On January 12, 1989 I was served papers in a lawsuit accusing HUVPAC
(Hudson Valley Political Action Committee) and nine other pro-Israel political action committees in addition to AIPAC, ( The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) of federal election law violations. The accusers were a group of pro-Arabists including former Congressman, Paul Findley, who in the early 80’s was known as “Arafat’s man in Congress,” and former Under Secretary of State George Ball. The latter had previously written an article in Foreign Affairs magazine entitled, "We must help Israel in spite of itself."
Evidently the group felt they could help Israel the most by destroying the pro-Israel political community. Thankfully, we were vindicated, although a portion of the legal issues went all the way to the to the U.S Supreme Court to adjudicate. Thus, I look with a jaundiced eye at the current publicity surrounding an investigation by The Justice Dept. against AIPAC. Although I know none of the facts, I am well acquainted with the leadership of AIPAC, including most of those named in the newspapers. These are smart, experienced and seasoned leaders. They have a proven record of dealing intelligently and honestly with both public and private information.
True, I was in effect nurtured by AIPAC from the days in 1982 when I began my involvement in the national pro-Israel community. I learned that they have always emphasized the legal ramifications of each and every action taken. This is not primarily because of fear of overstepping the legal boundaries in the extremely murky field of lobbying, but because, as our 1989 encounter illustrated, we are under a magnifying glass. There are elements that watch our every movement, study every press release and document, and are ready to destroy us through any means possible; their hope is to silence us, creating a vacuum that they could use to change the landscape in Congress regarding Israel and its neighbors.
I am saddened to read the Anglo-Jewish newspapers describing a doomsday scenario for AIPAC.
Firstly I have full confidence in the outcome; our people are too smart and too professional to have violated any laws.
Secondly, even if some individual(s) was found to have violated a law (inadvertently or otherwise) our community must never lose sight of the overall record of AIPAC’s 55 years of courageous leadership and accomplishments. No organization could achieve so much in the public arena without gaining criticism and enemies in addition to supporters. If there were no AIPAC we would have to create one. How else could you deal with 435 House members and 100 Senators, plus staff, on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis to inform, educate, and yes lobby. Lobbying for and asserting ones beliefs is a very American way of doing things. We must not allow ourselves to be bullied or intimidated or to become defensive.
I have served in many Jewish organizations as a lay and professional leader, and have always believed that AIPAC is our communities’ most important and well run organization.
There are those who believe that the goal of this investigation is to force AIPAC to register as a lobby for a foreign government. This, if true, is an extremely dangerous and serious matter. It is essentially a malevolent accusation of dual loyalty and is not only an attack on AIPAC, but places in danger each American Jew and organization that speaks out on behalf of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
In addition, similar questions of dual loyalty might be raised regarding pro-Israel PACs (although PACs cannot lobby by law). The necessity of having single issue PACs and a lobby (in this case in support of Israel) was underscored many years ago by such groups as pro and anti–abortion and, environmentalists etc. who found out that you cannot maintain a cohesive multi-issue political group for long. Thus, our advocacy of but a single issue is a tactical one to maintain the largest constituency possible, rather than one of misplaced loyalty. There are ample groups (similarly single issue in nature) that we can join advocating on a myriad of other issues if we feel passionate enough to join.
We must vociferously reject any such notion as being offensive to us as loyal citizens. I am a Vietnam Veteran and am proud of both my service and my pro-Israel sentiments. Those sentiments were never questioned when I was in Vietnam.
It is time for the Justice Department to end the rumors and come forward with its findings, so we can put this behind us. The road for pro-Israel activists will be extremely difficult in the months ahead without these uncertainties hanging over our head.