By Grant Smith
Jeffrey Goldberg’s current cover story in The Atlantic, “The Point of No Return,” achieved massive distribution across a broad spectrum of old and new media in the United States. Some observers – including Glenn Greenwald in “How Propagandists Function” – noted how well the methodology and message of Goldberg’s piece serves the Israeli government’s efforts to push U.S. military action against Iran. Gareth Porter views it as part of an overarching strategy to keep the U.S. from restoring productive relations with Iran. A huge trove of newly declassified documents subpoenaed during a Senate investigation reveals how Israel’s lobby pitched, promoted, and paid to have content placed in America’s top news magazines with overseas funding. The Atlantic (and others) received hefty rewards for trumpeting Israel’s most vital – but damaging – PR initiatives across America.
Unlike today, back in the 1960s Israel and its lobby were battling mightily to draw American attention away from the entire subject of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. A secret executive report [.pdf] subpoenaed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigation into the American Zionist Council, or AZC (AIPAC’s parent organization), reveals the lobby’s careful tracking of and satisfaction with most mainstream U.S. media coverage about the Dimona nuclear weapons facility:
“The nuclear reactor story inspired comment from many sources: editorial writers, columnists, science writers and cartoonists. Most of the press seemed finally to accept the thesis that the reactor was being built for peaceful purposes and not for bombs. Some columnists felt that the U.S. should have awaited more information before ‘ventilating its suspicions’. Drew Pearson’s syndicated column justified Israel’s secrecy; William Laurence in the New York Times stressed Israel’s peaceful intent, in contrast to Arthur Krock who wanted the reactor placed under international safeguards. Arab protagonists in this country – including those in the State Department who raised all the fuss initially – used the occasion to try to cast doubt on Israel’s friendship toward the U.S.”
The observant now know that Israel’s massive, clandestine nuclear arsenal remains a thorn in the side of U.S. nonproliferation efforts. Building it required many unfriendly acts, such as materials theft and covert financing from U.S. donors. The Israeli nuclear arsenal story remains curiously under-reported in America, though not throughout the rest of the world. But have media outlets such as The Atlantic received assistance from Israel and its lobby for publishing helpful – but equally misleading – content?
The unqualified answer is yes.
In the early 1960s the AZC’s Magazine Committee [.pdf] met regularly with writers to prepare articles for top U.S. magazines such as Reader’s Digest, the Saturday Evening Post, and Life. In its program [.pdf] for “cultivation of editors” and “stimulation and placement of suitable articles in the major consumer magazines,” the committee pushed lighter subjects with prepared texts such as the thirteenth anniversary of Israel’s founding while killing investigative pieces at such publications as the Christian Science Monitor. The committee confronted two major news items challenging Israel: fallout from the “Lavon Affair” (a cover-up of failed false-flag Israeli terrorist attacks on U.S. government facilities in Egypt) and American peace proposals calling for the return of some expelled Palestinian refugees to their homes and property in Israel. The Israeli government and its U.S. lobby invested heavily in arguing against the return of Palestinian refugees through The Atlantic, according to yet another secret AZC report [.pdf]:
“The Atlantic Monthly in its October issue carried the outstanding Martha Gellhorn piece on the Arab refugees, which made quite an impact around the country. We arranged for the distribution of 10,000 reprints to public opinion molders in all categories. Acting on information that anti-Israel groups were bombarding the Atlantic with critical letters, we stimulated a letter campaign designed to counteract their impact. …
“Interested friends are making arrangements with the Atlantic for another reprint of the Gellhorn article to be sent to all 53,000 persons whose names appear in Who’s Who in America…
“The November issue of the Atlantic carried a special 64-page Supplement on Israel, with articles by some of Israel’s top names.…
“Our Committee is now planning articles for the women’s magazines for the trade and business publications.”
The Jewish Agency, an Israeli quasi-governmental organization with pre-legislative review powers and access to Israeli government tax revenues, laundered overseas tax-exempt charitable relief funds into U.S. public relations and lobbying through its American section. The AZC was incapable of independently raising its own revenue and received $5 million ($36 million in 2010 dollars) from the Jewish Agency over two years for public relations and lobbying. The Jewish Agency received AZC bi-monthly media action reports. Up to $6,300 ($45,360 today) was budgeted for reprints of “The Arabs of Palestine,” which erroneously concluded that “Palestinian refugees will merge into the Arab nations, because the young will insist on real lives instead of endless waiting.” It is clear from contemporary news reports and the heavily redacted Senate record that the AZC and the Jewish Agency seriously violated IRS regulations and the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The Senate investigation ultimately failed in its efforts to regulate secret foreign media manipulation and lobbying. The AZC transformed into AIPAC, and today The Atlantic is virtually alone among remnants of the battered magazine industry in its return to profitability. Jeffrey Goldberg’s prolific work no doubt helps propel that bottom line. But readers should remember the origin of deceptive waves of content that washed ashore in American magazines.
Read more by Grant Smith
- Try Assange Under the Espionage Act – August 8th, 2010
- Declassified GAO Report Exposes Fatally Flawed Israel Investigations – May 9th, 2010
- America’s Loose Nukes in Israel – April 13th, 2010
- Obama Can Stop Funding Illegal Settlements – April 1st, 2010
- Israel’s Lobby Imposes Crippling Sanctions on America — Again – March 11th, 2010
Ed. Note: Also recommended —
- The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, London Review of Books, 23 March 2006;
- The 52-minute documentary by the same name (2007); and
- Canada’s Israel Lobby by Peyton Vaughan Lyon (March 2010)