THE ARAB LOBBY IN AMERICA – HOW POWERFUL?

By Gary Fine
StarTribune.com

Is the Arab lobby, its strongest voice-the Saudi lobby, one of the strongest in America? According to a new book by American Middle East expert Mitchell Bard, the answer is a definitive YES!! Bard, currently the executive director of the nonprofit AICE (American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise), states that “one of the most important distinguishing characteristics of the American Arab lobby is that it has no popular American support.

While the Israeli lobby has hundreds of thousands of grass root members and public opinion polls consistently reveal a huge gap between support for Israel and the Arab nations-Palestinians, the Arab lobby has almost no foot soldiers or public sympathy.” He further informs us that the Arab Lobby’s most powerful tools are paid bureaucrats representing their “personal opinions” or what they consider to be “institutional interests”, and foreign governments promoting their own agenda, rather than those of the United States.

What they lack in human capital in terms of American advocates, they make up for with almost unlimited resources to try to buy what they usually cannot win on the merits of their arguments,” –M. Bard.

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Due to this lack of support, according to Bard, “The Saudis have taken a different tact from the Israeli lobby, focusing a top-down rather than bottom-up approach to lobbying. As hired gun, J. Crawford Cook, wrote in laying out his proposed strategy for the kingdom, ‘Saudi Arabia has a need to influence the few that influence the many, rather than the need to influence the many to whom the few must respond.’”

Attorney Alan M. Dershowitz wrote about Bard’s book in The Daily Beast: “The primary means by which the Saudis exercise this influence is money. They spend enormous amounts of lucre to buy (or rent) former state department officials, diplomats, White House aides, and legislative leaders who become their elite lobbying corps. Far more insidiously, the Saudis let it be known that if current government officials want to be hired following their retirement from government service, they had better hew to the Saudi line while they are serving in our government.”

In 1951 Saudi King Saud asked U.S. diplomats to finance an Arab lobby to counter AZCPA, now known as AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). In 1972, the NAAA (National Association of Arab-Americans), was founded “to strengthen U.S. relations with Arab countries…In the early 1970s there was growing anti-Arab sentiment related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the 1973 oil embargo, leading to government investigations, executive orders, and legislative provisions to combat terrorism.”

“Driven by oil revenues, the Arab lobby’s leverage in affecting American policy was demonstrated in early 1973 when Mobil published a pro-Arab advertorial in The New York Times. In July of that year, the chairman of Standard Oil of California (now called Chevron) distributed a letter asking the company’s 40,000 employees and 262,000 stockholders to pressure their elected representatives to support “the aspirations of the Arab people.”

In a similar spirit, the chairman of Texaco urged the U.S. to reassess its Middle East policy. When another Arab-Israeli war broke out in October 1973, the chairmen of the ARAMCO partners issued a memorandum warning the White House against increasing its military aid to Israel.

Shortly thereafter, the OPEC oil embargo (enacted in retribution for Western support of Israel) ushered in an era where the Arab lobby became much more prominent and visible than ever before.”-discoverthenetworks.orgArab activism in America has since surged with the creation of groups like the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee(ADC)1980 and the Arab American Institute (AAI)1985.

For many years these groups worked together on the Palestinian issue, including through newspaper, direct mail and advertising campaigns against U.S. loan guarantees to Israel and states’ purchase of Israel bonds, condemnation of Israeli human rights and calls for the U.S. government to pressure Israel, as well pro-Palestinian protests and letter-writing campaigns.

They also offered testimony to congress and criticized Israel’s congressional and organizational supporters, sought to pass pro-Palestinian resolutions in state and national party platforms; offering pro-Palestinian testimony before Congress and attempted to sue Israel in U.S. courts.”

Today, the Arab lobby has positioned itself on the local level as well. According to discoverthenetworks.org: “Its members receive community awards, participate in human relations councils, change the local educational curricula, persuade school districts to give them holidays off, and get local police and statewide officials to attend their events. Nationally, their influence is felt at the State Department in terms of their being invited to briefings, sponsored on road trips abroad, etc. Though the Arab lobby has a few Congressional friends today, its effect is felt primarily through joint efforts with organizations like the ACLU” in promoting its agenda.

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