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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

AIPAC: A Very Needed Jewish Education and Advocation Lobby

Nadene Goldfoot
America is a nation of immigrants, so it's natural that Jews have fled here for more reasons than many.  2.2% of America's population is made up of people of the Jewish religion according to 2006 figures. That means there are about 296,410,404 people in the United States and about 6,452,030 are Jewish.   New York is the home of most with 1,618,320 or 8.4% of the state.  California, 2nd highest Jewish %,  has 1,194,190 or only 3.3% of it's population.  Probably most are in Los Angeles.  Oregon has 31,850 or 0.9% Jews with Buddists numbering more while Wisconsin has 28,330 or 0.5% of  a Jewish population.  World-wide, Jews make up less than 1% of the population.  Europe has lost most all of the Jews from the Holocaust.  Israel is the home  of about 5,795,000 Jews who make up 75.4% of Israel's population.  It was established as a Jewish nation.  These two countries make up the bulk of the Jews in the whole world. 

AIPAC or American-Israel Public Affairs Committee was created on January 2, 1963 and is a registered open lobbying group advocating pro Israel policies to Congress and the Executive branch based in Washington D.C.  The Washington offices provide information to and from their agencies.  They do research to get out the agency's programs and to maintain relations with many community organization.  Law limits national Jewish agencies and it's very important to maintain information about American-Israeli relations so this is the role of AIPAC.  It is supported by contributions from its members who are American citizens and the sale of its Near East Report.  They have 6 or 7 professional AIPAC workers including editorial staff.  The Executive Committee includes a broad cross-section of Jewish activists. 

American Jews are not the only ones with a lobby organization.  Israel has its own and is its embassy, for that's what embassies do.  They educate our American public and congress and advocate policies in their interest.  For every Israeli official in Washington there are 15 or 20 from the many Arab nations (47 majority Muslim countries not counting "Palestine" at my last count), the Soviet bloc and the 3rd and 4th world blocs who are promoting opposite views.  They are never idle nor ignored.

America has many active societies of our roots before immigration.  There are British, French, Polish, Swedish and Japanese societies all over America.  Many nations in the world have special friends in America.  It is perfectly normal for Israel to have a lobby group such as AIPAC which  seeks to fullfill the goals of the American Jewish community. 

Jews do have other Jewish organizations.  All of them combined probably employ at the most 12 professional employees.  They are kept by law from doing any lobbying and they obey the law scrupiously, and this is where AIPAC steps in.  People who lobby have to be registered and professionals.  AIPAC in reality is very ordinary and modest compared to others.  It holds no cocktail parties or fancy dinner parties and they have no unlimited expense accounts.  There has never been any allegations of improper political activities from any Jewish representative in Washington. 

AIPAC gets out technical information and help that Congressmen and their assistants need.  It also keeps its member informed through the Near East Report, direct communications and once in a while through conferences or speaking engagements.  It helps us all to know when there is a need for supporting an action that is deemed important.  How to understand issues is explained by this group. 

In May of this year delegates from all 50 states went up on Capital Hill to lobby mainly for Israel's security assistance.  They were joined by friends from CUFI (Christians United for Israel) . 

Other lobby groups work for medium-sized corporations or trade associations, small international unions, health or welfare organization with larger Washington operations than the entire Jewish establishment.  Individual oil companies spend more on lobbying than all Jewish organization combined. 

Jews try very hard to work with their communities and to be an active participant themselves.  They have earned the respect of non-Jewish groups, mayors and governors as well as Congressmen and Senators.    Glenn Beck went alone to Israel and has been joined by Pastor Hagee in support. 

I'm proud to be an AIPAC member along with my friends who are concerned about Israel's welfare.  AIPAC has about 100,000 members. You don't have to be Jewish to be a member, just care about Israel.  What I appreciate most about this group is that they are not trying to tell Israel what is best for them in their eyes but back Israel's decisions and needs. After all, Israel is a true democracy and has a right to make its own decisions.   After living in Israel for 5 1/2 years from 1980 to the end of 1985, before I ever saw a computer, I appreciate this very much, for no one knows the problems better than those who live in Israel.  I found that  terrible happenings in Israel rarely made it into nation-wide American newspapers nor did their accomplishements.  Our Oregonian or Idaho Statesman as well as the Ontario Argus just weren't in the know.  It seemed to me that the only news that made American papers were something reporters could find fault with.  The only way I could communicate with my family was through my portable typewriter and snail mail, of which usually took over 2 weeks to reach my family.  The one expensive time I tried the phone ended with getting the wrong party, so I didn't try that again.  Now that I live back in Oregon, I feel good about supporting Israel through AIPAC's membership and helping this way.  Besides that, we all get together for a once a year dinner and hear the latest reports from AIPAC leadership who also attend. 

The media has tried to paint a picture of AIPAC as an all-powerful, extremely effective Jewish lobby.  Could it be that what they try to present is sane and full of common sense?  With only a few professionals at AIPAC's disposal, the active members in each state are men and women who work for a living and take their own time to get involved and to trek to Washington DC in order to back Israel's existence.
Jewish Digest November 1975  "The Truth About the "Jewish Lobby" by Hyman Bookbinder condensed from Washington Letter page 3-6.

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