The Israel Lobby: Is It Good For The US? THE ISRAEL LOBBY
Is It Good for the US? Is It Good for Israel?

Washington, DC - April 10, 2015 at the National Press Club

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How big is the Lobby and what does it do? An overview of the 501 (c) universe

by Grant F. Smith

I want to start with a story, and then I’ll introduce our other speakers, and that is about one of those lawsuits. On Feb 10, the Department of Defense released a document, “Critical Technology Issues [Assessment] in Israel,” that unequivocally confirms for the first time from a U.S. government source that Israel has an advanced nuclear weapons program and national laboratories equivalent to our Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore laboratories, and that the Soreq reactor, a gift of “Atoms for Peace” under the Eisenhower administration, has “the technology base required for nuclear weapons design and fabrication.”


This [FOIA] process was 1,132 days and another 140 days in federal court.


As many of you know, and this is one reason we’re repeating so many of these loops [videos shown during conference registration] about nuclear weapons, we do have modifications to our Foreign Aid Act of 1961, the Symington and Glenn Amendments that occurred in the mid-'70s, which explicitly prohibit U.S. foreign aid to countries trafficking in nuclear weapons technologies outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


And so our question must be, “How much are Americans at this point owed for all of the aid that was delivered on false pretexts?”


This amounts to $234 billion, as of today, and if there are 122 million U.S. taxpayers, our average refund per taxpayer is that figure up on the screen: $1,909.54. So the question is, as the video says, why do presidents deny this weapons program exists? Why does the press underreport it?


In this game, as in many games, if you’re looking at a con develop, and you can’t figure out who the mark is, or the victim, that’s because it’s you!


In this case, “strategic ambiguity,” as it’s called, is a farce masquerading as grand strategy that started back during the Nixon administration.  In 2014, the ISCAP, which is the highest declassification authority in the United States, overruled and released information about the Nixon-Meir negotiations, in which Nixon’s feelings that he would have “a Zionist campaign to try to undermine” him if he did not agree to this gag policy is clear at this point. 


Israel claims it won’t be the first to introduce.  Our presidents won’t comment on it.  Whistleblowers are punished by Department of Energy regulations, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is undermined, and taxpayers are both abused and uninformed.


And it’s not like they don’t know.  The question to ask is, “who’s being fooled?”


In a Google Consumer Survey last year, a majority of Americans, almost 64 percent, said that they believe the Israelis have a nuclear weapons program.  So they’re not being fooled.  And it’s a testament to the power of Israel lobbying organizations in this country that a policy costing so much can last for so long. 


So what I’d like to talk about are one portion of activist organizations, which I call “Israel Affinity Organizations,” which is a tax-exempt portion of this lobbying ecosystem. 


And just to define that a little bit more, we’re going to look at 350 organizations, we’re going to look at when they were formed, we’re going to look at some of their major functional categories, and what could happen in the future as they continue to grow in terms of revenue and resources.


So every organization I’m talking about, in aggregate, has to be either a 501(c) (3) or (4) organization which has unconditional support for Israel as a top priority. It is headquartered in the U.S. And it’s retaining its tax-exempt status.  Again, that’s almost 350 organizations—but it’s not the whole picture.


In terms of the whole picture, we realize that (in blue) we have this darker and darker puzzle [piece] called bundling campaign contributions that are premised on support for Israel.  In red we know  there are captive media organizations.  We know that the Brookings Saban Center is a carve-out of that organization that is very pro-Israel.  Not counted. Churches and synagogues, not counted.  Just the green portion, which is the puzzle piece that we’re looking at right now.


The first data extract reveals—in terms of the time they were incorporated or received tax-exempt status—there are four great waves. Number one, the wave asking for approval of Zionism and promotion of Zionism and immigration. Phase two, state building, the creation of fund-raising organizations, the big transfer organizations and subsidy organizations came into play. The '80s and '90s are a period of the media watch and think tanks, the off-splitting of the Washington Institute from the mother ship AIPAC.


And the fourth wave, I like to talk [about as] the attack, lawfare and campus monitoring and messaging are the top priorities of these organizations.  And later on in the program, there’ll be a lot of people talking about Israeli activity on campus.


It is interesting that half of the organizations surveyed, which are the biggest, were created before 1975, and half of them were created after 1975.  This is interesting because it coincides with the period in which the Justice Department, after trying to get the Zionist Organization of America to register as a foreign agent seven times, after ordering the American Zionist Council to register as a foreign agent, only to see the lobbying division AIPAC split off six weeks later and start the same activities—they threw in the towel. 


And so the number of organizations exploded, as did the amount of U.S. foreign aid, the blue line, in terms of their lobbying successes.  So there’s this blossoming of foreign aid that occurs right after DOJ threw in the towel.


The demands of these organizations, if you review tens of thousands of Nexis [and] Lexis pages, have evolved over time from simple recognition to the much more troublesome trade concessions- of course our first foreign [free] trade agreement was with Israel- terrorism designations of Israel’s enemies and, finally, calls for U.S. military action against Israel’s enemies. So these four “great waves” of Israel Affinity Organization leave us asking, “What will be the next great wave?”


I call the last one the “imposition” wave, in which we’re imposed [upon], told how to think on campus, told what Americans think by The Israel Project and its dubious polls.  Told what’s legal and not by the Lawfare Project on campus. 


These campaigns have been so highly successful, because Americans are fooled.


In fact right now most Americans according to a Google Consumer Survey that we took last fall, statistically significant, 58.5 percent think Iran already has nuclear weapons, right now.  So just like the run up to the war on Iraq, where Saddam was believed to be involved in 9/11, involved in possibly having weapons of mass destruction, we’re at that point right now in terms of Iran. 


And who can blame them?


With terrifying videos, this is a clip of the Clarion video called “Iranium” which shows us these menacing Iranian boats off the eastern seaboard launching nuclear SCUD missiles into the United States.


If I receive that, watch it, and believe it, of course I think Iran has nuclear weapons.


So, in aggregate, the total revenue of these 350 organizations has been growing. It suffered a bump, obviously, during 2008.  In 2012 it was $3.7 billion a year. The total charitable sector in the U.S. is about $350 billion dollars.  That’s growing at 4 percent per year. On average, Israel Affinity Organizations are growing at 5 percent, and that makes a big difference over the long run. At present, in aggregate, this sector of 350 organizations with Israel as a top priority are right behind the United Way, the largest tax-exempt organization, and right ahead of the Red Cross. 


So we’re talking about serious money, and a very cogent set of different categories of activities.


So I’m going to break them down into subsidy, fund-raising and local political action, the advocacy organizations and education/training, and look at their changes over time.


The base of this pyramid are the organizations that collect revenue, tax-exempt, and send it to Israel, send it as “American Friends” organizations, American Friends of Technion, etc., etc., and ship it overseas.


The second level, fund-raising and local political action, are the federations and JCRCs, then we have advocacy organizations like AIPAC, and finally education organizations.


So these subsidy organizations represent about 100 organizations, the largest category members are the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and these organizations are basically very much active in collecting and transferring revenue. 


The second level of the pyramid is much more interesting.  It’s the “fund-raising and local political action” organizations.  There are 150 federations raising large amounts through local fund-raising campaigns.  Most major fund-raising organizations are federations.  They give to local Jewish and non-Jewish recipients.  But they’re also giving large amounts in direct transfers to Israel.  And their community relations councils are highly active politically, highly active media watchdogs, and also lobby for local, city and state initiatives.


The General Assembly rivals AIPAC, except it’s a much more comfortable high-profile gathering of pundits from the media, friendly government officials, etc.


They are forming more interesting, robust mini-AIPACs in each state, such as the JPAC of California, which is lobbying effectively at the state level.


And although they always claim on their websites that they are not official sponsors of AIPAC events, and other political events, they are very active in pushing that national agenda down.


Close up, if you look at a foundation in Greater Los Angeles, they paid out $50 million in grants, $6.6 million in transfers to Israeli organizations, another $3.8 million to some of these other newer media watchdogs, Birthright Israel, which organizes trips, The Israel Project, which does research, and money for lobbying to the JPAC of California. If you’re not involved in any of this, the tax impact is still clear.  It creates about a $7.8 million hole that others will have to fill. 


And there are some interesting “test cases” going on here locally, about getting U.S. taxpayers to pay for what was traditionally paid for by the organizations, such as a million dollars in funds for building a new Hillel on campus, instead of having the organization pay for it, taxpayers are paying for it after lobbying by JCRC.


In terms of media watch, this is the kind of thing they watch out for.  This single picture of a Palestinian father who was grieving his dead child, [a campaign] was organized against the ombudsman to make sure that this “anti-Israeli bias” would not be shown on the front page.


The Israel Action Center’s media communications organizations are very active through JCRCs.


The website of the [national umbrella] federation boasts of their coverage, they claim 152 of these with the JCRCs embedded and not separately reporting taxes or lobbying expenses, but very active in terms of lobbying.


Advocacy is everything else.  The large organizations that claim to represent these networks, that lobby Congress, get legislation passed, and essentially work to censure unfavorable press and buff up Israel’s image


If we look at what they’re fighting, they’re not really fighting other organizations.  What they’re fighting is public opinion. In a fall survey, 60.7 percent of Americans, when being advised of the relative levels of aid to Israel,  said they did not support the current levels of aid.   It was either “much too much,” or “too much.”


So it takes a lot of money to get increasing, in many cases, annual aid [to Israel] in the face of massive public opinion that’s passive, but very clear in polling.


Here’s another poll. We took this last week.  Representative, statistically significant Google Consumer Research.


Here’s the poll question:  “Congress and state legislatures pass scores of resolutions condemning Palestinians and voicing unconditional support for Israel every year.” Two [responses]: These resolutions do not represent my views.  These resolutions represent my views.  They were randomly reversed. 


Almost 70 percent of Americans say, “These don’t represent my views.” 


So it takes real money to pass these in state legislatures, in the Congress, in the face of this passive, but very significant, opposition.


So the education and training/indoctrination segment of Israel Affinity Groups and Organizations is really involved in training within the community, Zionist education.  For the American public, it’s about Holocaust museums.  For law enforcement, it's about getting the ADL into law enforcement to train them on counter terrorism.  And so it's an effort that’s collecting about $317 million in 2012, with 14 major Israel Affinity Organizations propelling that.


Most Americans, again in broader scope according to a 2014 Chicago Council survey, don’t take one side or the other when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And so it takes real money, real political power to overcome what has been showing up in poll after poll after poll of the general American public. 


And so that’s why I think, when you look at the growth of the education segment of Israel Affinity Organizations, that’s been the fastest-growing segment since 2001. 108 percent over the time period between 2001 and 2012, with subsidy organizations growing at 62 percent, advocacy at 72 percent.


So there’s this real effort to reach youngsters, younger and younger, where they are, which is in social media and online, to give them the favorable views that many older Americans have.


And it looks like that will continue to be a priority in terms of spending over the future toward the end of the decade as well.


In terms of employment and volunteers, 14,000 people are on the payroll of organizations that have promoting unconditional support for Israel as a major goal, 353,000 volunteers.  And I’ve listed some of the bigger ones in order, but I would like to go on to what the future portends.


And in this case I think it is going to get worse before it gets better.


Israel affinity group revenue is growing quickly, more quickly than overall charitable donations, between 2001-2012.  We expect that a strong economy, fund-raising appeals and the acceleration [in fund-raising] since 2008 is going to increase that growth to 9 percent, and it’s worth tracking for one reason.


Finally, I want to talk about agency regulatory capture.  I already mentioned the Justice Department threw in the towel, it does not enforce laws on the books about foreign agency and consorting with foreign governments, and bringing that in as a domestic political issue.


We’ve had espionage investigations against AIPAC, the ADL, the Weizmann Institute, they were all quashed by political pressure.


The U.S. Treasury Department has never pulled tax-exempt status for any reason more innocuous than failure to file.  


And yet the charitable purpose of these organizations is dubious.  The American Israel Education Foundation, which was granted tax-exempt status as an education organization in ‘89, is supposed to educate Americans about the Middle East.  And it said, “All research produced and published will be made available to the general public.” 


Well, it never has been.  They don’t even have a website with more than one page, and that thing was put up a year ago.


Their observable activities are taking members of Congress on trips to Israel. A thousand of them between 2000-2015 and their family members.  Providing tax-deductible contributions for AIPAC education, what I would call a “disinformation campaign.”


A secret source gave us their latest briefing book.  And it’s essentially a list of points, which, if you read it ahead of Netanyahu’s speech, and his claims, you’d see that the same claims are in this briefing book to Congress.


That there really is no negotiation to be done over Jerusalem, that because Congress recognizes it in resolutions, they are no longer subject to debate.


And so it’s really interesting to thumb through that thing and see that it’s really not education.


AIPAC, again, has the same sort of problem in terms of where it came from and when. 


They were incorporated in 1963, six weeks after their parent was shut down.  Their tax-exempt organization application in ‘67 was for a charitable education and religious association, but they’ve been lobbying, just like their parent, and have never been called on the extremely tight coordination with the Israeli government, they’ve never been prosecuted for obtaining, on three occasions classified information to lobby against American industries and pass a free trade agreement, missile secrets to overturn sales to allies.


And they refuse to register under Foreign Agents Registration Act, even though they are a successor [to the Amercian Zionist council], the Justice Department is uninterested in that. AIPAC, again, has the same sort of problem in terms of where it came from and when. 


They were incorporated in 1963, six weeks after their parent was shut down [After a FARA order].  Their tax-exempt organization application in ‘67 was for a charitable education and religious association, but they’ve been lobbying, just like their parent, and have never been called on the extremely tight coordination with the Israeli government, they’ve never been prosecuted for obtaining on three occaisions classified information, to lobby against American industries and pass a free trade agreement, missile secrets to overturn sales to allies.


And they refuse to register under FARA, even though they are a successor, the Justice Department is uninterested in that.


So, I would just have to say, in conclusion, that studying the movements of these organizations provides a real insight into the future. 


Our next two panelists will provide a level of detail that’s even greater in terms of their observations, inside and outside, of these organizations.


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