NEW YORK (Aug. 11)
How far should Jewish groups go in monitoring their opponents? Should they track what other Jewish groups do? And what makes someone a legitimate subject to be monitored?
These issues have come to the fore following charges in the New York weekly Village Voice that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee runs a “stealth unit” that maintains a “burgeoning enemies list.”
AIPAC denies that the research undertaken by its policy analysis unit goes beyond collating public positions of people regarding the Middle East.
“People need to know what’s being said on issues of concern to us,” explained AIPAC spokeswoman Toby Dershowitz. “It’s an advocacy’s group’s job to maintain the public record of issues we follow.”
“We do not, as the article alleges, conduct field investigations of anyone, ever, nor do we engage in any kind of covert intelligence-gathering,” Tom Dine, AIPAC’s executive director, said in a statement.
But a senior AIPAC official confirmed the existence of a memorandum that appears to cast the Washington Jewish Week’s former managing editor, Andrew Silow Carroll, in a negative light.
Steven Rosen, AIPAC’s foreign policy director, says he released the memo after being approached by members of the newspaper’s board.
MEMO CONTRIBUTED TO CARROLL’S DEMOTION
The memo has been cited as a contributing factor in the paper’s move to demote Carroll by bringing in an editor above him.
The memo describes remarks Carroll reportedly made at a picnic sponsored by Washington’s “alternative Jewish community.” According to Rosen, the memo suggests that Carroll “sought to bring down the organized Jewish community.”
Carroll denies harboring such a desire, saying that his remarks were misinterpreted and quoted out of context.
“I’m surprised that AIPAC would jump on one public appearance to characterize an individual,” he said.
Rosen also charges that the memo proves Carroll took the wrong side in a debate that was the topic of heated gossip even prior to the brazen expose by the Village Voice: Had AIPAC drifted to the right in recent years?
AIPAC has made a strong effort to refute the charges, citing testimonials from, among others, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Groups on the dovish side of the mainstream organized Jewish community say they have experienced no problems with AIPAC or its methods, and that they do not feel they have been targeted for advocating the Labor Party position that Israel trade land for peace.
The groups and others have also confirmed that AIPAC’s “Activities” newsletter, which informs 400 Jewish organizational leaders of the activities of Arab-American and other groups opposed to AIPAC’s positions, consists solely of public statements, presented in context.
The Village Voice had charged that the newsletter, which is mailed in a plain envelope and does not indicate it is published by AIPAC, often paints “a false portrait of the accused” enemies of Israel.
Jewish organizational officials also did not fault AIPAC for keeping files on individuals.
“It is important to gather information so we can advise the Jewish community,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which closely monitors anti-Semitic groups. “But we have a tremendous responsibility to be very, very careful with it.”
The responsibility, he said, applies to both verifying the accuracy of the information and to what is done with it.
ROSEN MADE NO EFFORT TO VERIFY INFORMATION
Rosen of AIPAC acknowledges he made no effort to verify the information in the memo concerning Carroll of the Washington Jewish Week, which he said he had found suprising.
And he also acknowledges using the information twice: once to discredit Carroll with a reporter from The Washington Post who was writing a story on AIPAC, and more recently when approached by board members of the Washington Jewish Week.
“I understand that friends of my publisher, who were influential in having me removed, had been in contact with AIPAC and had received this memo,” said Carroll, who resigned from the paper shortly after being demoted.
The publisher of the Washington Jewish Week, Leonard Kapiloff, denies that the decision to hire a new editor was based on AIPAC’s files.
“I believe that Rosen owes Andy Carroll and (my paper) an apology,” he said.
The memo at issue was the account of a former intern who happened by the picnic sponsored in May 1991 by several groups, including Tikkun magazine and New Jewish Agenda.
Agenda is one of the groups that a 1990 AIPAC internal memo describes as being the focus of the policy analysis division.
“That doesn’t mean they’re anti-Israel,” said an AIPAC official. “It means they disagree with some of our lobbying objectives.”
The memo quotes Carroll as saying only: “As long as we are meeting on park benches and the right is meeting in hotel ballrooms,” the Jewish community must still be embracing the right.
On a copy of the memo provided to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by AIPAC, the word “we” in that sentence is circled, as is the word “they” in the title of the panel discussion.
‘US VERSUS THEM’
Rosen said that Carroll’s remarks “were not particularly extreme, except he talked in an us-versus-them way against the organized Jewish community.”
Said Carroll: “When I talk to fellow Jews, I often use the word ‘we.’”
Columnist Leonard Fein is disturbed by the use of the memo. “Any journalist ought to be judged on the basis of his public record as a journalist.
“The fact that AIPAC was stung by some of the articles that Carroll published raises an uncomfortable suspicion that the inhibitions were lapsed and the information they had was abused,” said Fein.
Senior AIPAC officials acknowledge a grudge between Rosen and the Washington Jewish Week, stemming from articles the newspaper published critical of AIPAC and presenting Rosen in what he says is an unfair light.