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March 19, 1988 - Image 52

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

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

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Too Narrow?

Continued from preceding page

they are "correct" on Israel.

Republican Cheerleader

Indeed, AIPAC is perceived
by many as a cheerleader for
the current Republican ad-
ministration. Last year, an
AIPAC publication lauding
the achievements of the
Reagan years created conster-
nation in the offices of
Democratic legislators.
"You can't fault the logic of
this," said one staffer for a
Democratic representative.
"The whole point of lobbying

Impossible To Ignore

The people on the receiving
end of the lobbying —
primarily House and Senate
staffers who do the legislative
grunt work — tend to share
Morris Amitay's views on the
practicality of single-issue
politics. "Personally, I find
that in the area of Jewish lob-
bying, the multi-issue people
reflect my own positions
more," said one staffer who
works on Mideast policy.
"But their arguments tend to
get lost in the shuffle. Guys

"When Jews engage in coalition
politics, we generally give more
than we get," says lobbyist
Morris Amitay.

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is to' get close to the centers
of power. If the Democrats
were in the White House now,
I'm sure AIPAC would be
boosting them. But you have
to wonder about the depth of
support in this kind of ar-
rangement."
It is also true that this pro-
cess of favoring the political
"ins" can get schizophrenic
when one party controls the
White House and the other
runs the Capitol.
"The argument I've always
heard is that single-issue
buys you temporary allies,
but multi-issue gets you
friends," said an activist who
works with a large Jewish
organization. "I'm uncomfor-
table with the idea of cozying
up to someone who's strong
on Israel, but also believes in
school prayer and things like
that. Can you build a viable
political relationship with a
guy who's right on only one
issue? Or are you just using
each other? The dangers of
such a relationship are ob-
vious."
When the chips are down,
this activists argues,
"friends" count for more than
allies. For minorities trying to
keep up in the endless battle
for influence, this distinction
is especially important, he
says; the fact that a long list
of conservative politicians
have good records on Israel
won't count for much the
next time a crucial separation
of church and state issue hits
Capitol Hill.

like AIPAC are impossible to
ignore, which is what lobby-
ing is all about."
Another aide agrees with
Bookbinder that the nar-
rowness of AIPAC's focus can
contribute to a perception of
parochialism. "I see this as a
problem for our society as a
whole — this growing evolu-
tion of our system into a
bunch of groups that are
scrambling to protect their
own special interests. Writing
legislation becomes a process
of trying to predict where the
heavy artillery is going to
come from, not trying to work
out the merits of a bill."
But this staffer tempers his
criticism of the single-issue
approach. "If I was a lob-
byist, I'd probably be doing
the same thing, because if
you don't, the other guy is go-
ing to be heard and you're
not. If you're looking for a
perfect system, you're in the
wrong town."
Rabbi David Saperstein,
director of the Religious Ac-
tion Center of the Union of
American Hebrew Congrega-
tions, stresses the need for a
balance between the two ap-
proaches to political action.
"If you have only the multi-
issue approach," says Saper-
stein, a vocal advocate of
multi-interest political action
groups, "you lose the effec-
tiveness of the single-issue
groups on what I call the 'sur-
vival issues' — Israel, Soviet
Jewry, anti-Semitism. If you
have only the single-issue ap-

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