Janan Moein

Poli 100E

Prof. Pitcher

6/14/2024

AIPAC: Native or Foreign?

Interest groups play a major role in American politics and allow citizens to unite and further issues which affect them. Common grievances can mobilize a diverse group of people toward one mutual goal. As the number of interest groups grows, so does their impact on life in America. One of the most powerful and effective interest groups is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. There is a growing consensus that AIPAC is having a negative effect on America because its goals are not representative of citizen’s interests, they contribute to greater inequality, and they are weakening the democratic processes of the government.

Founded in 1953 under the name  American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs by American Zionist activist Isaiah Leo Kenen. In 1959 it was renamed to AIPAC rebranding itself and distancing itself from the word “zionism”. Before proceeding, it is first important to define what Zionism is. Zionism is a form of Jewish nationalism popularized by a prominent Jewish thinker Theodore Herzl in the late 19th century. Zionism grew in popularity as a response to the persecution of Jews in Europe as well as the Holocaust. The movement advocates for the establishment and preservation of a Jewish state in what was previously known as Palestine and is today Israel. Israel is located in the Levant region of the Middle East, sharing borders with Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. There are a number of factors at play in regard to Israel’s relationship with its neighbors, which include religious and ethnic differences, as well as overwhelming American support for Israel. This support has been both financial and military, which have made Israel the military superpower of the region.

Currently, AIPAC’s stated goals are, “”supporting security assistance to Israel” and “countering Iran’s aggression and nuclear weapons quest.” Israel being the sole military super power in the Middle East has been the status quo for decades, but recent advances in Iran’s military technology and strategy have called this dynamic into question. One of AIPAC’s biggest criticisms is that it supports the objectives of a foreign nation yet it is not registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. FARA is a US law enacted in 1938, which requires individuals and entities acting on behalf of foreign governments, political parties, or other foreign principals to register with the U.S. Department of Justice and disclose their relationships. AIPAC is comprised of a large group of individual US-based donors who promote a very pro-Israel message therefore it is technically not a foreign entity. They are arguably the most powerful PAC that OpenSecrets has dubbed America’s “pro-Israel” lobby. According to OpenSecrets, AIPAC has spent just under $60 million in American politics since 1998. AIPAC has raised more money for candidates than any similar organization this election cycle as part of its mission to back candidates who support Israel. In an era of extreme political polarization in American politics, AIPAC has garnered support from Republican and Democrat donors while donating to campaigns of candidates from both parties. Recently, AIPAC’s main focus has been leveraging its weight in competitive Democratic primaries, spending millions to boost moderates over progressives who have been critical of Israel. Nearly half of AIPAC donors to Democratic candidates this year have some recent history of giving to Republican campaigns or committees. The main reason for this strategy has been the Israel-Hamas war which began on October 7th, 2024. Hamas, which is classified by the US Government as a terrorist group based in the Gaza Strip orchestrated a highly sophisticated attack on Israel killing over 1,000 of its citizens. Since then, the Israel Defense Forces have started ongoing military operations in Gaza and the West Bank which have killed over 37,000 Palestinians the vast majority of which have been children under 18 years old. This disproportionate response has sparked an international outcry and prompted a number of investigations by Human Right Organizations into Israel’s alleged war crimes. The vast majority of weapons used by the IDF are US made and supplied. This fact has potentially implicated the US in Israel’s war crimes. The rise of social media has exposed the barbarity of the war and heavily influenced public perception. A Gallup Poll from March 2024 that found that 55% of Americans disapprove of Israeli action in Gaza and only 36% approve.

All these factors have sent AIPAC scrambling to maintain the status quo of the United State’s unwavering and unconditional support for Israel. Historically, AIPAC has given money to mostly Republican candidates, but in light of current circumstances they have begun donating to Democrats with more moderate views who are running against progressives who have been critical of Israel. Out of the 10 candidates in this election cycle that AIPAC has raised the most money for, 9 have been Democrats. George Latimer, the Democratic challenger in the New York House of Representatives election, has been the biggest beneficiary receiving more than $1.6 million from nearly 1,800 individual donors. About 40 percent of those donors had previously given to Republicans via AIPAC.

AIPAC’s stated goals are not in the interest of the majority of Americans because they involve spending billions of tax dollars on an objective which will push us closer to another war in the Middle East. For nearly two decades, the US was involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which cost Americans $8 trillion and resulted in 900,000 deaths, the vast majority being that of innocent civilians. Those wars that were fought under the mantra of “the war on terror” were unsuccessful to say the least, as Iran now controls most of Iraq and the Taliban controls Afghanistan. Israel’s desire to neutralize Iran as an emerging regional military superpower will increase the chances of the US getting involved in another major regional war. In conclusion, no two nations that are as different in size, location, and demographics as are the USA and Israel can be politically aligned at all times no matter what, without one of the nations suffering. AIPACs stated goals are not in the interest of the majority of Americans and should not be supported by our members of government because they are isolating the USA on the international stage and pushing us closer to another war in the Middle East.

 

Bibliograph

“Costs of the 20-Year War on Terror: $8 Trillion and 900,000 Deaths.” Brown University, 14 May 2024, www.brown.edu/news/2021-09-01/costsofwar.

Rubin, Alissa J., and Lazaro Gamio. “Power by Proxy: How Iran Shapes the Mideast.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Apr. 2024, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/04/06/world/middleeast/iran-hamas-hezbollah-houthis-iraq.html.

AIPAC Is the Biggest Source of Republican Donors Giving to Democratic Primaries – Politico, www.politico.com/news/2024/06/09/aipac-republican-donors-democratic-primaries-00162404. Accessed 15 June 2024.

McGrath, Jack. “A Deluge of Pro-Israel PAC Donations in 2024 Elections.” WRMEA, 10 June 2024, www.wrmea.org/congress-u.s.-aid-to-israel/a-deluge-of-pro-israel-pac-donations-in-2024-elections.html.

“Inside Story – the Role of AIPAC – 05 June 08 – Part 1.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 June 2008, www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXkb7Xm2SJs&t=181s.

 

The Dark Roots of AIPAC, ‘America’s pro-Israel Lobby’ – the Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/03/06/the-dark-roots-of-aipac-americas-pro-israel-lobby/. Accessed 15 June 2024.

Jones, Jeffrey M. “Majority in U.S.. Now Disapprove of Israeli Action in Gaza.” Gallup.Com, Gallup, 1 May 2024, news.gallup.com/poll/642695/majority-disapprove-israeli-action-gaza.aspx.

“Pro-Israel Summary.” OpenSecrets, www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus?ind=Q05. Accessed 14 June 2024.

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