Aipac is definitely NOT a lobbying group. Rather, it is an “educational” organization. Yup, if you believe what Aipac is peddling they have nothing whatsoever to do with the sleaze represented by the likes of Jack Abramoff. They’re merely an educational outfit trying to enlighten the U.S. Congress about the goodness of the State of Israel.
JTA is peddling this horse manure in Congressional Travel Limits Don’t Faze Nonprofits. The new Democratic majority is considering legislation to ban Congressional junkets. And pro-Israel Jewish groups which lobby, er educate, Congressmembers about the “right” way to think and vote regarding issues related to Israel are tremendously nervous that they’ll be swept up in the fervor to uproot the type of shenanigans pulled by the likes of Jack Abramoff. While it’s true that no Aipac junket provides golfing at St. Andrews, these trips ARE lobbying of the clearest sort and should come under the proposed guidelines. However, it looks like the proposed legislation has been rewritten so Israel trips will still be permissible unfortunately:
Top Democrats informed Jewish groups this week of proposed travel reform legislation that would ban lawmakers and their staffs from joining tours sponsored by organizations that employ registered lobbyists…Nonprofit groups that do not employ lobbyists would still be able to sponsor such tours…
You see, the issue is whether a non-profit like the American Israel Education Foundation, spun off by a lobbying group like Aipac in order to conduct these trips, should be considered part of the parent group or independent of it. If they are part of the parent, then they would be considered a lobby and Congress members would be banned from joining such trips. If they are independent, then everything would be kosher. Clearly, seeing AIEF as independent of Aipac is a useful fiction for both Aipac and its sycophants in Congress. And doubtless, that’s how the final legislation will ending up looking.
I was tickled though by some of the outrageous assumptions made by Jewish lobbyists, er educators about their function in the legislative process. This is from a United Jewish Communities representative:
“We are very upbeat that they have come up with a mechanism for stopping junkets, while at the same time maintaining bona fide educational trips for members of Congress and their staff,” he said.
Isn’t it interesting that a propaganda junket which, instead of “educating” rather indoctrinates members in the rightist Israeli world view so cherished by Aipac and its fellow groups–becomes such a lily-white enterprise in the pro-Israel lobby’s lexicon.
Note how the Jewish leadership manages by linguistic sleight of hand to distinguish itself from the Abramoffs of the world:
[The new legislation] would mean that lawmakers on legitimate tours will be deprived of insights from those Jewish-community professionals who know them best and meet with them most often in the halls of Congress.
You see, Jack was a skunky lobbyist. But Howard Kohr, Abe Foxman, David Harris and their flacks are “Jewish professionals.” They uphold much higher standards of course. They would certainly never engage in hanky panky with a Congress member to get their vote on legislation critical to the Israel Lobby. Never. They would never stoop to flattery, cajolery, or barraging them with propaganda or threats in order to gain a vote (much as Abramoff did). Never.
In defending their propaganda tours of the Promised Land, the Israel Lobby grasps at any straw to distinguish them from Abramoff type junkets:
It’s broadly understood that the Israel sojourns — grueling 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. affairs — hardly count as junkets.
But what they conveniently omit is the fact that these Israel trips, while not as blatantly corrupting as the Abramoff outings, are toxic nonetheless in their impact on U.S.-Israel relations in terms of the Congress. Members get an entirely distorted perspective on Israeli political discourse. They only hear from the rightist security hawks like Netanyahu or Sharansky. If they do hear from so-called moderates like Shimon Peres or Tzipi Livni, the political message conveyed is much more conservative than the message such politicians would convey to an Israeli audience. In other words, the Israeli sources tailor their message for what they perceive as Aipac’s hardline views of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
On these trips, they do not hear from Peace Now or Israeli human rights groups. They rarely if ever hear from the likes of Yossi Beilin, Yossi Sarid or parties like Meretz. They rarely if ever hear from Israeli Arabs who represent 25% of Israel’s population. Sure, they’ll see an Israeli air force base or maybe even get a helicopter ride showing them how allegedly vulnerable Israel is to Arab attack (this was a favorite ploy of Ariel Sharon with visiting U.S. presidents and other notables). But will they ever see the inside of Neve Shalom’s peace village? Hardly.
So if Aipac’s Congressional allies want to write legal fictions into law that’s their perogative. But it doesn’t mean the discerning among us won’t notice the chicanery and call the rest of the world’s attention to it. A lobbyist is a lobbyist is a lobbyist. Jack Abramoff learned everything he knows from Aipac whether he worked there or not. Aipac is a lobby and trips which its “educational” affiliates sponsor are for lobbying purposes. Plain and simple. As such, they should be banned. Until they are all I can say to Aipac is: “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Bob Dylan said that.