What Is the Israel Lobby and How Does It Work?
Panel 1 Q&A
April 10, 2015
Moderator Grant F. Smith: Our next panel should be assembling over on the side. Again, if we could have Jeff Blankfort’s questions brought up to him directly. We’re going to start the next panel right on time so we’ve got about five minutes for questions. You can always ask us later as well.
Grant F. Smith: I’ve got a few questions here. Question number one: Can’t Arab allies of the U.S. use the legal approach of lobbying to influence U.S. Congress? The answer is no. The 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act is selectively enforced. If you’re Pakistani, you will be prosecuted if you attempt to do this. It is only one country that really has a total exemption to this.
Question number two: How many A-bombs does Israel have? I don’t know. Jimmy Carter, after he left office, speculated it was 100 or 150, something like that.
Jeff Blankfort: It’s about 300.
Grant F. Smith: Three hundred, okay. Thank you.
Jeff Blankfort: I saw it this morning.
Grant F. Smith: I quoted documents proving that Israel has nuclear weapons laboratories equivalent to Los Alamos. Does that mean that it not only has a fission bomb but also a fusion bomb? The report, again you can find it online, "Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations." It states unequivocally that in 1987, they were developing the codes they needed to build hydrogen bombs. Look at the report, but it’s pretty unequivocal. I’ll leave it to Seth. He’s going to go through his questions.
Seth Morrison: I’ll try to go through these quickly because there’s a lot here. Could or should you delegitimize the Israel Lobby without delegitimizing Israel itself? Do you think Israel is sustainable?
In all honestly, I don’t know. What I do know is that we tend to focus on the Israel-South Africa analogy. There is a problem with that analogy in that in South Africa, the whites were 10 percent and the blacks were 90 percent. In Israel, roughly 50 percent of the people are Jewish. We have a horrible situation with competition for the land, and we have to find a way to be fair to all of them and hopefully better minds than mine can do that.
Does AIPAC mentor or develop people in Washington at the senior level? I’d say it’s the wrong question, because what AIPAC does is it starts at the beginning. In local communities, AIPAC is politically neutral. They recruit both Democrats and Republicans and go to see everybody. If you run for city council or state legislator, somebody is going to come over to you and say, “Hi, I’m a Democrat. If you’re a Democrat, then I’m a Democrat. I’m from AIPAC. We just wanted to say hi and by the way, here’s my check.” It’s somebody who is probably going to give him a check anyway, but he’s doing it through AIPAC so that he gets the influence. By the time they get to DC, they’re already purchased.
This is an interesting one: Talk about the funding of the Conference of Presidents. Again, it’s a non-issue. These are the heads of the groups that we just heard raised millions. The Conference of Presidents is unbelievably small. It has one executive and I think if I read correctly, it’s like five or six staff. They’re a decision-making body, not an operational body, so funding for them is not an issue.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Malcolm Hoenlein, who is the long-time executive director of the Conference of Presidents, bragged back in 1995 when Clinton was president as having been the architect helping to form the first Counterterrorism and Death Penalty Act. We should add that the number of possible death penalties under the federal law, but also really responsible for making it almost impossible for Arab Americans to donate money to Palestinian organizations without the possibility of being arrested for collaborating with a terrorist organization. They are very instrumental, and they have access to the offices of every member of Congress.
One other thing I should say about AIPAC that we’ll hear about later is they have their meetings and dinners and luncheons all over the country, and they invite members of all the local officials—mayors, city councilmen, supervisors, police chiefs —anyone who is a potential candidate for Congress. When they leave, then the local federations, Jewish organization, then send those officials on all-expense-paid trips to Israel so by the time when they come back, they realize that these organizations are powerful politically- and very ambitious politicians, they know where the bread is buttered, and so they’re in Israel’s pocket even before they run for Congress.
Moderator Grant F. Smith: Thank you very much. Next panel, please.
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