, local Jews in their countries of residence, are essential to this process, having been alerted by emails from the Israeli Foreign Ministry about what to do and say. The reality is that Israel has lost the war of public opinion based on its own actions, which are becoming more and more repressive and even inhumane and so are difficult to explain. That means that the narrative has to be shifted by Israel’s friends through subterfuge and the corruption of the information and political processes in each country. In some places the key media and political players who are engaged in the process can simply be bought. In other places like England they can be intimidated or pressured into taking positions that are neither in their own countries’ interests nor morally acceptable. In large countries like the United States, Britain and France a combination of friendly suasion and coercive elements often come together.

In some extreme cases the game Israel plays is brutal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently warned New Zealand that backing a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements would be a “declaration of war.” In all cases, the objective is the same: to repress completely, discourage or misrepresent any criticism of Israel and to block any initiatives that might be taken that would do damage either to the Israeli economy or to the country’s perceived standing in the world. In some countries including the U.S. and Britain, Israel’s advocates work their subversion of local institutions right out in the open and are highly successful in implementing policies that often remain largely hidden but that can be discerned as long as one knows what to look for.

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