Where Did AIPAC Come From?
AIPAC was founded by Isaiah L. "Si" Kenen, springing from the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs Kenen registered twice with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) as a foreign agent for Israel.[i] On April 21, 1947 he registered as an agent of the American Section of the Jewish Agency for Israel.[ii] Si Kenen also registered at FARA as an agent for the "Israel Information Services" on October 12, 1948 through May 13, 1951.[iii] Kenen changed the committee's name from the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 1959, to better reflect that it, according to him, "raised its funds from both Zionists and non-Zionists."[iv] Kenen's emphasis on a low-key, uncontroversial, and even non-descriptive organization name continued after his departure when AIPAC spawned a network of obliquely named political action committees (PACs) across the United States designed to sway the results of key elections. From a historical perspective, all of the lessons Kenen learned running the American Zionist Council with funds and guidance from the Israeli government are part of AIPAC's "institutional DNA." It is impossible to understand AIPAC without understanding its precursor, the American Zionist Council.
Kenen served as AIPAC's executive director and also owned and edited the influential newsletter, the Near East Report.[v] The Near East Report is now housed under a separate nonprofit corporate affiliate structure, for reasons explored later. Kenen was an Ohio newspaperman until 1943, when he left to become the secretary of the American Jewish Conference; he remained there until 1948.[vi] He was also the Jewish Agency's information director between 1947 and 1948 at the United Nations. This was Israel's first UN delegation after its formation as a state in 1948. In 1951, Kenen went to Washington to lobby Congress for aid to Israel, founding the American Zionist Committee, which later spun off AIPAC. Between 1951 and March 15, 1954, Kenen directed legislative activity in Washington on behalf of the American Zionist Council. The American Zionist Council restructured its lobbying activities beginning in early 1954, when the organization's leaders became uncomfortable using internationally sourced tax-exempt donations for lobbying on Capitol Hill. Fred Scribner, a friendly U.S. Undersecretary of Treasury, confidentially recommended during a 1959 meeting with key Zionist organizations operating in the U.S. that they needed to restructure themselves in order to avoid problems with the Eisenhower administration, the IRS, and the U.S. Department of Justice.[vii] According to UCLA scholar Steven Spiegel, opposition from the president was intense:
"The tension between the Eisenhower administration and Israeli supporters was so acute that there were rumors (unfounded as it turned out) that the administration would investigate the American Zionist Council. Therefore, an independent lobbying group was formed within the auspices of the American Zionist Committee." [viii]
AIPAC's original internal codename in the American Zionist Committee was "the Kenen Committee." Its results have been unparalleled in the history of foreign lobbying. An AIPAC obituary declared that the State Department strenuously opposed Kenen's earliest lobbying efforts. The indefatigable Kenen worked members of Congress and obtained initial approval of $15 million in aid to Israel, despite robust State Department opposition. This early success set AIPAC's strategy of seeking aid to Israel not on the basis of merit, presidential administration prerogative as the maker of foreign policy, or broad State Department initiatives, but through fake grassroots efforts financed by foreign funds from Israel to "prime the American pump." The Israel lobbying campaign for favorable public relations and media coverage included strategically directed gifts and grants to U.S. colleges and universities for new Israel-centric "Middle East Studies" departments and unfettered lobbying with tax-exempt funds recycled from overseas into the U.S. political system. Activity reports from this intensive campaign are documented in the first chapter.
By 1973, Kenen was able to claim that he had boosted U.S. aid to Israel to $1 billion per year. When Kenen retired in 1974, he still retained his "editor emeritus" title at the Near East Report. The spirit of AIPAC's hardball and often illegal tactics would continue long after Kenen left the scene, and the results are staggering. At the time of Kenen's death in 1988, U.S. aid to Israel exceeded $3 billion a year, the highest amount of U.S. aid given to any country.[ix]
It is popularly believed that the immense power of the Israel lobby sprang from broad grassroots commitment by concerned individuals across America. However, evidence from internal American Zionist Council and AIPAC documents reveals a different history. Many groups, including Christian religious organizations now highly active in AIPAC-directed affairs, were initially indifferent to or even suspicious of Israeli initiatives. It took millions of dollars of Israeli government and overseas funds and decades of effort to create the public relations, lobbying, and political juggernaut that now dominates in America. However, not all Americans welcomed the formation of Israel's lobby.
Founder Si Kenen's startup activities proved to be so brazen that they were put under the microscope of a U.S. Senate committee investigating the activities of non-diplomatic foreign agents in the United States. The investigation was originally focused on Latin America, but was compelled to investigate the Israel lobby being assembled on U.S. soil. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations dove headlong into questions about whether the American Zionist Council, AIPAC, the Jewish Agency and Si Kenen were avoiding Foreign Agents Registration Act declarations or filing false ones, acting as unlawful conduits to launder tax-exempt funds, and illegally disseminating Israeli government propaganda in the United States. This investigation, conducted by Senator James William Fulbright, provides the first outside glimpse into the American Zionist Committee, Si Kenen and AIPAC.
1963: Senator Fulbright Investigates AIPAC
Arkansas Senator James William Fulbright was an internationalist thought leader in the United States Senate. Fulbright's record as a Southern Democrat encompassed staunch multilateralist support for the creation of the United Nations and opposition to Joseph McCarthy's communist witch hunt. Senator McCarthy repeatedly slandered Fulbright with the moniker "Senator Half-bright." Though eminently qualified, Fulbright was ultimately denied consideration for the position of U.S. Secretary of State because of his uncompromising approach to dealing with Israel.
A notable blemish on Fulbright's legacy was his strong support for racial segregation, but the senator is perhaps most remembered among scholarly beneficiaries and American international exchange students for establishing the Fulbright Fellowship scholarship program. Born in Sumner, Missouri, Fulbright earned a science degree from the University of Arkansas in 1925, but became more worldly and appreciative of international education through study at Oxford University's Pembroke College where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Fulbright's understanding of U.S. law and foreign agent registration requirements were anchored in his legal studies; he earned a law degree from George Washington University Law School in 1934. In the same year, he was admitted to the Washington, DC bar and became an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice anti-trust division. This legal expertise would serve Fulbright well as he sought to understand one of the most complex and opaque chains of interlinked nonprofit corporations ever to be assembled in the United States.
Fulbright was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1942. He served one term and became a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The House adopted the 1942 Fulbright Resolution, which not only supported the concept of international peacekeeping forces, but also put the United States on track to participate in the League of Nations, which became the United Nations in 1945. In 1944, Fulbright rode a wave of increasing national fame to a Senate seat, and ultimately served five full terms. Fulbright became a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1949, and would go on to become the committee's longest-standing chair, serving from 1959 to 1974.
In 1962, Senator Fulbright became concerned about the activities of unregistered foreign agents working to influence public opinion and policy in the United States. His interest was piqued by a pair of articles authored by journalist Walter Pincus and Douglass Cater. Their reporting detailed U.S. -backed Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo's attempts to use U.S. media for public relations. They also uncovered the Guatemalan regime's covert purchase of friendly coverage in the American Mercury, a magazine founded by H.L. Mencken in 1924.[x]
Fulbright offered Walter Pincus a temporary research assignment investigating the scope and breadth of the U.S. activities of unregistered foreign agents. Pincus worked as staff director of the two-member investigatory subcommittee, bringing on staff counsel Charles P. Sifton (now a senior federal judge in Brooklyn).[xi] Pincus duly documented Trujillo's efforts to influence Kennedy administration sugar policies and other Latin American foreign agency issues through a series of overseas fact-finding trips. However, the Fulbright hearings were not at all limited to Latin America. They investigated ten lobbying groups suggested by Pincus that paralleled his news reports including China, West Germany, and Ghana.[xii] The investigators also subpoenaed documents, developed evidence, and called witnesses from important and highly active Zionist organizations in the United States that were established and given seed money by Israeli-government-related entities. Fulbright focused on the central funding role of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem and New York, Israeli government propaganda and ownership of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and funding for publications including the Near East Report and Israel Digest. The investigation also studied the conduits and internal financial operations of the American Zionist Council, Si Kenen, and AIPAC.
Fulbright held these 1963 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on foreign agents in a series of closed sessions. The May 23 and August 1 sessions focused entirely on Israel-related operations. Although subsequent news accounts and books would summarize or reference the outcome of the hearings, often with errors or omissions, few ever captured the lengthy, penetrating, and captivating verbal interchanges between Senator Fulbright and witnesses from the organizations subpoenaed to testify. A typical reference to the commission, published in 1970 by a now-defunct Dow Jones weekly newspaper, the National Observer, neatly summarized the investigation's outcome:
In 1963 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigated the Jewish Agency and uncovered a "conduit operation run by an organization called the American Zionist Council. Over an eight-year period, this council received more than $5,000,000 from the Jewish Agency to create a favorable public opinion in this country for Israeli government policies. The Senate investigation closed down the conduit, but the extensive propaganda activities still go on.[xiii]
Contemporary readers delving into the source material for that article may be astounded by the frank, businesslike proceedings in the transcripts, now released from their dank captivity in federal government archives. Wonderment, confusion, and angst shine through the brilliant exchanges as Fulbright presents subpoenaed evidence, analyzes data, and calls for further information, all while grilling evasive witnesses. Modern-day members of Congress unfamiliar with Fulbright's dialectic will be astonished to see how government oversight and subpoena power functioned in an era when the House and Senate still accommodated leadership capable of challenging issues as sensitive as the U.S. -Israel relationship. Fulbright and the Foreign Relations Committee were ready, willing, and able to compel high-ranking figures within the Israel lobby elite to appear and explain their foreign lobbying and public relations activities.
Senator Fulbright strove to uncover details about myriad indirect payments made by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency to AIPAC founder Si Kenen and the American Zionist Council. The Jewish Agency was required to file periodic Foreign Agents Registration Act declarations with the U.S. Department of Justice. Fulbright uncovered major covert initiatives designed to influence U.S. policy through media campaigns, indirectly subsidizing lobbyists such as Si Kenen and promoting Israeli government initiatives that were not being disclosed in FARA filings as required by law.
The Jewish Agency: Seed Money From Abroad
The central role of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency in establishing and funding initiatives through "conduits" resurfaces repeatedly in testimony to Fulbright and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Witnesses described the Jewish Agency as an independent organization with national affiliates similar to the International Red Cross.[xiv] One unknowing conduit of Jewish Agency funds, the Rabinowitz Foundation described it simply as an agency of the Israeli government, only to later retract the statement under pressure from the Jewish Agency's New York legal counsel. In the following select passages from the May 23, 1960 hearing, witnesses Isadore Hamlin, the executive director of the Jewish Agency-American Section, and the Jewish Agency's legal counsel Maurice M. Boukstein of the New York firm Guzik and Boukstein grapple with Senator Fulbright over the de facto status of the Jewish Agency. They also attempt to define the relationship between the Jewish Agency's American subsidiary incorporated in New York under a broad reorganization in 1960 and the executive headquarters in Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency established its first representative office in New York in 1944.[xv] Boukstein, in later testimony, would take credit for being one of the legal "architects"[xvi] of the system of interlocking nonprofit corporations doing end-runs around the clear intent of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Testimony would also reveal a direct connection between the nascent lobby and a little-known Israeli false-flag terror attack against the United States in Egypt. One board member of the Jewish Agency responsible for "colonization" in Israel and financing the startup of Israel's lobby in America was instrumental in engineering a cover-up of the terror bombing campaign codenamed "Operation Susannah."
Senator Fulbright: The Jewish Agency-American Section, Inc., is, I understand, a New York membership corporation organized in 1960?
Mr. Hamlin: It is, sir.
Senator Fulbright: And since 1960 it has been registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, as an agent of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem?
Mr. Hamlin: Mr. Chairman, would you just repeat the date when that filing took place?
Senator Fulbright: 1960.
Mr. Hamlin: 1960: that is correct.
Senator Fulbright: The relationship between the Executive and the American Section, is this contractual or not?
Mr. Hamlin: The American Section is part of the worldwide body called the Jewish Agency Executive. The Jewish Agency Executive is composed of 22 individuals, of which 6 reside in the United States, and so the American Section is part of the worldwide organization.
Mr. Boukstein: May I be of some assistance, Mr. Chairman?
Senator Fulbright: Yes.
Mr. Boukstein: The Executive, as was stated this morning, the Executive of the Jewish Agency is in Jerusalem: the American Section is exactly what it connotes. It is the American Section of the Executive which resides in the United States and functions for and on behalf of the Executive in Jerusalem.
Senator Fulbright: I was trying to clarify the record precisely what the word "Executive" means here. Does it mean the Executive committee of the Jewish Agency?
Mr. Boukstein: It is – do you want me to answer or the witness?
Senator Fulbright: The witness can answer.
Mr. Hamlin: It is in essence the Executive committee.
Senator Fulbright: Of the Jewish Agency?
Mr. Hamlin: Of the Jewish Agency; that is right.
Senator Fulbright: And it is composed of 22 people?
Mr. Hamlin: Pardon me?
Senator Fulbright: Of 22 people?
Mr. Hamlin: Of 22 individuals; yes sir.
Senator Fulbright: And six of those live in the United States?
Mr. Hamlin: Correct, sir.
Senator Fulbright: So that leaves 16 of them who live in Israel?
Mr. Hamlin: That is right, sir.
Senator Fulbright: Now are there any other members? Is this the whole body? Is there a board of directors other than the Executive?
Mr. Hamlin: No, sir. That is the governing body of the Jewish Agency, the total body.
Senator Fulbright: It is a corporation?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes.
Senator Fulbright: Does it have any stockholders?
Mr. Hamlin: No, not to my knowledge.
Senator Fulbright: It is incorporated by a special act of the Government of Israel, is that correct?
Mr. Hamlin: The Jewish Agency, yes, was recognized by special act of the Israeli Parliament.
Senator Fulbright: Are any members of the Executive living in Israel members of the Government?
Mr. Hamlin: Members of our Executive are members of the Government of Israel? Yes, sir.
Senator Fulbright: Who are they?
Mr. Hamlin: One member of our executive, Mr. Eshkol, is a member of the Israeli Government.
Senator Fulbright: What is his position in the Israeli Government?
Hamlin: He is the Minister of Finance. But, if I may add, in the Executive he has competence in one area of work, and that is the area of colonization.
Mr. Boukstein: If I may add, a member of the Executive, Mr. Shazar, was the day before yesterday elected the President of Israel, as you probably noticed in the newspapers.
Senator Fulbright: Does this disqualify him to be a member of the Executive?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes, it would disqualify him.
Senator Fulbright: Could you describe how the Executive – the relationship between the Executive and the American Section, how does the Executive, in other words, exercise control, if it does, over the American Section.
Mr. Hamlin: The American Section is the representative in the United States of the Jerusalem Agency – did you say exercise control, sir?
Senator Fulbright: If it does; yes. Does it exercise control?
Mr. Hamlin: I would say that in the final analysis there would be a vote of all 22 members.
Senator Fulbright: Yes.
Mr. Hamlin: On an issue which might bind them.
Senator Fulbright: Yes.
Mr. Hamlin: But if my experience would indicate anything, I would say that in matters that deal with American affairs, such as we have, the Jerusalem Executive more or less depends on the opinions of their members residing in the United States.
Senator Fulbright: Does this organization have a set of bylaws?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes.
Senator Fulbright: Do we have a copy?
Mr. Sifton: We have, again, an uncertified copy and perhaps, formally, we should have a certified copy.
Mr. Boukstein. Mr. Chairman, we will be glad to furnish it.
Senator Fulbright: He says you will furnish a certified copy of the bylaws of the Executive.
Mr. Hamlin Yes; we would be glad to, sir.
Mr. Boukstein: He will have to certify it as the secretary.
Mr. Fulbright: Yes; that is correct. That is of the Executive. Now, you also have a corporation of the American Section. It is incorporated in this country?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes, sir; New York State.
Senator Fulbright: And you could supply that?
Mr. Boukstein: I think there is a misunderstanding, Mr. Chairman. The Executive of Jerusalem has no bylaws.
Senator Fulbright: Not in Jerusalem?
Mr. Hamlin: I misunderstood you.
Mr. Boukstein. I though you were referring to the bylaws of the American Section and those, of course, we will supply you.
Senator Fulbright: What are the basic guidelines for the Executive in Jerusalem? Under what authority does it operate?
Mr. Hamlin: It is the constitution of the organization.
Senator Fulbright: Does that constitution set out how it should operate?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes. There is a constitution and there are standing rules of the organization.
Senator Fulbright: Could we have those then? Those are the equivalent of the bylaws; that is what I did not know exactly the terminology you used. But you could make that available?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes, sir; I would be glad to.
Senator Fulbright: Do you execute and prepare the registration? [FARA registration]
Mr. Boukstein: Mr. Chairman, as I am the expert on the subject, having acted for the Agency as counsel. The constitution defines the function of the Executive. There is no document that I am aware of that lays down the working rules, such as we would in this country refer to as bylaws of the Executive. They act by resolution.
Senator Fulbright: Well, do they act under majority rule?
Mr. Boukstein. They act under majority rule by resolution.
Senator Fulbright: Do they have subcommittees?
Mr. Boukstein: They have subcommittees which they appoint ad hoc or sometimes continuing subcommittees, Mr. Chairman. But we shall search – but I am aware of the existence of no document which would be the equivalent of rules or bylaws.
Senator Fulbright: Do they have minutes of meetings?
Mr. Boukstein: Yes, they do.
Senator Fulbright: Could you supply us with copies of the minutes of their meetings since 1960?
Mr. Boukstein: Mr. Chairman, I am not so sure that would be a pertinent document. The minutes are in Jerusalem. They relate to all kinds of matters. If you mean excerpts of minutes relating to activities in the United States, we will be glad to furnish them. But I don't think that you have any interest in minutes relating to matters of completely ungermane subjects.
Senator Fulbright: No; we wouldn't request anything ungermane. It was my understanding from testimony this morning that a very large percentage of the funds of the Executive derive from this country, is that correct?
Mr. Boukstein: That is correct.
Senator Fulbright: I will agree that not all of it would be. I was interested in how this Agency operates. I don't know of any precedent of anything like it in any other instance, and I thought it would be interesting to the committee to understand how foreign agents in this particular field operate and what kind of principals they represent.
Mr. Hamlin: Would you like for us to give you a description of the departments and operations in Israel, sir?
Senator Fulbright: Well, if you would care to very briefly.
Mr. Hamlin: All right. Do you want it now?
Senator Fulbright: You can do it in writing.
Mr. Hamlin: Yes sir, we can do it in writing, as you wish.
Senator Fulbright: Are you acquainted with an organization known as the American Zionist Council?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes, sir, I am.
Senator Fulbright: Subsequent to April 1, 1960, did the Jewish Agency-American Section make payments to the American Zionist Council?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes, sir.
Senator Fulbright: To the best of your knowledge, when did these payments begin?
Mr. Hamlin: If my memory serves me, I believe in 1961 for the budget of the Council.
Senator Fulbright: The first of the year, about?
Mr. Hamlin: I would have to look it up.
Senator Fulbright: Would you provide the committee with a record of such payments as you have made to the American Zionist Council?
Mr. Hamlin: Yes, sir, we would.
Senator Fulbright: The American Zionist Council.
Mr. Hamlin: Yes, sir.
Senator Fulbright: In general, what were the purposes of these payments?
Mr. Hamlin: The purposes of these payments were to assist the American Zionist Council carry out its Zionist educational and youth work, and its public informational activities.[xvii]
Boukstein's efforts to shield "ungermane" offshore operations from Senate scrutiny were purposeful. Even with limited sworn testimony, Fulbright established a direct line of funding flowing from a key government official and an Israeli-government-founded, quasi-governmental entity – the Jewish Agency in Israel – to AIPAC's precursor within several minutes. Fulbright also raised several issues relevant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. As the recipient of U.S. donations as well as funds from other donor countries, the Jewish Agency passed funds through the American Section to entities across the United States through the American Zionist Council. Later testimony and subpoenaed documents reveal that the American Zionist Council was washing away the appearance of foreign control in order to finance "policy research" and other public relations activities, as well as fortifying the position and financial muscle of the nascent U.S. -based Israel lobby groups so they could some day take over with no need for further foreign seed or startup funding. Fulbright was right to be concerned about these Jewish Agency operations, for which he did not see "precedent of anything like it in any other instance," as we detail in the final chapter. Decades after Fulbright's investigation, the Jewish Agency and its U.S. partners would be found by Israeli prosecutor Talia Sason to have engaged in laundering $50 billion toward numerous illegal overseas activities.
Although it didn't seem relevant at the time, the Jewish Agency Executive board member who was also minister of finance in the Israeli government serves as the most powerful example of why it was never in America's best interest to have a foreign principal establishing and empowering a stealth lobby in the United States. The minister referred to only by last name with "competence in one area of work, the area of colonization" was Levi Eshkol. At the time of Fulbright's inquiry, Eshkol was ending his 12-year stint as minister of finance and would soon become the ruling Mapai Party leader. When Prime Minister Ben-Gurion resigned in June 1963, Eshkol was elected Mapai party chairman. He was then appointed Prime Minister of Israel. His previously close relationship with Ben-Gurion soon turned hostile over a single matter of burning importance to the United States.
In the summer of 1954, Israel conducted a covert false-flag operation in Egypt known as "Operation Susannah." Israeli agents launched terrorist bombing attacks against U.S. -, British-, and Egyptian-owned targets in Egypt. Since 1950, it had been U.S. policy to pressure the British to withdraw from the Suez Canal and abandon two treaties: the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, which made the canal a neutral zone under British control, and the Convention of Constantinople. Israel feared that a British withdrawal would remove a check on Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser's military ambitions. After Israel's diplomatic efforts failed to convince the British to stay, Israel unleashed a false-flag terrorist operation designed to convince the British to stay while framing the Egyptians. Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon was forced to resign because of the incident, and the scandal came to bear his name. The break between Ben-Gurion and Eshkol occurred over Ben-Gurion's insistence on fully investigating and learning lessons from the sordid Lavon Affair. Eshkol was insistent that investigating the affair was a waste of time, and wished to bury it as soon as possible. On December 13, 1964, he addressed the issue to the Mapai Central Committee.
"If I vote in favor of an inquiry into the Lavon Affair…We would be opening a Pandora's box of troubles. It will not end with this affair or with this investigation. We'll be spending the next fifteen years dealing with investigations into various unsolved matters."[xviii]
Levi Eshkol, the Jewish Agency executive overseeing funding for the establishment of the Israel lobby in the United States, successfully quashed Ben-Gurion's demand to appoint a judicial inquiry into Israel's false-flag attack on America when he became prime minister of Israel.[xix]
Grant F. Smith
October 9, 2007
Labels: Where Did AIPAC Come From?