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Who funds AIPAC?

Pepe Escobar talks with Jim Lobe about who funds AIPAC and the Israel lobby in the United States. (Jointly produced by IPS and The Real News)

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PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: We continue our interview with Jim Lobe, bureau chief of Inter Press Services in Washington, about the neoconservative movement, the Israeli lobby, its backers, and its [inaudible]. AIPAC, apart from being the most well-organized lobby in the US, is extremely well financed as well. Where did their financial power come from?

JIM LOBE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, INTER PRESS SERVICE: I know that one donor who has emerged in the past decade as a key donor is Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Las Vegas Sands in Las Vegas and has in the last ten years opened casinos in Macao, and he’s now the third-wealthiest American, according to Forbes or Fortune—I can’t remember which. I think his value’s worth anywhere between, like, $12 and, like, $30 billion. So he has a lot of money to spend. And he offered, essentially, to be the major donor for AIPAC for its new building. He’s very, very close to former prime minister, Benjamin Netenyahu, and to Natan Sharansky, who’s part of the Shalem Center in Israel, which is a Netanyahu-Likud kind of front think tank. And he founded his own institute there, the Adelson Institute, which is headed by Sharansky. He’s, I think, the biggest contributor to the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is a very neoconservative, pro-Likudist group. And he was a founder and by far the biggest contributor of a new kind of lobby group called Freedoms Watch, which will try to influence races, congressional races in particular, in November. There are other quite wealthy individuals who are major backers of AIPAC, give a lot of money to AIPAC. I think the person who may be most helpful on this, actually, is Michael Massing. Michael Massing has written quite a bit on the Israel lobby and has been a kind of good corrective to the basic Walt-Mearsheimer thesis, as it was first published in The London Review of Books.

ESCOBAR: What was your take on the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis?

LOBE: I think they’re putting the issue of the influence of Israel lobby, and by that I mean the Conference of American Presidents, AIPAC, the really big organizations, putting their influence on US foreign policy into the debate is absolutely critical, because particularly under this Bush administration what we’ve seen is things go seriously, seriously bad in the Middle East, and I think a lot of that has been due to that influence, that neoconservative influence on US foreign policy that these large American or influential American Jewish organizations have in one way or another endorsed and then pushed. I mean, their idea of Israel is something along the two-state solution and getting it done, and they see Israel without such a solution, still holding onto Arab lands, and so on, as a serious drag on US foreign policy successes in the region, as a detriment. They took a realist position, but not one that I think in any way compromises or would compromise Israel’s security, so long as it defines its borders somewhat more modestly than it does at the present time. In other words, I think they were saying that support for Israel should not be unconditional; that there should be clear conditions put on that support that then Israel can accept or reject. But their main point, of course, was that the influence of the Israel lobby, particularly organizations such as this, especially on Congress, was distorting American interests, because the support for Israel in Congress is essentially unconditional, and that’s not getting the United States anywhere. And their argument is it’s also undermining Israel’s security in the long run. And as far as that assessment is concerned, I don’t think there’s much to disagree with, or at least I don’t disagree with much.

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