How AIPAC works your Congressperson– using donors, rabbis, and Jewish members

Israel/Palestine
on 25 Comments

This post appeared on MJ Rosenberg’s site today: Exclusive: House staffer tells me what AIPAC is doing.

The media today is full of stories about AIPAC and its decision to push for a “yes” vote on Syria to ensure that President Obama initiates the war it really wants, with Iran. Check out this Washington Post story.

There is simply no way AIPAC and its camp followers would do this for Syria. Israel has no problem with the Assad regime. Like their dearly departed fellow former strongman Hosni Mubarak, both Hafez and Bashir Assad scrupulously kept the peace with Israel since 1973. As for chemical weapons, Israel not only has used them in Gaza but is one of seven countries in the world (Syria is another one) that has not ratified the treaty banning their use.  Additionally, any regime likely to succeed Assad’s is likely to be more militantly anti-Israel and more trigger happy than the current regime.

The reason Israel (and its lobby) are going all out to push the United States to attack Syria is as a precedent for a much larger attack on Iran. As AIPAC admits in its own statement of support for the Syria attack:

This is a critical moment when America must also send a forceful message of resolve to Iran and Hezbollah — both of whom have provided direct and extensive military support to Assad.  The Syrian regime and its Iranian ally have repeatedly demonstrated that they will not respect civilized norms.  That is why America must act, and why we must prevent further proliferation of unconventional weapons in this region.

America’s allies and adversaries are closely watching the outcome of this momentous vote. This critical decision comes at a time when Iran is racing toward obtaining nuclear capability. Failure to approve this resolution would weaken our country’s credibility to prevent the use and proliferation of unconventional weapons and thereby greatly endanger our country’s security and interests and those of our regional allies.

To put it simply, AIPAC fears that if it if lets President Obama go wobbly on Syria, it is impossible to imagine that he would undertake a war with Iran that could ignite the entire Middle East and lead to the commitment of U.S. troops in a third major Middle Eastern war in a little over a decade.

And that is why AIPAC and its satellites are turning the screws on Congress, especially on progressive and liberal Democrats who tend to be antiwar except when AIPAC comes knocking. (Republicans are more immune to AIPAC because they do not rely on AIPAC-directed campaign dollars given that they have so many other sources. Besides they tend to be hawks on their own, without pressure).

So what does AIPAC pressure feel like? How does it work?

I called a friend who is a foreign policy aide to a House member and, after I promised not to identify him in any form, he told me this.

First come the phone calls from constituents who are AIPAC members. They know the Congressman and are nice and friendly and just tell him, or whichever staffer the constituent knows, just how important this vote is to him and his friends back in the district.

Then the donors call. The folks who have hosted fundraisers. They are usually not only from the district but from New York or LA or Chicago. They repeat the message: this vote is very important.

Contrary to what you might expect, they do not mention campaign money. They don’t have to.  Because these callers are people who only know the Congressman through their checks, the threat not to write any more of them is implicit. Like the constituents, the donors are using AIPAC talking points which are simple and forceful. You can argue with them but they keep going back to the script. Did I mention the rabbis?  We only have a few in our district but we get calls from all of them and from other rabbis from around the state.

Then there are the AIPAC lobbyists, the professional staffers. They come in, with or without appointments. If the Congressman is in, they expect to see him immediately. If not, they will see a staffer. If they don’t like what they hear, they will keep coming back. They are very aggressive, no other lobby comes close, They expect to see the Member, not mere staff.

Then there are the emails driven by the AIPAC website, the editorials in the one Jewish newspaper we have in our state. And then the “Dear Colleague” letters from Jewish House members saying how important the vote is for Israel and America. They also will buttonhole the Members on the House floor. Because my boss is not Jewish, he tends to defer to his Jewish colleagues. It is like they are the experts on this.  And, truth be told, all the senior Jewish Members of the House are tight with AIPAC.  Also, the two biggest AIPAC enforcers, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Democatic counterpart, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, are fierce AIPAC partisans, and they make sure to seek out Members on the floor to tell them how they must vote.  On anything related to Israel, they speak in one voice: AIPAC’s.

My friend concluded:

Obviously, there is no counterpart to this on the antiwar side. No anti-AIPAC to speak of.  AIPAC owns this issue. It gets what it wants. It will get this and, sad to say, my boss, who hates the idea of using more war as a means to end war, will probably vote “yes.” He says he will never support an attack on Iran but, when the time comes, this Syria push will look like nothing. Syria is just a tactic for AIPAC. But its #1 goal, at least from the vantage point of Capitol Hill, is war with Iran.

Yeah, it’s scary.

About M.J. Rosenberg

M.J. Rosenberg served as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network, and prior to that worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years. He was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID. In the early 1980s, he was editor of AIPACs weekly newsletter Near East Report. From 1998-2009, he was director of policy at Israel Policy Forum. You can follow his work at mjayrosenberg.com.

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25 Responses

  1. Justpassingby
    September 4, 2013, 2:37 pm

    It is these kind of acts by the lobby that give rise to antisemitism, still the lobby does it systematically.

    • seafoid
      September 4, 2013, 4:41 pm

      “The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things.” Alfred North Whitehead

      The remorseless working of the Zionist machine is going to lead to a desperate tragedy for Judaism . Nobody can stop the fall. All you can do is watch.

    • xanadou
      September 4, 2013, 6:46 pm

      Not to antisemitism. Resentment of Israel’s warmongering and endless meddling.
      I have nothing against Semitic Palestinians, Sephardim or non-Israeli Jews of Semitic descent.

      In the current context it’s our own government that is antisemitic. Syrians are Arabs, i.e., a semitic people.

    • Bumblebye
      September 4, 2013, 9:23 pm

      After listening to one Texan TeaParty Congressman (Culberson), I’d say they’ve got their work cut out for them! He’s been getting masses of calls, and claims between 96% to 98% of them are very much against an attack on Syria. According to him, US should only act if Israel is directly threatened/hit. (There was something in there to do with the Schofield Bible perspective). And why isn’t US going for Iran since it has a nuclear program, and has promised to use its weapons against Israel? (Uurrrggghhh the ignorance)

    • K Renner
      September 5, 2013, 6:03 am

      Until people start calling them out on their bullshit, and stop myopically obsessing over the holocaust and how the holocaust means you can’t say anything “mean” or critical to/of jews and Zionism, the creatures in AIPAC and all the rest of the Israeli enablers/supporters will continue to go down the same road, over and over and over again– most disturbingly, with at very least chronic indifference from the American Jewish community.

      It’s especially ironic in the sense that the actions of the Israel firsters effectively cheapen the concept of the holocaust into something that can be price tagged with all of the films and the “new” stories and the mantra “never again (for the jews, at any rate. Other genocides don’t matter and we’re sacred and can do no wrong)”.

      The concept of “anti Semitism” as defined by all Israel advocacy groups is also cheapen, to the level of pathetic farce.

      Sympathizing with Palestinians is “anti Semitism”, apparently. Stating facts that are inconvenient to Israelis is “anti Semitism”, apparently.

  2. American
    September 4, 2013, 2:42 pm

    Exactly why it’s time for a American Lobby that will use the same tactics and exert the same pressure—and we dont even need to have the money to bribe them with –we have the ‘numbers’ to outnumber both the AIPAC Jews and Christo Zio voters.
    Wonder why we havent done this already. All we need to do is steal the membership list of the hundreds of different GOP, Dem, Single Issue and etc. lobby groups and convert them to one US Lobby.
    Maybe we could get Anonymous to hack into all their data bases for member email address and issue them invitations to join the one, the only *American Lobby for All Americans*.
    Does anyone now how to get in touch with Anonymous?
    Or we could just bribe lowly staffers in each lobby to get the addresses.

    • Citizen
      September 4, 2013, 6:46 pm

      @ American
      Who will get the message out that will defeat AIPAC? I see nobody powerful enough on the horizon. AARP nor the Gun Lobby will take on this challenge. There is no US lobby favoring US interests over Israel’s. That’s the problem.

      • American
        September 5, 2013, 2:26 pm

        @ Citizen

        The problem, as it is in launching any new product , is the marketing/ advertising money to present it to the public.
        Would take a lot of money to start, no big money has been interested in ‘untifying’ the public behind good government.
        Ted Turner should have put his billion dollar gift to the UN behind this instead of the UN.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    September 4, 2013, 4:27 pm

    RE: “The Syrian regime and its Iranian ally have repeatedly demonstrated that they will not respect civilized norms. ~ AIPAC

    MY COMMENT: This appears to be yet another instance of ‘psychological projection’ on the part AIPAC!

    SEE: “Cluster Munitions at a Glance”, armscontrol.org, November 2012

    [EXCERPT] . . . Although cluster munitions first saw use in World War II and more than 50 countries have since acquired stockpiles of such arms, efforts to regulate or ban the use of cluster munitions gained greater attention and momentum after the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, a Shiite organization that the United States identifies as a terrorist group. Israel’s extensive cluster munitions use in the last 72 hours of that conflict resulted in an estimated one million unexploded bomblets scattered across southern Lebanon, arousing some strong condemnation. Jan Egeland, then-UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, blasted Israel’s use of cluster munitions as “shocking and completely immoral.” . . .

    SOURCE – link to armscontrol.org

    P.S. ALSO SEE: “18-year-old Lebanese killed by Israeli cluster bomb”, By Mohammed Zaatari, The Daily Star, 8/10/13

    SIDON, Lebanon: An 18-year-old was killed Saturday when an Israeli cluster bomb exploded in Hasbaya, south Lebanon. Hisham Abdel-Al, a young shepherd, was working on a farm in the Hallat village when he stepped on a cluster bomb, dying instantly.
    Israel dropped some 4 million cluster bombs in Lebanon during the July-August 2006 war, most during the last 48 hours of the conflict, according to the United Nations.Hundreds have been wounded in cluster-bomb related incidents since 2000 and 2006.
    The Army’s Lebanon Mine Action Center along with the U.N. and other international organizations have been working since 2006 to remove the deadly ordinance from the south.

    SOURCE – link to dailystar.com.lb

    P.P.S. TAKE ACTION! ! ! TAKE ACTION! ! ! TAKE ACTION! ! !

    ● FROM RootsAction.org: Prevent an Attack on Syria Now

    If you live in the U.S. and want to email Obama, your senators and representative, expressing opposition to an attack on Syria, please click HERE.

    If you reside outside the United States, you can still sign this petition by clicking HERE.

  4. ritzl
    September 4, 2013, 4:39 pm

    How did Jewish Reps come to be regarded as more expert on US war and peace in the ME than anyone else? Is this MJ’s experience as well?

    And then the “Dear Colleague” letters from Jewish House members saying how important the vote is for Israel and America. They also will buttonhole the Members on the House floor. Because my boss is not Jewish, he tends to defer to his Jewish colleagues. It is like they are the experts on this.

    Zionism corrupts everything it touches and Israel is [really] bad for diaspora Jews [at least].

    I hope this staffer’s boss firmly takes back/strenuously asserts countering expertise on/holds to the American side of the equation. While the enforced tradition and conventional wisdom says this is about Israel, it isn’t. Not at all.

    Reclaim the debate, non-Jewish Reps. Even it up. Don’t defer. I can’t believe we’re heading down a path that makes that summary “woofdaluna” plea even remotely necessary, and less distasteful for that matter.

  5. seafoid
    September 4, 2013, 4:47 pm

    ” America must also send a forceful message of resolve to Iran and Hezbollah”

    I hate this conflation of Hezbollah and terrorism. The Shia in south Lebanon suffered enough under Zionism. And it’s hypocritical of Americans, especially gun owning Americans and NRA funded politicians, to diss a well regulated militia that exists to protect its people.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed

    • Walid
      September 5, 2013, 12:39 am

      “A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”

      It’s not only a militia, seafoid, it actually provides more social services to the almost 2 million Shias than the state does. It pays for the schooling and college of those that can’t afford it.

  6. Elliot
    September 4, 2013, 4:57 pm

    I’m not getting it. There is simply no way AIPAC and its camp followers would do this for Syria. and any regime likely to succeed Assad’s is likely to be more militantly anti-Israel and more trigger happy than the current regime.
    Right. That made sense to me when Obama was talking about a slap on Assad’s wrist but now that the military attack is all about regime change, this is not in Israel’s self-interest even per the rightwingers.
    So, Israel is going to heat up its entire northern border (because what happens to Syria will also happen to Lebanon), and risk instability on its eastern border coming from possible spillover into refugee camps in Jordan and risk emboldening Palestinian militants within its borders – all in order to have its/ the U.S. war with Iran?!

    • ritzl
      September 4, 2013, 5:19 pm

      You’re absolutely right, Elliot. Nothing about an attack on Syria makes sense, to me anyway, except to fulfill a blind zealousness for regional instability come what may. No way to run a country or foreign/military policy, imho.

      It’d be instructive to see you and some of the other knowledgeable people here “game” this out, militarily. Just a thought.

      • ritzl
        September 4, 2013, 5:58 pm

        Afterthought… This whole trumped up and driven home affair wrt Syria may be ALL about passing the new, vague AUMF targeted at Iran. Syria is “just” the misdirection to get that done. The debate has been about actually attacking. There has relatively little debate about the authorization to do so, and what it says.

        Syria as a ploy to get Congressional legislation/sign-off on Iran? It seems that box is being checked while everyone focuses on the most visceral front. Hope this is not too much of a restatement of the obvious. I’m slow…

      • seafoid
        September 5, 2013, 3:07 am

        They want to get Iran. They have to keep the pressure up. It’s a super machine- from the IDF to the lobbyists at Congress and all the people in between, incredibly disciplined, all the memes, united, the donors on message – it would make a good business school analysis piece .

        They are a wedge group and in order to get the majority to do their work they have to get everything right.

        link to 25.media.tumblr.com

        But people are tired of war and the last one didn’t work out very well.
        And the shark is getting old.

    • Ofer Neiman
      September 4, 2013, 11:33 pm

      A post-Assad Syria will probably be weak or fragmented, and will not have a functioning army. Good for Israel.
      In addition, if a post-Assad Syria is governed by extreme Islamist, Israel will get an international exemption from ending its occupation of the Golan Heights. These Islamists will not necessarily be trigger-happy towards Israel. Much of their energy will be directed inward.

      And then there’s also the Iran thing…

      • Walid
        September 5, 2013, 3:46 am

        “A post-Assad Syria will probably be weak or fragmented, and will not have a functioning army. Good for Israel.”

        Not really, Ofer, Israel has had it very good with both Assads without a shot being fired on the Golan since 40 years. Up until the civil war, Syria had been buying annually over 10,000 tons of Golan-grown apples from Israel on the pretext that the Israeli orchards were providing employment to the Syrian Druze that had remained on the Golan. And if the Islamists that hate the Jews as much as they hate Christians and Shias were to overtake Syria, things will never be the same for Israel.

  7. gingershot
    September 4, 2013, 5:18 pm

    Israel is horrified that America is beginning to find it’s way around the stranglehold AIPAC has (thru it’s Israeli Lobby-bought Congressmen) on American foreign policy, which makes them essentially the brute force muscle (and banker) for Israeli ambitions in the Middle East

    If America is able to stop AIPAC, Israel and her Lobby will not be able to pull off another spectacle like the lying of the US in to the Iraq War, (with the Uranium Niger Forgeries that Michael Ledeen/Mossad themselves created, then stovepiped to Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans) – and more importantly, will not be able to pull off lying or mousetrapping the US into a war against Iran.

    link to timesofisrael.com

    Israel is desperately worried that they will no longer have the power to be able to lie and hoax or mousetrap or BUM RUSH the war into Iran – and without that – without a Middle East continuously in flames – Apartheid in Israel will be exposed to worldwide boycotts and dismantling at the ICC

  8. Justpassingby
    September 4, 2013, 5:26 pm

    “There is simply no way AIPAC and its camp followers would do this for Syria.”

    Naive at best. 4 Words “why”. Hamas. Iran. Hezbollah. Syria.

    Get it?

    Lobby sure do.

    • Rusty Pipes
      September 4, 2013, 10:29 pm

      Fifth word: Palestine. As long as its neighbors top America’s headlines, Israel can continue ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their lands out of the American spotlight.

  9. piotr
    September 4, 2013, 6:08 pm

    I have a very different view on the operation of the Lobby, be it Jewish or Israel. Some groups under that umbrella may have long term objectives, but basically this is like any type of trade: you need to stimulate the demand, get the supplies and collect revenue. You also have problems what to do with spare capacity at slack times.

    From that point of view, the “issue of Iran” is perfect. First, the entire Lobby industry is in dire need of “existential threats”. Hitler is gone, Hamas is kind of smallish, and so is Hezbollah, there is also “demographic threat” (or two?) but it is a rather awkward topic for fundraising. Iran is big and populated by quite large number of Persians. Historically, Persian armies were laying waste to the entire region (as recently as 600 AD, and at that time Jews supported the Persians).

    Second, Iranians provide a lot of quotable material. They are also ruled by mullahs that can be nicely elongated to moooolahs.

    Third, the actions proposed to handle the Iranian threat are sufficiently impractical to seriously ponder what would happen if they come to pass. Thus Lobby may moan that “we do not take Iranian problem seriously enough” without risking a disaster that would undermine the brand of the Lobby. (It seems that China and Russia promised to do something that would render an attack on Iran very impractical indeed.)

    In the case of Syria, an adventure may actually have some effect, and most possible scenarios are pretty bleak. The least risky course of action would be to make an ineffectual military action. I understand that the Lobby cannot really leave the trade of ideas on Syria alone. Part of the brand image is having the best experts on Middle East, and now they would simply desert TV screens?!

  10. Citizen
    September 4, 2013, 6:54 pm

    Nothing important matters because AIPAC and the network of Jewish Establishment media and both direct and indirect organizations favor this war on Syria as a backdoor to war on Persia, the only threat to US enabled Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. Watch as Dick and Jane are forced to fund Israeli plans, and, if it comes to that, watch their goy children go off to die for Israel. It will come to that.

  11. Chu
    September 4, 2013, 7:07 pm

    The world supposed superpower and they can be bullied to vote against National interests in favor of a burgeoning rogue state of the west. I thought we were gonna hear about kneecapping and family threats to the congress. Russians read this and know Americas days are numbered because they are manipulated by a small cabal that says ‘we eat first, and you can have the scraps.’

  12. James Canning
    September 5, 2013, 2:45 pm

    Aipac has done its best to block any improvement in the relations of the US with Iran, for decades. And in that way, Aipac has eroded the national security interests of the American people.

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