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October 21, 1988 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-21

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

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14

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1988

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FRONTLINES

Jewish Groups May Form
An Alternative To AIPAC

JAMES DAVID BESSER

Washington Correspondent

s the publicity-shy
American-Israel Pub-
lic Affairs Committee
(AIPAC) battens down its hat-
ches to deal with an upcom-
ing "Sixty Minutes" segment
on the big lobbying group, it
appears that some mainline
Jewish organizations are
gearing up to fight what they
perceive as an AIPAC en-
croachment into new — and
tax exempt — areas of Jewish
activism.
Sources in Washington and
New York confirmed last
week that meetings have
been held between leaders of
the American Jewish Con-
- gress, the American Jewish
Committee and the Anti-
Defamation League (ADL) of
the B'nai B'rith about
creating what some people
are calling an "Israel desk."
According to some reports,
the new body would be an
alternative voice on Capitol
Hill for the pro-Israel
community.
The proposal, which sources
state is still in the planning
stages, would involve a "coor-
dinated command." Each par-
ticipating grqup would have a
representative who would
then report back to their own
organizations.
Ira Silverman, executive
vice president of the
American Jewish Committee,
insisted that the exact form of
the new group has not yet
been determined, but he did
confirm that discussions for a
new pro-Israel group are
underway. Silverman em-
phasized that the new, as-yet-
unnamed platform for Jewish
input in Washington was not
intended to compete with
AIPAC.
"The purpose," he said,
"would be to cooperate with
AIPAC, which is the principal
legislative lobbying and
legislative voice in
Washington."
Silverman also disclosed
that there has been cor-
respondence with the AIPAC
leadership over the proposal.
AIPAC's president, Detroit-
er 'Eward C. Levy Jr., was
unavailable for comment on
the issue.
A congressional aide with
close contacts on both sides of
the dispute said, "This has
been building for a long time.
Some people in these groups
are very angry about AIPAC's
activities. The multi-issue
groups haven't had much in-
put into formulating AIPAC's

policy formulation. And a lot
of people in AIPAC have a
pretty dim view of how
strongly the other organiza-
tions are willing to support
Israel?'
But others claim that the
entire scheme, which is still
in the planning stages, is in-
tended to nudge AIPAC
toward greater consultation
and coordination with these
broad-based Jewish groups.
Contributions to AIPAC, a
registered lobbying organiza-
tion, are not tax deductible.
The group has recently reviv-
ed its long-held interest in
creating a tax-exempt arm to
fulfill some of its mission of
supporting a strong U.S.-
Israeli relationship.
One of the issues of concern
to mainstream organizations
is the possibility of growing
competiton for money in the
Jewish grass roots. "The com-
petition has always been
there;' a staff member of
a Jewish organization. "But a
new, tax-exempt foundation
would be like throwing
gasoline on the fire."
A source at AIPAC argued
that the proposal for a
new Israeli-lobbying group
stemmed more from the possi-
ble economic competition pos-
ed by creating a tax exempt
group connected with the lob-
bying group. To date AIPAC
has taken no official action to
inaugurate a tax exempt
affiliate.
Another concern is AIPAC's
growing involvement in the
community relations area,
traditionally the province of
multi-issue groups and local
community relations
councils.
AIPAC, according to some
observers, has recently mov-
ed into community relations
activities, primarily as an
outgrowth of opposing
presidential candidate Jesse
Jackson at the Democratic
National Convention in July.
Finally, complaints have in-
creased that AIPAC has not
adequately represented the
views of the Jewish communi-
ty on certain issues — and
that the lobbying group has
not consulted with leaders of
other major Jewish organiza-
tions in setting a course for its
pro-Israel lobbying activity.
In addition to the mounting
talk of an AIPAC tax-exempt
foundation, two issues
brought this undercurrent of
discontent to the surface.
During the initial discus-
sions of the proposed sale of
F-18 fighters and Maverick
missiles to Kuwait, a ter-

ritorial dispute erupted be-
tween AIPAC and ADL. ADL
had decided not to fight the
sale, while AIPAC was of-
ficially opposing the proposal,
but working behind the
scenes to develop a
compromise.
"There was a feeling that
AIPAC was making major
decisions for the whole pro-
Israel community, without
consulting other important
elements of the community,"
said one official of a
mainstream Jewish organ-
ization.
The other issue that
precipitated the recent discus-
sions was the controversy over
a possible visa for Yassir
Arafat to allow the PLO
leader to address the United
Nations' General Assembly
in New York.
AIPAC placed a high priori-
ty on trying to convince the
State Department to deny a
visa application from Arafat.
But other groups felt that lob-
bying against a visa was
premature — and that
Arafat's rumored plans to
speak to the UN posed com-
plex diplomatic questions
that the Jewish leadership
needed to study before a final
decision was made.
Some Washington sources
see the visa dispute as a con-
tinuation of last year's hard
feelings between AIPAC and
multi-issue Jewish groups
over legislation to close the
PLO's New York offices.
At the same time, some
AIPAC officials privately
criticized other Jewish
organizations for accepting
State Department claims that
the action would have serious
international consequences.
But the mainline groups
asserted that AIPAC was
risking the credibility of the
entire pro-Israel community
over an issue that was, at
best, marginal.

AT&T Cuts
Israel Rates

New York (JTA) — The
American Telephone &
Telegraph Co. has announced
new rate schedules, time
periods and calling plans it
says will make it easier and
less expensive to telephone
Israel.
The changes have been ap-
proved by the Federal Com-
munications Commission.
Economy rates are in force
from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. The dis-
count period is now 12 a.m. to
8 a.m.

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