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March 19, 1988 - Image 50

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-03-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

!INSIDE WASHINGTON I

Wayne Sob U-Mally

Wayne State University Press Announces

Too Narrow?

An International Jewish Symposium

Continued from preceding page

ship and a shared involve-
ment in a range of issues.
By the mid-Eighties, the
decentralization of power and
the collapse of party "disci-
pline" made this kind of per-
sonal networking a more
secondary part of the process.

The Playground of Textuality:
Modern Jewish Intellectuals and the
Horizons of Interpretation

Sunday, March 20, 7:30 p.m. ,
Jewish Community Center, West Bloomfield

Legislative Persuasion

"The Lost World of the
European Jewish Intellectual and Writer"
Paul Mendes-Flohr, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

"A Berlin Lost"
A short film by Richard Kostelanetz

Open to the public

Working sessions: Monday and Tuesday, March 21 and 22,
Rackham Memorial Center, Detroit

For information contact: Dr. Robert A. Mandel, Director
Wayne State University Press, (313) 577-4606

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One consequence of these
changes was the surge in
single-issue politics, and the
growth of lobbying groups
designed to apply pressure on
an extremely narrow range of
issues.
Although some Jewish
single-interest groups work
on Soviet Jewry issues, the
most visible and powerful
groups focus on Israel —
period. Multi-interest groups,
like the American Jewish
Congress, regard Israel as
just one element in the
Jewish-American agenda,
albeit the most critical one.
The single-issue versus
multi-issue debate has been
thrashed out in the Jewish
community for several years,
with passionate feelings on
both sides of the issue. But
even many opponents of the

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48

Now, scores of key legis-
lators need to be persuaded,
and dozens of subcommittee
chairmen, with no single
senator or congressman call-
ing the legislative shots on an
issue. Now, other groups are
just as aggressive in pro-
moting their own interests,
which sometimes conflict
with the interests of the
Jewish community.
And issues today are de-
cided more in the arena of
public opinion than in the
Senate cloakroom. This gives
an important edge to groups
backed up by large, active
grassroots organizations. "It
makes a difference," says one
legislative aide on the Hill,
"that the pro-Israel communi-
ty can generate thousands of
letters to key members of
Congress at a moment's
notice"
All of these changes put a
premium on specialization;
the political "jack of all
trades" of the old-style lob-
bies has given way to a new
breed of legislative techni-
cian.
Hand in hand with the
fragmentation of power went
the rise of money as a major
factor in politics. Even a
bargain-basement Senate
campaign costs millions of
dollars, and a presidential
race requires resources that
stagger the imagination. In-
creasingly, the electronic
media is the primary meeting
point between candidate and
public; candidates who can't
afford airtime can't afford to
run.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 1988

Harvard Row Mall

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pinpoint focus of groups like
AIPAC admit that in today's
political world, single issue
talks with more authority
than multi-issue, although
they worry about the long-
term consequences of these
changes.
"The fact is, single issue
lobbying is effective," says
Morris Amitay, the former
AIPAC director and an
outspoken advocate of the
highly-focused approach. "If
you come in to a senator or
congressman with a whole
laundry list of issues, they
can pick and choose, and you
end up with nothing. When
you're focused, when people
know where you're coming
from and what you want, it's
much more effective."
Amitay points out that
single-issue groups can cut
across political boundaries
more easily than groups
devoted to a wide range of
issues. A group like the
American Jewish Congress,
which emphasizes a broad
platform of social justice
issues as well as support for
Israel, tends to draw from a
narrower political base — in
the case of the AJ Congress,
from Jews on the liberal end
of the spectrum.
Critics say that this
diminishes the impact of
multi-issue groups on any
single issue; supporters argue
that it gives their efforts a
moral strength that single-
issue groups can never
achieve, as Israel. "So they
can get much broader sup-
port," Amitay says. "When
you're single-issue, you can
get support from Democrats
and Republicans, from
liberals and conservatives."
But this, too, has a
downside; so many different
ideologies clumped together
under a single umbrella may
be a factor in the infighting
and competing agendas that,
some say, are AIPAC's major
weakness.

Lobbying Specialists

Another argument for the
single-issue approach to lob-
bying is, the sheer volume of
information that goes into
the policy-making process.
AIPAC has a large profes-
sional staff devoted to
subspecialties of U.S:Israeli
relations. Even critics of the
big organization give high
marks to the staff specialists
responsible for areas like
weapons, foreign aid and
diplomacy.
"The difference with
AIPAC is that they have one
issue that they know more
about than anybody else"
said a Jewish activist who
has worked for both single-
issue and multi-issue groups.
"Whether people are for or
against AIPAC, people on the

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