Protesting AIPAC’s “Pernicious Influence”
The American Conservative has published a denouncement of the world’s largest pro-Israel lobby, penned by ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi and titled “Should AIPAC Register as a Foreign Agent?” The answer Giraldi is seeking is, of course, yes. This is not particularly surprising, since American Conservative was initially co-founded by Patrick J. Buchanan—another frequent critic of the Jewish state.
As to Giraldi’s own views, he wrote candidly in 2012: “I don’t like Israel very much,” whose government is essentially a “long-running criminal enterprise” and a “rogue regime” that has “successfully manipulated…the United States, and has done terrible damage both to our political system and to the American people, a crime that I just cannot forgive, condone, or explain away.”
In context of today’s uproar over possible Russian perfidy, Giraldi introduces the subject of FARA—Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1936. He explains, “FARA was created in the lead up to World War II to help monitor the activity of Italian, German and Japanese agent-lobbyists who were believed to be working hard in the U.S. to influence opinion as well as congressional votes in favor of their respective sponsoring nations. The intention was to force the ‘foreign agents’ to register with the Department of the Treasury so they would have to identify their government sponsors and be required to reveal their sources of income.”
In short, FARA’s initial targets for registration were foreign-funded spies and infiltrators of hostile nations; those seeking to import subversive ideas to America. Needless to say, in 1938 Italy, Germany, and Japan weren’t exactly benign forces as far as United States lawmakers were concerned. FARA was clearly put in place to deal with US enemies.
Giraldi admits that FARA has not been “rigorously enforced” over the years, but implies perhaps that is changing, since former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was recently forced to register with FARA as an “agent” of Turkey, after his firm received money from Ankara via a Dutch source.
Turkey is, of course, on rather shaky ground with the US due to its ever-increasing Islamist agenda, President Recept Tayyip Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions, and particularly since a rather puzzling failed coup attempt a year ago, which was foiled by the president’s loyal henchmen. It seems that Flynn had been encouraged—with more than half a million dollars on the table—to promote Erdogan & Co.’s view of the attempted coup. After a couple of op-eds the deal was scrapped, and Flynn was fired by President Donald Trump.
From there, Giraldi launches into his specific attack on AIPAC. “Ironically, the most powerful and effective foreign-government lobby in Washington is so dominant that it has been able to avoid registering for the past 55 years.”
He quotes AIPAC’s own website, which declares itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby,” and details the size and cost of its clearly massive endeavors. The fact that AIPAC has non-profit tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(4) is particularly galling to him.
“No Washington lobby is benign,” Giraldi declares. “Lobbies exist to subvert the public interest. They promote particular agendas and are not intended to enhance the general well-being of the American public.” He concludes that lobbies are solely driven by the “self-interest” of those that fund them.
But what he fails to note is that AIPAC, by its own declarations and documentation, is not an agent of Israel. Why? Because it is not funded by Israel. Yes, it lobbies for what it perceives as Israel’s best interests, but its finances are provided by American donors.
Furthermore, since Israel receives large amounts of US aid, Giraldi maintains that AIPAC and the Israel Lobby are “not cost-free” for the American public. Perhaps not, but the American tax-payer is not paying for AIPAC’s endeavors.
And it is worth noting—since military aid to Israel is inevitably a point of contention—that, of the current US $3.1 billion designated for the Jewish State, Israel is required to spend all but 26.3 percent of that amount in the US.
Above all, Philip Giraldi seems most troubled by AIPAC’s successful efforts to urge lawmakers in both the Senate and House to block Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) activities against Israel.
“The two versions of the bill that are moving through Congress have 238 sponsors and cosponsors in the House and 46 in the Senate. If you do your math, you will realize that those numbers already constitute a majority in the House and are only five short of one in the Senate, so passage of the bills is virtually assured,” Giraldi complains.
He goes on to say, “Twenty-one state legislatures have already passed various laws confronting BDS, in many cases initiating economic penalties on organizations that boycott Israel or denying state funds to colleges and universities that allow BDS advocates to operate freely on campus. The pending federal legislation would go one step further by criminalizing any U.S. citizen ‘engaged in interstate or foreign commerce’ who supports a boycott of Israel.”
He finds opposition to BDS “particularly dangerous” when it affects America’s international allies.
Giraldi’s tirade raises a couple of questions: For one thing, why does Israel have such widespread support? Is he implying that numerous US lawmakers and other Israel enthusiasts have been bribed, blackmailed, or otherwise bullied by clandestine AIPAC actions?
Or does he assume that they, along with 62 percent of the American people, are simply not bright enough to fathom Israel’s supposed crimes and misdemeanors and the “pernicious influence of the unregistered and unrestrained Israel Lobby?”
Either way, judging by Israel’s burgeoning attainments in international diplomacy, medical technology, agricultural innovation, economic vitality, and military expertise, perhaps ex-spook Philip Giraldi has simply and inadvertently planted his feet on the wrong side of history.
Lela Gilbert is an internationally recognized expert on religious persecution, an award-winning writer, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute who lived in Jerusalem for over a decade. She is Religion and Freedom editor at Newsmax, a contributor to Philos Project, Fox News, Algemeiner, and others. Her book Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner received wide critical acclaim. She is also the co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, and Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion. Follow her on Twitter @lelagilbert.
Photo Credit: Then-Speaker Boehner delivers remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference on May 23, 2011. Photo by Speaker John Boehner’s office, via Flickr.