Imagine for a moment that there is a foreign government that receives billions of dollars a year in “aid” and other benefits from the United States taxpayer. Consider beyond that, the possibility that that government might take part of the money it receives and secretly recycle it to groups of American citizens in the United States that exist to maintain and increase that money flow while also otherwise serving other interests of the recipient country. That would mean that the United States is itself subsidizing the lobbies and groups that are inevitably working against its own interests. And it also means that U.S. citizens are acting as foreign agents, covertly giving priority to their attachment to a foreign country instead of to the nation in which they live.
I am, of course, referring to Israel. It does not require a brilliant observer to note how Israel and its allies inside the U.S. have become very skilled at milking the government in the United States at all levels for every bit of financial aid, trade concessions, military hardware and political cover that is possible to obtain. The flow of dollars, goods, and protection is never actually debated in any serious way and is often, in fact, negotiated directly by Congress or state legislatures directly with the Israeli lobbyists. This corruption and manipulation of the U.S. governmental system by people who are basically foreign agents is something like a criminal enterprise and one can only imagine the screams of outrage coming from the New York Times if there were a similar arrangement with any other country.
The latest revelation about Israel’s cheating involves subsidies that were paid covertly by Israeli government agencies to groups in the United States which in turn took direction from the Jewish state, often inter alia damaging genuine American interests. The groups involved failed to disclose the payments, which is a felony. They also failed to register under the terms of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, which mandates penalties for groups and individuals acting on behalf of foreign governments. In particular, FARA mandates that the finances and relationships of the foreign affiliated organization be open to Department of the Justice inspection. It states that “any person who acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant, or otherwise acts at the order, request, or under the direction or control of a foreign principal.” Those who fail to disclose might be penalized by up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
Israel’s various friends and proxies, uniquely, have been de facto exempt from any regulation by the U.S. government. The last serious attempt to register a major lobbying entity was made by John F. Kennedy, who sought to have the predecessor organization to today’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) comply with FARA. Kennedy was killed before he could complete the process.
To be sure, the U.S. government has recently been aggressive in demanding FARA registration for other nations as well as for Americans working for foreign powers. There have been several prominent FARA cases in the news. Major Russian news agencies operating in the U.S. were compelled to register in 2017 because they were funded largely or in part by the Kremlin. Also, as part of their plea deals, the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn both conceded that they had failed to comply with FARA when working as consultants with foreign governments.
A leading recipient of the Israeli government’s largesse has been the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF), which has a presence in 43 countries worldwide, though it is registered in the U.S. as a non-profit. It received a grant of $100,000 from Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry in 2019, part of the $6.6 million that was doled out to eleven American organizations in 2018-9. Israel Allies particularly uses Lawfare to target the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which has a large and growing presence on university campuses. Effective lobbying by IAF in the U.S. has resulted in more than half of all states passing legislation that bans or limits the BDS activity while legislation that would criminalize organizations working against Israel has also been moving through congress. IAF has been directly involved in drafting such legislation and has more recently been pushing for new laws that would legally define criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.
The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs initially, in 2015-7, tried to give money openly to diaspora organizations but found that many American Jewish groups, to their credit, would not take it due to concerns over FARA and being accused of “dual loyalty.” So, the Ministry created an ostensibly non-government “public benefit company” cut-out to distribute the cash in a more secretive fashion. The mechanism was given the operational name Concert.
Concert’s sole purpose was to provide money to diaspora advocacy groups that would work primarily against BDS and other efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Concert had an independent board, but its activity of directed by the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s director-general.
Concert’s internal documents are predictably vague in describing the activities that it was funding, and one might assume that they are purposely misleading. They refer to “defensive and offensive” actions, on “corporate responsibility,” “the digital battlefield,” and regarding “amplification units” that would provide “support for organizations in a pro-Israeli network.” The intention was to improve Israel’s image due to the widespread and completely accurate perception that its human rights record is among the worst in the world. Concert was created to serve as a mechanism to be exploited where situations prevailed that “require an ‘outside the government’ discussion with the different target audiences… [and] provide a rapid and coordinated response against the attempts to tarnish the image of Israel around the world.”
Interestingly, one of the most recognizable recipients of Concert funds was Christians United for Israel (CUFI), America’s largest pro-Israel group, which received nearly $1.3 million in February 2019 to pay for several 10 week-long “pilgrimages” to the Holy Land. Each pilgrimage involved thirty “influential Christian clerics from the U.S.” who were clearly propagandized while they were in the Middle East. Other large disbursements went to predominantly Jewish student groups, presumably to provide them with both resources and necessary training to oppose campus critics of Israel.
The simple way to deal with the massive and illegal Israeli influencing operations that are being directed against the United States would be first of all to deduct every identifiable dollar that is being spent by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to empower supporters in America from the $3.8 billion plus that Israel receives each year directly from the U.S. Treasury. Israel would not be concerned if the United States were to recover a paltry $10 million or so, but it would definitely send a message.
And then one might follow-up by requiring all the Israeli proxies that together make up the Israel Lobby to register under FARA. One might start with AIPAC, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) but there will be many, many more before the work is done. And CUFI, for sure. The fundamentalist Christian head cases that place Israel’s interests ahead of those of their own country finally need to have their bell rung.