The following is an excerpt from Foreign Agents: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee From the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal.
by Grant F. Smith
AIPAC was founded by Isaiah L. “Si” Kenen, springing from the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs Kenen registered twice with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) as a foreign agent for Israel. On April 21, 1947 he registered as an agent of the American Section of the Jewish Agency for Israel.[ii Si Kenen also registered at FARA as an agent for the “Israel Information Services” on October 12, 1948 through May 13, 1951.[iii Kenen changed the committee’s name from the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 1959, to better reflect that it, according to him, “raised its funds from both Zionists and non-Zionists.”[iv Kenen’s emphasis on a low-key, uncontroversial, and even non-descriptive organization name continued after his departure when AIPAC spawned a network of obliquely named political action committees (PACs) across the United States designed to sway the results of key elections. From a historical perspective, all of the lessons Kenen learned running the American Zionist Council with funds and guidance from the Israeli government are part of AIPAC’s “institutional DNA.” It is impossible to understand AIPAC without understanding its precursor, the American Zionist Council.Kenen served as AIPAC’s executive director and also owned and edited the influential newsletter, the Near East Report.[v The Near East Report is now housed under a separate nonprofit corporate affiliate structure, for reasons explored later. Kenen was an Ohio newspaperman until 1943, when he left to become the secretary of the American Jewish Conference; he remained there until 1948.[vi He was also the Jewish Agency’s information director between 1947 and 1948 at the United Nations. This was Israel’s first UN delegation after its formation as a state in 1948. In 1951, Kenen went to Washington to lobby Congress for aid to Israel, founding the American Zionist Committee, which later spun off AIPAC. Between 1951 and March 15, 1954, Kenen directed legislative activity in Washington on behalf of the American Zionist Council. The American Zionist Council restructured its lobbying activities beginning in early 1954, when the organization’s leaders became uncomfortable using internationally sourced tax-exempt donations for lobbying on Capitol Hill. Fred Scribner, a friendly U.S. Undersecretary of Treasury, confidentially recommended during a 1959 meeting with key Zionist organizations operating in the U.S. that they needed to restructure themselves in order to avoid problems with the Eisenhower administration, the IRS, and the U.S. Department of Justice.[vii According to UCLA scholar Steven Spiegel, opposition from the president was intense:
“The tension between the Eisenhower administration and Israeli supporters was so acute that there were rumors (unfounded as it turned out) that the administration would investigate the American Zionist Council. Therefore, an independent lobbying group was formed within the auspices of the American Zionist Committee.” [viii