Friday, August 15, 2008

PAUL FINDLEY They Dare to Speak Out 5

"Three Calls Within Thirteen Minutes"
Only a few members of the House of Representatives have criticized Israeli policy in recent years, reflecting mainly the vigilance and skill of Israel's U.S. lobby. It reacts swiftly to any sign of discontent with Israel, especially by those assigned to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
A young man working in 1981 in the office of the late Democratic Congressman Benjamin S. Rosenthal of New York, who was then the leader of the House's "Jewish caucus," witnessed firsthand the efficiency of this monitoring. Michael Neiditch, a staff consultant, was with Rosen­
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thai in his office one morning when, just before 9:00, the phone rang.59 Morris Amitay, then executive director of AIPAC, had just read the Evans and Novak syndicated column that morning in the Washington-Post, and he didn't like what he read.60 The journalists reported that Rosenthal had recently told a group of Israeli visitors: "The Israeli occu­pation of the West Bank is like someone carrying a heavy pack on his back—the longer he carries it, the more he stoops over, but the less he is aware of the burden." Rosenthal had personally related the incident to Robert Novak. Although he used the descriptive image "ever so gently," according to Neiditch, it caused a stir.
Amitay chided Rosenthal for speaking "out of turn." About five minutes later, Ephraim "Eppie" Evron, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, called with the same message. Then, just a few minutes later, Yehuda Hellman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations called. Again, the same message. Neiditch remembers that Rosenthal looked over and observed, "Young man, you've just seen the Jewish lobby's muscles flex." Neiditch recalls: "It was three calls within thirteen minutes."
Another senior committee member, an Ohio congressman who was more independent of Israel's interests than Rosenthal, nevertheless found his activities closely watched. Republican Charles Whalen felt the pres­sure of the lobby when he accepted a last-minute invitation to attend a February 1973 conference in London on the Middle East.61 It was held under the auspices of the Ford Foundation. No Israeli representative was present, but to his surprise, on his return to Washington, Whalen was called on by an Israeli lobby official who demanded all of the meeting's details—the agenda, those present, why Whalen went, and why Ford had sponsored it.
Whalen recalled, "It was just amazing. They never let up." Whalen believed it was the last such conference Ford sponsored. "They got to Ford," Whalen speculated, adding that the experience was a turning point in his own attitude toward the lobby: "If I couldn't go to a con­ference to further my education, I began to wonder, 'What's this all about?'"
A Minnesota Democrat had reason for similar wonderment after he left Congress. Richard Nolan, a businessman in Minneapolis, dis­covered the reluctance of his former colleagues to identify themselves
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with a scholarly article on the Middle East.62 He individually approached fifteen congressmen, asking each to insert in the Congressional Record an article that discussed the potential for the development of profitable U.S. trade with Arab states. Written by Ghanim Al-Mazrui, an official of the United Arab Emirates, it proposed broadened dialogue and rejec­tion of malicious stereotypes. Under House rules, when such items are entered in the Record, the name of the sponsoring member must be shown. Nolan reports, "Each of the fifteen said it was a terrific article that should be published but added, 'Please understand, putting it in under my name would simply cause too much trouble.' I didn't encounter a single one who questioned the excellence of the article, and what made it especially sad was that I picked out the fifteen people I thought most likely to cooperate." The sixteenth congressman he approached, Democrat David E. Bonior of Michigan, agreed to Nolan's request. The article appeared on page E 4791 of the October 5, 1983, Record. It was one of those unusual occasions when the Congressional Record contained a statement that might be viewed as critical of poli­cies or positions taken by Israel or, as in this case, promoting dialogue with the Arabs.
It was one of several brave steps by Bonior that made him a future target of Israel's lobby. Speaking before the Association of Arab Ameri­can University Graduates in Flint, Michigan, two months before the 1984 election, Bonior called for conditions on aid to Israel, declaring that the United States has been "rewarding the current government of Israel for undertaking policies that are contrary to our own," including Israel's disruption of "U.S. relations with long-standing allies such as Jor­dan and Saudi Arabia."
"An Incredible Burst of Candor"
Even those high in House leadership who represent politically safe districts are not immune from lobby intimidation. They encounter lobby pressure back home, and sometimes they vote against their own conscience.
In October 1981 President Reagan's controversial proposal to sell AWACS (intelligence-gathering airplanes) and modifying equipment for F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia was under consideration in the House. Congressman Daniel Rostenkowski, chairman of the Ways and
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Means Committee and one of the most influential legislators on Capi­tol Hill, got caught in the Israeli lobby's counterattack. It was the first test of strength between the lobby and the newly installed president. Under the law, the sale would go through unless both the House and the Senate rejected it. The lobby sttategy was to have the initial test vote occur in the House, where its strength was greater. A rejection by the House, it was believed, might cause the Senate to follow suit.
Under heavy pressure from the lobby, Rostenkowski cooperated by voting no. Afterward, he told a reporter for Chicago radio station WMAQ that he actually favored the sale but voted as he did because he feared the "Jewish lobby."63 He contended that the House majority against the sale was so overwhelming that his own favorable vote "would not have mattered." Overwhelming it was, 301 to 111. Still, the Israeli lobby's goal was to ensure the highest possible number of negative votes in order to influence the Senate vote. To the lobby, Rostenkowski's vote did matter very much.
Columnist Carl Rowan called Rostenkowski's admission "an incred­ible burst of candor."64 While declaring "it is as American as apple pie for monied interests to use their dough to influence decisions" in Washing­ton, Rowan added, "There are a lot of American Jews with lots of money who learned long ago that they can achieve influence far beyond their numbers by making strategic donations to candidates. .. . No Arab pop­ulation here plays such a powerful role." Rostenkowski, however, was not a major recipient of contributions from pro-Israeli political action committees. In the following year, his campaign received only $1,000 from such groups.65
While the lobby is watchful over the full membership of the House, particularly leaders like Rostenkowski, it gives special emphasis to the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, where the initial decisions are made on aid, both military and economic.
Allegiance to Israeli interests sometimes creates mystifying voting habits. Members who are "doves" on policy elsewhere in the world are unabashed "hawks" where Israel is concerned. As Stephen S. Rosenfeld of the Washington Post wrote in May 1983:
A Martian looking at the way Congress treats the administration's aid requests for Israel and El Salvador might conclude that our political system
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makes potentially life-or-death decisions about dependent countries in truly inscrutable ways.*
Rosenfeld was intrigued by the extraordinary performance of the Foreign Affairs Committee on one particular day, May 11, 1983. Scarcely taking time to catch its breath between acts, the panel required the vulnerable government of El Salvador to "jump a series of extremely high political hurdles" in order to get funding "barely adequate to keep its nose above water," while, a moment later, handed to Israel, which was clearly the dominant military power in the Middle East, "a third of a billion dollars more than the several billion dollars that the adminis­tration asked for it." One of Israel's leading partisans, Congressman Stephen J. Solarz, spoke with enthusiasm for the El Salvador "hurdles" and for the massive increase to Israel.
Outdoing the United Jewish Appeal
Stephen J. Solarz, a hardworking congressman who for eighteen years represented a heavily Jewish district in Brooklyn, prides himself on accomplishing many good things for Israel. Since his first election in 1974, Solarz established a reputation as an intelligent "eager beaver," widely traveled, aggressive, and totally committed to Israel's interests. In committee, he seemed always bursting with the next question before the witness could respond to his first.
In a December 1980 newsletter to his constituents, he provided an unprecedented insight into how Israel—despite the budgetary restraints under which the U.S. government labors—is able to get ever-increasing aid. Early that year he started his own quest for increased aid. He reported that he persuaded Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to come to his Capitol Hill office to talk it over. There he threatened Vance with a fight for the increase on the House floor if the administration opposed it in committee. Shortly thereafter, he said, Vance sent word that the administration would recommend an increase—$200 million extra in military aid—although it was not as much as Solarz desired.
His next goal was to convince the Foreign Affairs Committee to increase the administration's levels. Solarz felt an increase approved by the committee could be maintained on the House floor. The firsr srep was
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a private talk with Lee H. Hamilton, chairman of the subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the panel that would fust deal with the request. Tall, thoughtful, scholarly and cautious, Hamilton prided him­self on staying on the same "wavelength" as the majority—whether in committee or on the floor. Never abrasive, he usually worked out dif­ferences ahead of time and avoided open wrangles. Representing a rural Indiana district with no significant Jewish population, he was troubled by Israel's military adventures but rarely voiced criticism in public. He guarded his role as a conciliator.
Solarz found Hamilton amenable: "He agreed to support our proposal to increase the amount of [military assistance] ... by another $200 mil­lion." That would bring the total increase to $400 million. Even more important, Hamilton agreed to support a move to relieve Israel of its obli­gation to repay any of the $785 million it would receive in economic aid. The administration wanted Israel to pay back one-third of the amount.
"As we anticipated," Solarz reported, "with the support of Con­gressman Hamilton, our proposal sailed through both his subcommit­tee and the full committee and was never challenged on the floor when the foreign aid bill came up for consideration." Democrat Frank Church of Idaho, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jacob Javits, senior Republican—both strongly pro-Israeli—guided pro­posals at the same level smoothly through their chamber.
Solarz summed it up: "Israel, as a result, will soon be receiving a grand total of $660 million more in military and economic aid than it received from the U.S. government last year." He reflected upon the magnitude of the achievement:
Through a combination of persistence and persuasion, we were able to pro­vide Israel with an increase in military-economic aid in one year alone which is the equivalent of almost three years of contributions by the national UJA [United Jewish Appeal].
In his newsletter Solarz said that he sought membership on the For­eign Affairs Committee "because I wanted to be in a position to be help­ful to Israel." He explained that, while "most members of Congress, Republicans as well as Democrats" support Israel, "it is the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House, and the Foteign Relations
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Committee in the Senate, who are really in a position to make a differ­ence where it counts—in the area of foreign aid, upon which Israel is now so dependent."
Solarz s zeal was unabated in September 1984 when, as a member of the House-Senate conference on Export Administration Act amend­ments, he demanded in a public meeting to know the legislations impli­cations for Israel.67 He asked Congressman Howard Wolpe, "Is there anything that the Israelis want from us, or could conceivably want from us that they weren't able to get?"68 Wolpe responded with a clear "no." Solarz pressed, "Have you spoken to the [Israeli] embassy?" Wolpe responded, "I personally have not," but he admitted, "my office has." Solarz tried again. "You are giving me an absolute assurance that they [the Israelis] have no reservation at all about this?" Finally convinced that Israel was content with the legislation, Solarz relaxed. "If they have no problem with it, then there is no reason for us to."
A veteran Ohio congressman observed:
When Solarz and others press for more money for Israel, nobody wants to say "No." You don't need many examples of intimidation for politicians to realize what the potential is. The Jewish lobby is terrific. Anything it wants, it gets. Jews are educated, often have a lot of money, and vote on the basis of a single issue—Israel. They are unique in that respect. For example, antiabortion supporters are numerous but not that well educated, and don't have that much money. The Jewish lobbyists have it all, and they are polit­ical activists on top of it.69
He divided his colleagues into four groups:
For the first group, it's rah, rah, give Israel anything it wants. The second group includes those with some misgivings, but they don't dare step out of line; they don't say anything. In the third group are congressmen who have deep misgivings but who won't do more than try quietly to slow down the aid to Israel. Lee Hamilton is an example. The fourth group consists of those who openly question U.S. policy in the Middle East and challenge what Israel is doing. Since Findley and McCloskey left, this group really doesn't exist anymore.
He put himself in the third group: "I may vote against the bill authorizing foreign aid this year for the first time. If I do, I will not state my reason."
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Solarz never wavered in his commitment to Israel. A 1992 taped conversation with former AIPAC president David Steiner revealed that the organization was involved in "negotiations" with newly elected Pres­ident Bill Clinton over who would become the new secretary of state— Solarz was AIPAC's leading preference.
Another congressman, although bringing much the same level of commitment when he first joined the committee, later underwent a change.70
"Bleeding a Little Inside"
Democratic Congressman Mervyn M. Dymally, former lieutenant gov­ernor of California, came to Washington in 1980 with perfect creden­tials as a supporter of Israel. He said, "When you look at black America, I rank myself second only to Bayard Rustin in supporting Israel over the past twenty years."71 Short, handsome, and articulate, Dymally was the first black American to go to Israel after both the 1967 and 1973 wars.
In his successful campaign for lieutenant governor, he spoke up for Israel in all the statewide Democratic canvasses. He cofounded the Black Americans in Support of Israel Committee, organized pro-Israeli adver­tising in California newspapers, and helped to rally other black officials to the cause. In Congress, he became a dependable vote for Israeli inter­ests as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Nevertheless, in 1982 the pro-Israeli community withdrew its finan­cial support of Dymally. The following year, the AIPAC organization in California marked him for defeat, and began seeking a credible opponent to run against him in 1984. Explaining this sudden turn of events, Dymally cited two "black marks" against his pro-Israeli record in Con­gress. First, he "occasionally asked challenging questions about aid to Israel in committee"; although his questions were mild and not frequent, he stood out because no one else was even that daring. Second—far more damning in the eyes of AIPAC—he met twice with PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Both meetings were unplanned. The first encounter took place in 1981 during a visit to Abu Dhabi, where Dymally stopped to meet the local minister of planning while on his way back from a for­eign policy conference in southern India.72 The minister told him he had just met with Arafat and asked Dymally if he would like to see him. Dymally recalled, "I was too chicken to say no,' but I thought I was safe
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in doing it. I figured Arafat would not bother to see an obscure fresh­man congressman, especially on such short notice."
To his surprise, Arafat invited him for an immediate appointment. This caused near panic on the part of Dymally's escort, an employee of the U.S. embassy, who was taking Dymally on his round of appoint­ments in the ambassador's car, a vehicle bedecked with a U.S. flag on the front fender. Sensitive to the U.S. ban on contact between administra­tion personnel and PLO officials, the flustered escort removed the flag, excused himself, and then directed the driver to deliver Dymally to the Arafat appointment. "He was really in a sweat," Dymally recalled.
After a brief session with Arafat, he found a reporter for the Arab News Service waiting outside. Dymally told him Arafat expressed his desire for a dialogue with the United States. That night Peter Jennings reported from London to a nationwide American audience over ABC's evening news program that Dymally had become the first congressman to meet Arafat since Ronald Reagan was elected president. The news caused an uproar in the Jewish community, with many Jews doubting Dymally's statement that the meeting was unplanned. Stella Epstein, a Jewish member of Dymally's congressional staff, quit in protest.
Dymally met the controversial PLO leader again in 1982 in a simi­larly coincidental way.73 He had gone to Lebanon with his colleagues, Democrats Mary Rose Oakar of Ohio, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and David E. Bonior of Michigan, and Republican Pete McCloskey to meet with Lebanese leaders, visit refugee camps, and view the effects of the Israeli invasion. Dymally was shocked by what he saw. "There's no way you can visit those [Palestinian] refugee camps without bleeding a little inside," he said. After the group's arrival they accepted an invitation to meet with Arafat, who was then under siege in Beirut.
Dymally's trouble with the Jewish community grew even worse. Dymally was wrongly accused of voting in 1981 for the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia. He actually voted the way the Israeli lobby wanted him to vote, against the sale. Moreover, to make his position explicit, during the House debate he stated his opposition in two separate speeches.74 He made the second speech, which was written for him by one of his sup­porters, Max Mont of the Jewish Labor Committee, "because Mont complained that the first was not strong enough," Dymally explained.
Still, the message either did not get through or was conveniently for­gotten. Carmen Warshaw, long prominent in Jewish affairs and Demo­
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cratic Party politics in California—and a financial supporter of his cam­paigns—accosted Dymally at a public dinner and said, "I want my money back."75 Dymally responded, "What did I do, Carmen?" She answered, "You voted for AWACS."
Dymally found membership on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East a "no win" situation. He has alienated people on both sides. While one staff member quit in protest when he met Arafat, another, Peg McCormick, quit in protest when he voted for a large aid package that included money to build warplanes in Israel.76
For a time, Dymally stopped complaining and raising questions about Israel in committee. Asked why by the Wall Street Journal, he cited the lobby's role in my own loss in 1982 to Democrat Richard J. Durbin. He told the Journal reporter, "There is no question the Findley-Durbin race was intimidating."77 Dymally found intimidation elsewhere as well. Whenever he complained, he said, he received a prompt visit from an AIPAC lobbyist, who was usually accompanied by a Dymally con­stituent.78 He met one day with a group of Jewish constituents, "all of them old friends," and told them that, despite his grumbling, in the end he always voted for aid to Israel. He said: "Not once, I told them, have I ever strayed from the course." One of his constituents spoke up and said, "That's not quite right. Once you abstained." "They are that good," marveled Dymally. "The man was right."
Fourteen Freshmen Save the Day
Under the watchful eye of Israel's lobby, congressmen will go to extreme measures to help move legislation to provide aid to Israel. Just before Congress adjourned in December 1983, a group of freshmen Democrats helped the cause by taking the extraordinary step of changing their votes in the printed record of proceedings, a step congressmen usually shun because it makes them look indecisive. This day, however, under heavy pressure from pro-Israel constituents, the first-term members buckled and agreed to switch in order to pass a piece of catchall legislation known as a Continuing Resolution. The resolution provided funds for programs that Congress had failed to authorize in the normal fashion, among them aid to Israel. Passage would prevent any interruption in this aid.79
For once, both the House Democratic leadership and AIPAC were caught napping. Usually in complete control of all legislative activities
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that relate to Israel, AIPAC failed to detect the brewing rebellion. Con­cern over the budget deficit and controversial provisions in the bill for Central America led these freshman Democrats to oppose their own leadership. Unable to offer amendments, they quietly agreed among themselves to oppose the whole package.
When the roll was called, the big electric board over the Speaker s desk showed defeat—the resolution was rejected, 206-203.80 Twenty-four first-term Democrats had deserted the leadership and voted no. Voting no did not mean they opposed Israeli aid. Some of them, con­cerned over the federal deficit, viewed their vote as a demand to the lead­ership to schedule a bill raising taxes. For others, it was simply a protest. But for Israel it was serious.
"The Jewish community went crazy," a Capitol Hill veteran recalls. AIPAC's professionals went to work.81 Placing calls from their offices just four blocks away, they activated key people in the districts of a selected list of the errant freshmen. They arranged for "quality calls" to individ­uals who had played a major role in the recent congressional election. Each person activated was to place an urgent call to his or her congress­man, insist on getting through personally, and use this message:
Approval of the Continuing Resolution is very important. Without it, Israel will suffer. I am not criticizing your vote against it the first time. I am sure you had reasons. However, I have learned that the same question will come up for vote again, probably tomorrow. I speak for many of your friends and supporters in asking that you change your vote when the question comes up again.
Each person was instructed to report to AIPAC after making the calls. The calls were accordingly made and reported. The House of Rep­resentatives took up the question at noon the next day. It was the same language, word for word, that the House had rejected two days before. Silvio Conte, senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, knowing the pressure that had been applied, challenged the freshmen Democrats to "stick to their guns" as "men of courage."82 Republican leader Bob Michel chided those unable to "take the heat from on high."83
Some of the heat came, of course, from the embarrassed Democratic leadership, but AIPAC was the institution that brought about changes in votes. On critical issues, congressmen responded to pressures from home, and, in such circumstances, House leaders had little leverage. To Repub­
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Approximately 6,000 jobs would be lost as a direct result of taking the $250 million out of the U.S. economy and allowing Israel to spend it on defense articles and services which can just as easily be purchased here in the United
licans Conte and Michel, the main issue was the need for budgetary restraint.84 They argued that the measure should be rejected for that rea­son. During the debate, no one mentioned that day—or any other day— the influence of the Israeli lobby.
The urgent telephone messages from home carried the day. When the roll was called, fourteen of the freshmen—a bit sheepishly—changed their votes.85 They were: C. Robin Britt (NC), Jim Cooper (TN), Richard J. Durbin (IL), Edward J. Feighan (OH), Sander M. Levin (MI), Frank McCloskey (IN), Bruce A. Morrison (CT), James R. "Jim" Olin (VA), Timothy J. Penny (MN), Harry M. Reid (NV), Bill Richardson (NM), Norman Sisisky (VA), John M. Spratt, Jr. (SC), and Harley O. Staggers, Jr. (WV).
To give the freshmen an excuse they could use in explaining their embarrassing shift, the leadership promised to bring up a tax bill. Every­one knew it was just a ploy—the tax bill had no chance to become law. But the excuse was helpful, and the resolution was approved 224-189.86 The flow of aid to Israel continued without interruption.
Subsidizing Fnreign Competition

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