Conflict & Justice

AIPAC's top 5 controversial moments (VIDEO)


Anti-war demonstrators shout slogans as seen from the motorcade of US President Barack Obama as he is leaving after speaking during the AIPAC Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center on March 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama urged Iran on Sunday to seek a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off, reaffirming his backing for key ally Israel and saying there was "too much loose talk of war."



AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, kicked off its annual policy conference on Sunday. Founded in 1963 by Isaiah L. Kenen, who originally ran the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs, AIPAC's mission is "to ensure Israel’s security and protect American interests in the Middle East and around the world." 

Though President Barack Obama's address Sunday to the powerful pro-Israel lobby has gotten attention, it is hardly the first time AIPAC has made the news. Here, we round up the organization's most controversial moments. 

1. President David Steiner resigns

 In 1992, AIPAC's then-president David Steiner was forced to resign after he was recorded boasting about his political power and ability to secure aid for Israel, according to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Haim Katz, a New York real estate developer, secretly taped a telephone conversation with Steiner and released it to the press.

"Besides the $3 billion [I got], you know they're looking for the Jewish votes, and I'll tell him whatever he wants to hear," Steiner said in the recording. "Besides the $10 billion in loan guarantees, which was a fabulous thing, $3 billion in foreign, in military aid, and I got almost a billion dollars in other goodies that people don't even know about." 

2. Director Steven Rosen and senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman fired

In April 2005, AIPAC's policy director Steven Rosen and senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman were both fired from the organization in light of an FBI investigation over whether they had passed along classified information to Israel, according to The New York Times.

Rosen and Weissman were both charged with violating the Espionage Act, which accused them of leaking information obtained in conversations with senior Bush administration officials to AIPAC employees, journalists and Israeli diplomats, according to the Times. On May 1, 2009, the Obama Justice Department dropped the charges against the two men. 

3. Representative Betty McCollum accused of supporting terrorists

In 2006, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota demanded an apology from AIPAC, after a representative from the lobbying organization described her vote against 2006's Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act as "support for terrorists," according to a letter from McCollum published by the New York Review of Books. The bill, which was not passed, aimed to promote the development of democratic institutions in Palestinian-controlled areas. 

4. AIPAC slammed by Congressman Jim Moran in a magazine interview

Democratic Congressman Jim Moran from northern Virginia caused a national controversy in 2007 when he told Tikkun, a Jewish magazine based in California, that AIPAC had been "pushing the [Iraq War] from the beginning."

"I don't think they represent the mainstream of American Jewish thinking at all, but because they are so well organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful — most of them are quite wealthy — they have been able to exert power," Moran said in the interview. 

In response, a group of 16 Jewish congressmen led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman spoke out against Moran's statements, drafting a letter calling his comments “deeply offensive,” Politico reported

“The idea that the war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish Americans is factually incorrect and unfortunately fits the anti-Semitic stereotypes some have used historically against Jews,” wrote the group.

5. Obama's speech to AIPAC

In his speech to AIPAC committee members ahead of their policy conference on Sunday, Obama said that he would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and would act to prevent that from happening; with military force, if necessary, The New York Times reported

“Already, there is too much loose talk of war,” Obama said. “Over the last few weeks such talk has only benefited the Iranian government by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster.”

More from GlobalPost: Obama tells AIPAC talk of war only helps Iran

What controversial moments are we missing? Leave your comments below.