WASHINGTON (Feb. 19)
Congressmen William Fitts Ryan and Benjamin; Rosenthal, both New York Democrats, this weekend condemned the support of an anti-Israel organization by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The Congressmen cited authoritative reports to the effect that the CIA has financed the American Friends of the Middle East, a pro-Arab, anti-Israel propaganda front. They called for an investigation by President Johnson.
Mr. Ryan and Mr. Rosenthal said “the CIA undermines the Administration policy of friendship toward Israel by secretly funding the AFME.” They cited AFME’s attacks on Israel and propaganda issued by Elmo Hutchison, AFME’s former Middle East director. They pointed out that AFME helps finance and guides an organization it created, the Organization of Arab Students. The group spreads anti-Israel and sometimes anti-Jewish propaganda at over 100 American colleges and universities by Arab students. The Arab student activity is supported by the Arab League in Cairo, which sends out the propaganda lines to be followed. The CIA apparently financed the anti-Israel propaganda in an effort to woo young Arabs away from Communism.
The two Congressmen said: “The CIA’s covert domestic activities are totally inconsistent with the most basic principles of democratic government. We cannot afford to allow a Government agency to act against the best interests of the nation.” They suggest that the Administration immediately terminate CIA meddling on the domestic scene, and urged “a watchdog committee composed of seven members of the Senate and seven members of the House to oversee CIA operations.”
AFME took credit publicly for organizing the Arab students. On a number of occasions, AFME petitioned Congress to take anti-Israel positions. AFME also opposed measures designed to relieve the plight of Soviet Jewry. Among the leaders of AFME have been such former State Department officials as Harold B. Minor, who served in the State Department’s Near Eastern division.
Charges were made in 1963 in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that $4,000,000 was paid by the United States Government to finance AFME. The testimony was offered by Bushrod Howard, Jr., a representative of the royalist Yemen Government. The State Department denied the charges. It emerged later that AFME’s expenditures, in excess of $1,000,000 a year for a number of years, were subsidized through various conduits by the CIA.
Most of the AFME funds were spent to bring Arab students to the United States, whose main activity turned out to be anti-Israel propaganda. Instead of waging an anti-Communist campaign, such students generally threatened that the Near East would go Communist unless the United States repudiated Israel.