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Why AIPAC Took Over Brookings - by Grant F. Smith

Why AIPAC Took Over Brookings - by Grant F. Smith

* The following is an excerpt from // Foreign Agents: The American
Israel Public Affairs Committee From the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the
2005 Espionage Scandal

Martin Indyk, an Australian and naturalized US citizen, is the former
deputy director of research at the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee. Indyk helped establish the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy <> (WINEP) in
1984 with the support of AIPAC board member and activist Barbi Weinberg.
Weinberg "had for over a decade privately wrestled with the idea of
creating a foreign policy center." ^1
After the establishment of WINEP, Indyk stated that he was still
dissatisfied and wished to establish an institution capable of escaping
AIPAC's reputation as a "strongly biased organization."^ 1
Indyk would later go on to found the Saban Center for Middle East Policy
at the Brookings Institution. The center was initially funded by a $13
million grant from Israeli dual citizen and television magnate Haim
Saban, ^2
famously quoted by the //New York Times// as saying, "I'm a one-issue
guy and my issue is Israel."^ 3
He also funded and established the Saban Institute for the Study of the
American Political System within the University of Tel Aviv.^ 4

WINEP's role within the AIPAC power constellation is clear. While AIPAC
lobbies with brute force for yearly aid allocations and enforces
adherence to Israeli doctrine in Congress, WINEP polishes and shines
Israeli policy objectives as pure expressions of US foreign policy
interests. AIPAC is secretive about its internal deliberations and
activities, but the highly sociable WINEP cultivates the image of a
serious group of objective "scholars and wonks" deliberating Middle East
policies in a rigorously academic fashion. WINEP not only hosts
symposiums and conferences, but also conducts closed-door meetings with
US politicians and distributes books and other publications rich in
toned-down AIPAC ideology.

While AIPAC officials are loath to do live media events, especially with
call-in or other potentially interactive audience segments, WINEP
analysts and authors are omnipresent across major news- and
policy-oriented programs. However, media announcements rarely mention
WINEP's overlap with AIPAC and other members of the Israel lobby or its
close connections to Israel, although this would provide listeners and
viewers with useful context for understanding the organization's
sophisticated positions. WINEP is also a place for grooming future
presidential appointees, and it is perceived as a less controversial and
more credible stepping stone to power than AIPAC.

Although AIPAC does not list WINEP as an affiliate in its IRS filings,
in 2004 26% of AIPAC's board of directors were also trustees of WINEP.

WINEP's ability to place stories that sway American public opinion
toward supporting Israeli objectives is quantitatively revealed by
analyzing the number of print media stories developed from WINEP content
and analysts over a period of five critical years. Access, rather than
merit or quality of content, drives WINEP's news media success,
according to former Middle East Studies Association President Joel Beinin:

While Aipac targets Congress through the massive election campaign
contributions that it coordinates and directs, Winep concentrates on
influencing the media and the executive branch. To this purpose it
offers weekly lunches with guest speakers, written policy briefs, and
"expert" guests for radio and television talk shows. Its director for
policy and planning, Robert Satloff; its deputy director, Patrick
Clawson; its senior fellow, Michael Eisenstadt, and other associates
appear regularly on radio and television. **Winep views prevail in two
weekly news magazines, **/*/ US News and World Report/*/** and **/*/ The
New Republic/*/** (whose editors-in-chief, Mortimer Zuckerman and Martin
Peretz, sit on Winep's board of advisers) **. The views of Winep's
Israeli associates, among them journalists Hirsh Goodman, David
Makovsky, Ze'ev Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari, are spoon-fed to the American
media.^ 6

An analysis of major print coverage of WINEP-attributed content between
the years 2001 and 2006 reveals that WINEP is not always engaged in a
full-on media blitz. Rather, its media power is exercised cyclically as
initiatives are strategically "brought to market." In 2002, WINEP went
on the offensive, tying the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US to Israel's
own efforts to subdue Palestinians and making a broad and vitriolic call
for a greater US military role in the Middle East. Using the ProQuest
<> print media database citations as an index,
WINEP boosted war messaging media placements by 7%. In 2002-2003, AIPAC
went into overdrive, secretly working Congress to support the ill-fated
invasion of Iraq based on "weapons of mass destruction" and other
pretexts. WINEP "analysts" began an all-out media blitz to "substantiate
pretexts" and urge a hasty US military invasion of Iraq in the face of
global opposition. Dennis Ross, the ubiquitous director of WINEP,
eloquently appealed for public rejection of containment and other
measures short of immediate US military invasion in a typical
//Baltimore Sun// op-ed on March 13, 2003:

Sooner or later, Mr. Hussein, with nukes, would miscalculate again,
making the unthinkable in the Middle East all too likely.

Some might reasonably argue that there are better ways to ensure he does
not acquire nuclear weapons. Enhanced containment, with open-ended and
intrusive inspections, could prevent Mr. Hussein from acquiring or
developing these weapons. True, but is such a regime realistic? When the
Bush administration came to power, the existing containment regime was

The alternative of war has made France a convert to enhanced containment
for the time being. It has also provided Mr. Hussein an incentive to
grudgingly, and always at the last minute, take the minimal steps
required to keep us at bay.

Does anyone believe that in the absence of more than 200,000 U.S. troops
in the area Mr. Hussein would be taking even his minimal steps? How long
would he continue to "cooperate" if the troops weren't there? How long
would the French insist on intrusive inspections if we weren't on the
brink of war? And how long can we keep such a large military presence in
the area?

The unfortunate truth is that we cannot maintain a war footing
indefinitely. The paradox is that our large-scale military presence
creates the potential to contain Iraq, but it is sustainable neither
from our standpoint nor from the standpoint of the region. Either we
will use it to disarm Mr. Hussein or we will within the next few months
have to withdraw it. And once we began to remove it, several new and
dangerous realities would emerge. ^7

The WINEP media placement index reveals a jump from 611 to 672 between
the year 2002 and 2003 — a 10% increase in mainly Iraq-invasion-focused
media placements.

* *WINEP Media Placement Index **
//(Source: ProQuest Print Database Search) //
WINEP Media Placement Index

In the post-invasion fallout after public discovery that weapons of mass
destruction were not the imminent threat to the US that had been
portrayed by WINEP and many other operatives, WINEP saw no need to
maintain a "surge"-level media blitz. The mission of getting US troops
into Iraq, mirroring Israel's own occupation of Palestinian territories,
had been accomplished.

However, the post-invasion index jump from 430 to 630 indicates that
WINEP is again on a mission. It is no secret that the new military
objective is Israel's arch-nemesis, Iran. **Although the US public is
vastly more skeptical about the claims of war partisans, the 47%
increase in Iran-centric WINEP media placements should be understood as
a leading indicator of military conflict in 2008 if WINEP and AIPAC meet
their objectives **. Given the elite status and political muscle of
WINEP trustees, the efforts of AIPAC's think tank should not be
underestimated, especially in an election year. WINEP meets before the
entry of a new president to debate and draft the administration's Middle
East "blueprint." Many WINEP trustees believe that this policy mandate
affecting all Americans is the prerogative of its handpicked commission
members, including officials of the Israeli military establishment.
Brian Whitaker of //The Guardian// questioned whether any other foreign
principal could accomplish the same maneuver.

The Washington Institute is considered the most influential of the
Middle East think tanks, and the one that the state department takes
most seriously. Its director is the former US diplomat, Dennis Ross.

Besides publishing books and placing newspaper articles, the institute
has a number of other activities that for legal purposes do not
constitute lobbying, since this would change its tax status.

It holds lunches and seminars, typically about three times a week, where
ideas are exchanged and political networking takes place. It has also
given testimony to congressional committees nine times in the last five

Every four years, it convenes a "bipartisan blue-ribbon commission"
known as the Presidential study group, which presents a blueprint for
Middle East policy to the newly-elected president.

The institute makes no secret of its extensive links with Israel, which
currently include the presence of two scholars from the Israeli armed

Israel is an ally and the connection is so well known that officials and
politicians take it into account when dealing with the institute. But it
would surely be a different matter if the ally concerned were a country
such as Egypt, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. ^8

AIPAC's influence in the US news media leads to curious and generally
unnoticed subsidiary alumni reunions. On June 14, 2007, following a
Hamas takeover of Palestinian installations in Gaza, Wolf Blitzer
invited Dennis Ross into the CNN situation room to give his perspective
on the instability. Customarily, Dennis Ross's new book and WINEP
affiliation were mentioned; AIPAC and the pervasive Israel connection
were not. Equally unmentioned were Wolf Blitzer's former career as a
reporter and editor of the //Near East Report// (AIPAC's newsletter) in
the 1970s or his authorship of a comprehensive apologia downplaying the
damage caused to the US by Jonathan Pollard's spying for Israel in his
book //Territory of Lies//.^ 9

Although WINEP's media influence is growing, compared to other think
tanks, AIPAC's ability to place public policy messages in the news media
through WINEP was comparatively limited until 2002. Thanks to a timely
"acquisition," AIPAC and WINEP can now count on broader promulgation of
AIPAC policy ideas through the Brookings Institution, one of the oldest
and most highly regarded public policy think tanks in the United States.

* The Saban Center for Middle East Policy *

Brookings Institution Middle East policy research was placed under the
direction of former AIPAC deputy director for research Martin Indyk in
May of 2002. In an Internet video presenting the Saban Center, Indyk
vastly understates both Haim Saban's biography and his contribution to
Brookings by referring to it as merely the "generosity of a Los Angeles
businessman." In 2006, //Forbes// magazine more accurately described
Saban as the 98th richest person in America and the "Egyptian-born,
Israeli-raised, now-American cartoon king." ^10
Indyk does not, however, understate how assembling hand-picked
researchers to produce tightly messaged policy research can be thought
of as "a business" in his Saban Center introductory video.

Haim Saban, a, uh, businessman in Los Angeles, came to Brookings with a
desire to see us do more work on the Middle East issue. On the issues of
the peace process, and terrorism, and the spread of weapons of mass
destruction, and energy issues. And, uh, was prepared to put up the
funds to get the center started. Through Haim Saban's generosity, we are
now able to launch a much larger effort to promote innovative policies,
research and analysis that brings together the best minds in the
business. ^11

It is useful to carry Indyk's "business" analogy a bit further. In 2003,
Haim Saban led the $5.7 billion purchase of Kirch Media Group; in 2001,
News Corporation and Saban sold Fox Family Worldwide for $5.1 billion.
Saban was part of an investor group that won the bid for Univision, the
biggest Spanish-language media corporation in the United States, in June
of 2006. Financially speaking, Saban's $13 million Brookings investment
secured control over one of the most financially robust as well as
influential policy think tanks. In 2005, the Brookings Institution's net
assets totaled $269,660,363. ^12
 From Saban's perspective as a savvy media player concerned with
promoting the policies of Israel's government, taking over Brookings
Middle East policy by launching the Saban Center in 2002 was yet another
sound and extremely timely business investment — this time, in the
marketplace of ideas. According to 2002 research by media watchdog
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Brookings led think tanks in total
US media influence, measured by the number of policy analyst and report
citations appearing in major US media.

* *Think Tank Share: US Marketplace of Policy Ideas **
//(Source: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) //
ms3.jpg <>

By targeting and taking over Middle East policy at Brookings in 2002,
Saban and Indyk were able to "leapfrog" AIPAC messaging from second to
last in the think tank market (WINEP had only 2%) to first place. Taking
over Brookings also made it appear to Americans that there was now an
"expert consensus" from "right to left" on the key Middle East policy
issue of the year: the US invasion of Iraq on weapons of mass
destruction pretexts. Brookings is often portrayed as a "centrist to
left think tank" in the corporate news media. According to FAIR,
"Progressive or Left-Leaning" media citations were a small but important
segment of the marketplace of ideas, but combined with "centrist," they
represented the majority. For Saban and Indyk, taking over Brookings
Middle East policy in 2002 ^13
meant penetrating the 63% of the marketplace of ideas that was generally
not beating a drum for war in Iraq.

* *US Think Tank Policy by Political Ideology **
//(Source: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) //
US Think Tank Policy by Political Ideology

The arguments in favor of the Iraq invasion in the many Saban Center
articles appearing across major newspapers, such as "Lock and Load" by
Martin Indyk and Kenneth M. Pollack, Director of Research at Saban, did
not differ in message from those of AIPAC's own Washington Institute for
Near East Policy and Dennis Ross. It would have been odd if they did,
since, like Indyk, Kenneth Pollack worked at WINEP as a "research
fellow" specializing on Iraq. ^14

Rather, the Bush administration could take the time it needs to "study"
the Iraqi declaration, discussing its falsehoods and fabrications with
allied governments until it has lined up all the necessary political and
military ducks. Once the best case has been made and the preparations
completed (probably in a few weeks), President Bush could announce that,
in accordance with United Nations Resolution 1441, we and our allies
have concluded that Iraq is in material breach of the 1991 cease-fire
resolution and therefore the U.S. will lead a coalition to disarm Iraq
by force.

If there must be war, this is the best way. The problem with allowing
the inspections to play themselves out is that it is a policy based on
hope, and as Secretary of State Colin Powell is fond of saying, "hope is
not a plan."

There is real risk in allowing the inspections to run on indefinitely.
The longer the inspections go on and find nothing, the harder it will be
for the U.S. to build a coalition when we finally decide to take
action.^ 15

The takeover of Brookings Middle East policy by an AIPAC operative and
Israeli-American businessman represents an evolution in AIPAC influence
over think tanks. >From a business perspective, AIPAC has moved from
"investment in startups" to "establishing subsidiaries" to the more
recent stage of "corporate takeovers and acquisitions." AIPAC has
evolved strategically as a result of success and failure. Financing Dr.
Benjamin Shwadran's highly academic policy research at the Council on
Middle East Affairs with Jewish Agency funding laundered through the
Rabinowitz Foundation was problematic and nearly crumbled under the
glare of Fulbright's 1963 Senate probe. Even setting up the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy in 1984 with AIPAC donor funds and board
member involvement still did not give AIPAC the desired influence level
of other less "captive" think tanks, particularly in the US news media.
The takeover of Middle East policy at Brookings achieved what AIPAC had
long sought in the marketplace of public policy: prestige, ideological
spectrum dominance, and the highest level of achievable corporate media
placement for its public policy initiatives. The American people are now
more susceptible than ever before to AIPAC's "weapons of mass
destruction" propaganda campaigns and other targeted media messages
emanating from its right, left, and center public policy "think tanks."
AIPAC and Saban are apparently convinced that the same messages can be
effectively rebranded and simultaneously broadcast from both WINEP and
Brookings. "Lock and Load" co-author Kenneth Pollack proved this during
media appearances on CNN and Fox News in which he was successfully
positioned as a liberal Bush Iraq war critic gradually coming to see the
wisdom of the US military occupation, as documented by news watchdog
//Media Matters//:

During the July 30 edition of CNN Newsroom, anchor Heidi Collins
introduced Kenneth Pollack of The Brookings Institution by saying that
Pollack "has been a vocal critic of the administration's handling of the
[Iraq] war, but he says that an eight-day visit has changed his outlook
a bit." Collins also said that Pollack's "tune is changing a bit" with
respect to the war. Pollack went on to discuss how a recent visit to
Iraq has left him "more optimistic" about the war. However, while
focusing on Pollack's criticisms of the "handling" of the war, Collins
failed to note that Pollack was an influential proponent of the Iraq
invasion before it happened, leaving viewers with the impression that
Pollack was a war opponent who has become more supportive of the war.
Pollack's 2002 book on the subject was titled //The Threatening Storm:
The Case for Invading Iraq//.^ 16

Saban and AIPAC can be confident that few of the message's target
viewing population knew about Pollack's record or key financial backer.
They can also count on a new generation of eager AIPAC activists to
populate think tanks and congressional offices in coming years thanks to
"Saban Training" at AIPAC.

This summer GDI is proud to send two of its members to the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Saban Training. On July 22,
Joshua Sussman and Jen Sovronsky will travel to Washington, DC for 4
days of intense advocacy training.

The Saban conference is AIPAC's premier student political leadership
training seminar, presented through its Schusterman Advocacy Institute,
is held twice each year in Washington, D.C. More than three hundred of
AIPAC's top student activists from over 100 campuses participate in
three days of intense grassroots political and advocacy training. During
this seminar, students meet with top Washington policy makers, elected
officials, and Middle East experts. ^17

However, even as Saban advocacy training and activities continue in
Washington, the potentially explosive outcome of a criminal trial
across the Potomac in the Eastern District Court of Virginia could
change the way many Americans view AIPAC.

1. Mark Milstein, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1991. #

2. Grant F. Smith, " Israel Lobby Initiates Hispanic Strategy
<>." #

3. Andrew Ross Sorkin, // New York Times//, September 5, 2004. #

4. Phyllis Berman, // Forbes Magazine//, December 8, 2006. #

5. AIPAC Board Members on WINEP's Board as listed in 2004 IRS form 990
filings include Robert Asher, Paul Baker, Edward Levy, Mayer Mitchell,
Larry Mizel, Lester Pollack, Nina Rosenwald, Eugene Schupak, Roseelyne
Swig, James Tisch, Larry Weinberg, Tim Wurlinger and Harriet Zimmerman.

6. Joel Beinin, // Le Monde Diplomatique//, July 2003. #

7. Ross, Dennis, // Baltimore Sun//, March 19, 2003. #

8. Brian Whitaker, // The Guardian//, August 19, 2002. #

9. //Territory //// of Lies: The Exclusive Story of Jonathan Jay
Pollard: The American Who Spied on His Country for Israel and How He Was
Betrayed // #

10. //Forbes Magazine //, September 21, 2006. #

11. Director's Introductory Video
<>, Brookings Saban Center
Website. #

12. Brookings Institution form 990 filing for its fiscal year ending
June 30, 2005. #

13. Brookings Saban Center Website
<>. #

14. Profile of Pollack from the WINEP website archive

15. Martin Indyk, // Los Angeles//// Times//, December 19, 2002. #

16. //Media Matters //, July 30, 2007. #

17. University of Albany community website

/*Grant F. Smith is the author of / Foreign Agents and the 2006 book
Deadly Dogma: How Neoconservatives Broke the Law to Deceive America . He
currently serves as director of research at the Institute for Research:
Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, D.C. Read other articles by Grant
<>, or visit Grant's
website <>.
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