The conservative colonization of much of the media, K Street lobbying firms and a good chunk of the judiciary has been well documented. It would therefore be surprising if other political institutions were resisting this trend. Perhaps some are, but don’t for a second think that the conservative message machine is going to stop there. Over the years, owing to a variety of reasons and specific historical moments, the Republicanization and increasing hawkishness of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has continued apace, with little heed paid to the ramifications of this shift or its increasing alliance with the far right.
Whether AIPAC is good or bad for US foreign policy is a topic of enormous and vitriolic dispute, and one I plan to avoid here (though of course I have pretty strong views). Rather, what requires some attention is the right-wing takeover of the organization and its increasingly close relationship with the Republican Party.
Not long ago, an anonymous tipster with access to a member of AIPAC’s board of directors passed along an e-mail with an inside story on just what has been happening behind the scenes. A few years ago, the source’s boss, according to the e-mail, said that “he didn’t like Rudolph Giuliani because Giuliani was “too conservative” for his taste. Immediately he got involved with AIPAC, he declared that he couldn’t support Democrats anymore unless he absolutely had to, and he started hosting politicians such as Jim Bunning, Sam Brownback and Conrad Burns at our offices, because they are strongly “pro-Israel.”
“AIPAC is committed to turning the country completely over to ultra-right-wing Republican control. I am sure it colludes with other organizations to make this happen,” the source concluded.
He also forwarded a few e-mails sent on a “pro-Israel” mailing list, complaining about Democrats who voted against recent House and Senate resolutions supporting Israel in its war against Hezbollah. The e-mail notes, “Four Republicans. Nineteen Democrats [voted against the resolutions]. Now, tell me again which party you belong to…and why?
“Irrespective of your party affiliation, I urge you to join AIPAC and to get involved politically to help elect Senators and Representatives who support Israel and democracy around the world.”
(The list was so sloppily compiled that it included Ernest Hollings, Gary Condit and Earl Hilliard. Senator Hollings left office two years ago, while Condit and Hilliard have been out of their seats for four years each.)
The shift is not exactly news. Back in March 2002, Michael Massing wrote this in The American Prospect: “During the 1980s, when AIPAC was establishing its reputation, policy was effectively set by four ex-presidents: Robert Asher, a lighting-fixtures dealer in Chicago; Edward Levy, a building-supplies executive in Detroit; Mayer “Bubba” Mitchell, a scrap-metal dealer in Mobile, Alabama; and Larry Weinberg, a real-estate broker in Los Angeles (and a former owner of the Portland Trailblazers). Asher, Levy, and Mitchell were stalwart Republicans who raised huge sums for that party; Weinberg was a Scoop Jackson Democrat.”