Arab lobby in the United States

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The Arab lobby in the United States is a collection of formal and informal groups and professional lobbyists paid directly by Arab governments that lobby the public and government of the United States on behalf of Arab interests.[1] and/or on behalf of Arab-American rights in the United States.[2][3]

Origins[edit]

According to Mitchell Bard in an article for the Jewish Virtual Library, Isaiah L. Kenen, the founder of American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs or "AZCPA" (which became American Israel Public Affairs Committee or "AIPAC"), wrote of the Arab lobby's roots in the 1950s "petro-diplomatic complex" that comprised the "oil industry, missionaries, and diplomats." Bard states that in 1951 King Saud of Saudi Arabia asked U.S. diplomats to finance a pro-Arab lobby to counter AZCPA.[4] Mitchell Bard in his book The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East, states that the approach has not changed since the days of King Saud;[5] the basic message, according to Bard, is that the Saudis and the Gulf States have the oil and will supply it to America and its allies on the condition that America keeps the Arab ruling families in power.[6] Bard further states that the subsidiary clause is that the Arab oil states will also purchase arms ($100 billion worth over the last 50 years) to keep themselves in power and able to produce oil.[7]

Mitchell Bard also alleges "blackmail" . He claims that from time to time the United States criticized the oil states for denying human rights to their own citizens, sponsoring militant who attack Israel, spreading extremist forms of Islam around the world, and supporting terrorism in many countries, but this criticism in rapidly reigned in by threatening to cut off the oil supply.[7]

The National Association of Arab-Americans ("NAAA"), founded in 1972, was a political advocacy group whose goals were "to strengthen U.S. relations with Arab countries and to promote an evenhanded American policy based on justice and peace for all parties in the Middle East."[8] In the early 1970s there was growing anti-Arab sentiment related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the 1973 oil embargo, leading to government investigations, executive orders, and legislative provisions to combat terrorism. These especially impacted on Arab American rights and activism. The response was the creation of groups like the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab American Institute.[2]

According to Michael Lewis, Director of Policy Analysis for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, for many years these groups worked together on the Palestinian issue, including through newspaper, direct mail and advertising campaigns against U.S. loan guarantees to Israel and states' purchase of Israel bonds, condemnation of Israeli human rights and calls for the U.S. government to pressure Israel, as well pro-Palestinian protests and letter-writing campaigns. Lewis states that they also offered testimony to congress and criticized Israel's congressional and organizational supporters, sought to pass pro-Palestinian resolutions in state and national party platforms; offering pro-Palestinian testimony before Congress and attempted to sue Israel in U.S. courts. According to Lewis after the Palestine Liberation Organization had reached an agreement with Israel, there was some division among the groups, however they continue to lobby for Palestinians.[9]

Lobbying by Arab states[edit]

Many of the players in the Arab lobby are paid directly by Arab governments, the New York Times describes them as an "elite band of former members of Congress, former diplomats and power brokers who have helped Middle Eastern nations navigate diplomatic waters here on delicate issues like arms deals, terrorism, oil and trade restrictions." Powerful lobbyists working on behalf of the Arab lobby include Bob Livingston, Tony Podesta, and Toby Moffett. Arab governments have paid "tens of millions of dollars" to "top" lobbying firms that work to influence the American government.[10] This includes the Saudi Arabia lobby, Egypt lobby and the Libya lobby.

In the wake of 9/11, Saudi Arabia hired the lobbying firms Patton Boggs and Qorvis, paying $14 million a year.[10][11]

Lobby fees paid by Arab governments to individual firms "commonly" reach levels of $50,000 and above. In 2009 alone the United Arab Emirates spent $5.3 million, as the Emirates were seeking nuclear technology. In 2009 Morocco spent $3 million and Algeria spent $600,000 on Washington, D.C. lobbyists, and Turkey spent $1.7 million. According to Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists, “These kinds of regimes have a lot of money at their disposal, and that’s a great attraction.”[10]

According to ProPublica, 4 of the top 10 governments lobbying in Washington are Arab, in terms of spending. The United Arab Emirates places first, having spent $10,914,002 in 2007 and 2008. Iraq, Morocco and Saudi Arabia also each spent over $3 million, and the non-Arab, Middle Eastern nation of Turkey also spent over $3 million.[12]

Arab American civil rights and advocacy groups[edit]

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) was started in 1980 by United States Senator James Abourezk. It is the largest Arab-American grassroots civil rights organization in the United States. Former US Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar is the current president. ADC is at the forefront in addressing anti-Arabism - discrimination and bias against Arab Americans. It also advocates what it calls a more balanced US policy towards the Middle East.[13]

The Arab American Institute ("AAI"), founded in 1985 by James Zogby, is a non-profit, membership organization and advocacy group based in Washington D.C. that focuses on the issues and interests of Arab-Americans nationwide. The organization seeks to increase the visibility of Arab-American involvement as voters and candidates in the American political system. It issues "Action Alerts" and encourages individual lobbying and participation in an annual national lobby day. It has promoted actively professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.[14]

Informal Arab lobby[edit]

According to Mitchell Bard, author of 2010 book The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East, the informal Arab lobby includes tens of millions of dollars donated to American Universities for Islamic studies, because these funds flow only to universities that teach courses and hire scholars whose work meets with the approval of the oil states, courses are not offered and research is not pursued on the ideology or structure radical Islam, Arab anti-Americanism, or Arab anti-Semitism, instead, courses are taught and studies pursued on such themes as Zionism as an illegitimate political movement, or form of European imperialism, and Jewishness is a largely mythological and invented history.[7][15]

Power of lobby[edit]

Mitchell Bard, author of 2010 book The Arab Lobby and a former editor of the "Near East Report", a weekly newsletter published by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, writes that "from the beginning, the Arab lobby has faced not only a disadvantage in electoral politics but also in organization."[4] Academics Ali A. Mazrui and Nabeel A. Khoury have also written about the virtual non-existence of an Arab lobby in America.[16]

In a 2007 State Department Foreign Press Center Briefing James Zogby of the Arab American Institute denied Arab Americans lobby for Arab governments. He told an audience: "There are many Arab lobbies. Each Arab government hires lobbyists to do their work for them. And we Arab Americans are not an Arab lobby. I think that the thing in the Jewish community that's interesting is that the Jewish community is supportive of Israel and the Israeli Government works very closely with elements in the American Jewish community around a convergence of ideas and issues and interests, and that has created the sense of an Israel lobby." Zogby also said "The reality about Arab Americans is that we are emerging as a political group."[17]

Researchers Sherri Replogle and Khalil Marrar write: "While pro-Arab lobbying pales in comparison to those of the pro-Israel lobby, the end of the Cold-War, the current war on terrorism, and clear American and international support for the two-state solution as manifested by public opinion polls, policymakers' statements, and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1397 and 1515, provide the pro-Arab lobby with a crucial opportunity to realize its vision of Palestinian statehood."[18][citation needed]

In 2010 lobbyists paid by the government of Egypt succeeded in preventing the Senate from passing a bill calling on Egypt to curtail human rights abuses.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mark N. Katz,Viewpoint: Where is the Arab lobby? Middle East Times.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b Arab Americans by Helen Samhan, originally published in the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ Joseph Puder, The Arab Lobby Can't Buy Support, The Bulletin, Philadelphia, September 17, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "The Israeli and Arab Lobbies", Mitchell Bard, Jewish Virtual Library, published 2006, accessed August 26, 2006.
  5. ^ Bard (2010) p.66-70
  6. ^ Bard (2010) p.344-37
  7. ^ a b c Ruth Wisse, "A Tale of Two Lobbies,", review of Mitchell Bard's The Arab Lobby, Jewish Ideas Daily, September 8, 2010.
  8. ^ CafeArabica.com page on NAAA.[dead link]
  9. ^ Michael Lewis, Israel's American Detractors - Back Again, Middle East Quarterly, December 1997.
  10. ^ a b c d Eric Lichtblau, Arab Unrest Puts Their Lobbyists in Uneasy Spot, New York Times, March 1, 2011.
  11. ^ Kurlantzick, Joshua (2007-05-07). "Putting Lipstick on a Dictator". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  12. ^ Anupama Narayanswamy and Luke Rosiak, Adding it up: The Top Players in Foreign Agent Lobbying, ProPublica, August 18, 2009.
  13. ^ American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee web page
  14. ^ You can still watch Walt and Mearsheimer on 'Viewpoint' on the AAI website.
  15. ^ Mitchell Bard, The Arab Lobby, "The Abuse of Academic Freedom; The Lobby Infiltrates the Classroom," Chapter 14, pp. 284-321.
  16. ^ See Ali A. Mazrui, “Between the Crescent and the Star Spangled Banner: American Muslims and U.S. Foreign Policy,” International Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 3 (July 1996), 493-506; Nabeel A. Khoury, “The Arab Lobby: Problems and Prospects,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Summer 1987), 379-396; Andrea Barron, “Jewish and Arab Diasporas in the United States and Their Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy,” in Yehuda Lukacs and Abdalla M. Battah, eds., The Arab Israeli Conflict: Two Decades of Change (London: Westview, 1988), 238-259.
  17. ^ "Arab Americans and the Middle East Policy in the 2008 U.S. Elections", Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute Foreign Press Center Briefing, Washington, DC November 29, 2007
  18. ^ "The Effects of the Pro-Arab Lobby on American Foreign Policy in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association 48th Annual Convention, Hilton Chicago, CHICAGO, IL, USA, Feb 28, 2007