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AIPAC Fund-Raising During the Lebanon War Is Criticized as Self-Serving

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November - December 2006

While most American Jewish groups raising money to assist Israel during the Lebanon was used their contributions to meet the immediate needs of Israeli citizens affected by the conflict, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) initiated a different sort of emergency fundraising campaign. Critics charge that it raised money for itself rather than for Israelis in need.  
When AIPAC posed the question “What can you do to help Israel?” in its e-mail solicitations on its Web site, the organization’s first answer was donate to the powerful Washington. D.C.-based group to bolster its political lobbying efforts. Asked what emergency campaign funds would be used for, a spokesman for AIPAC, Josh Block, said that the campaign is intended “to provide training on how to be an effective pro-Israel political activist.” The statement offered no indication as to how monies raised by the group’s “emergency call to action” would be specifically allocated.  
Writing in Washington Jewish Week (August 3, 2006), Douglas N. Bloomfield states that, “War may be hell for Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese, but for some Jewish organizations, it is the goose that lays the golden egg. Most American Jewish organizations have launched major appeals for humanitarian aid ... AIPAC is trying to capitalize on the crisis to add to its already bulging coffers after some record-breaking fundraising years in the wake of its brush with scandals. Howard Friedman, the pro-Israel lobby’s president, sent out an ‘emergency call to action.’ appealing not for humanitarian aid for Israelis, but for new dues-paying members ... An official of another Jewish organization that is raising funds for humanitarian purposes called the AIPAC appeal ‘crass with capital letters.’”  
AIPAC was not alone. According to Bloomfield, “A few other organizations are also using the Mideast crisis to enlist new members and contributors, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It boasts of participating in rallies and making pro-Israel pronouncements. ... The Anti-Defamation League sent an e-mail appeal featuring a link to ‘Make a donation today and help ADL rally support for Israel during this crisis.’ New Jersey’s Elihu Davison, a Jewish activist who has been the recipient of many fund appeals, observed, ‘Nothing’s so good for American Jewish fundraising as a little bloodletting in the Holy Lend.’ ... AIPAC’s current ‘emergency’ appeal isn’t because the group needs money, but because it sees an opportunity to rake in more. With a $45 million budget and millions more in the bank, AIPAC is planning to construct its own six-story office building near the District’s Chinatown next year.”

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