The powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tried to convince Americans that a humanitarian Congress member, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, is ‘worse than ISIS’ because of her bill to protect Palestinian children. AIPAC officials have been investigated for espionage on behalf of Israel. It has long advocated for the Israeli government.
REP. BETTY MCCOLLUM (D-MN) called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) a “hate group” after it placed ads on Facebook which implied that McCollum and other members of Congress who had defended the rights of Palestinians were worse than the terrorist group ISIS.
McCollum declared: “as a member of Congress and the vice-chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I believe defending human rights and freedom are foundational to international security and our democracy. The struggle to promote human dignity inevitably results in confronting entrenched forces determined to dehumanize, debase and demonize individuals or even entire populations to maintain dominance and an unjust status quo. Hate is used as a weapon to incite and silence dissent. Unfortunately, this is my experience with AIPAC.”
In explaining why he was not attending this year’s AIPAC conference, Sen. Bernie Sanders declared: “The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people. I am concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”
In a column headlined, “AIPAC Makes Sanders’ Point for Him,” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes: “AIPAC and Netanyahu seemed intent on proving Sanders’ point. As the conference opened…Netanyahu, speaking to the group via satellite…derided the Palestinians as ‘the pampered children of the international community.’ The AIPAC audience applauded….Netanyahu told AIPAC he was moving forward with plans to annex Palestinian territory—-a move that would make the long sought two-state solution all but impossible.”
In what many considered a direct effort to influence the American presidential election, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon declared: “We don’t want Sanders at AIPAC. We don’t want him in Israel. Anyone who calls our prime minister a racist is either a liar, an ignorant fool, or both.”
Even Netanyahu reportedly regards AIPAC as just another right-wing American interest group. ‘We don’t need AIPAC anymore,’ Netanyahu reportedly told one of his advisers. ‘We have enough support in the United States from the evangelicals. I’d happily give up on AIPAC if we didn’t need to counteract J Street,’ a liberal pro-Israel group.
Writing in The Forward, Batya Ungar-Sargon, in an article titled, “How AIPAC Proved Bernie Right,” notes, “I had never before been in the same room as a person who has defended genocide…until the AIPAC policy conference. Words like apartheid and genocide and ethnic cleansing are often thrown around in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… But it wasn’t a defender of Israeli war crimes, real or imagined, who was hosted by AIPAC. It was someone from a different context entirely.
“In July of 1995, 8,000 Muslims were murdered in Srebrenica in what the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia deemed a genocide. Under the command of Ratko Mladić, a Serbian paramilitary unit killed thousands and thousands…Aleksander Vučić was then serving as Minister of Information. He imposed fines for journalists who opposed the government and banned foreign TV networks. The Serbian media he oversaw was accused of justifying atrocities and demonizing ethnic minorities….Vučić has reinvented himself…and has been serving as president of Serbia since 2017…AIPAC welcomed the Serbian President to address its 18,000 delegates.”
Over the years there have been frequent calls for AIPAC to register as a foreign agent. In the 1970s, Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-AR), then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argued that this should be done, as have other U.S. foreign policy and intelligence analysts.
In April 2005, AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman were fired from AIPAC amid an FBI investigation into whether they passed classified international security information to Israel. They were later indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified information to Israel. AIPAC agreed to pay the legal fees for Weissman’s defense through appeal if necessary, but charges were ultimately dropped.
In May 2005, the Justice Department announced that Lawrence Franklin, a U.S. Air Force Reserve Colonel working as a Department of Defense analyst in the Pentagon, had been arrested and charged by the FBI with providing classified international defense information to Israel. The 6-count criminal complaint identified AIPAC by name. Franklin pleaded guilty to turning over classified material to both AIPAC and an Israeli government official. He was sentenced to almost three years in prison.
Respected Jewish commentator Peter Beinart said of AIPAC, “In reality, they are not independent of the Israeli government. When Netanyahu came out against the Iran deal, AIPAC did not have an independent choice of whether it was going to or not. It pretty much has to kowtow to the Israeli government all the time.”
According to journalist Connie Bruck, AIPAC has been able to “deliver the support of Congress” to prevent any president who wants to negotiate with Israel from using the multi-billion dollar packages of military aid that go to Israel each year as leverage for passing the spending and taking away this strongest negotiating chit.
AIPAC has helped to make Israel the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since the end of World War ll. It now receives more than $3.8 billion in aid yearly. As a result of AIPAC’s efforts, this aid includes numerous provisions that are not available to other American allies.
According to the Congressional Research Service, these provisions include providing aid “as all grant cash transfers, not designated for particular projects, and transferred as a lump sum in the first month of the fiscal year, instead of in installments. Israel is allowed to spend about a quarter of the military aid for the procurement in Israel of defense articles and services…rather than in the U.S.”