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AIPAC's civil war revealed

nat-aipacBy Clayton Swisher

America's top Israel lobby is going through a process of discovery quite literally in the legal sense and has laid itself bare in this 260-page motion in the District of Columbia's Superior Court. Kudos to's Grant Smith for flagging it.

From the outset, AIPAC's former top employees Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen made clear they were not going to go down on charges of spying for Israel without a fight. AIPAC initially backed Rosen and Weissman when the FBI raided its offices in August 2004. But to the shock of many, AIPAC dropped the two like a bad habit just seven months later, alleging the pair had not lived up to AIPAC's professional standards. Federal indictments followed.

And according to this tell-all deposition with Steve Rosen, AIPAC standards might have included viewing pornography at work with the consent of senior managers while also, as Rosen admits, using his work computer to solicit male sex partners from Craigslist.

Having spent several years in DC's Middle East policy circuit, I had several run ins with Rosen who, I have to say, always struck me as more than your typical partisan hack. More Israeli than the Israelis comes to mind.

Keith Weissman was altogether different. We both covered US-Iran policy at the same time (2004); Keith for AIPAC, myself for Arab clients. I had met Keith prior to his arrest and have since wondered if we had dined next to a table of FBI surveillance agents. If you want to know what's happening in US-Iran relations, who better to ask than AIPAC? They had way better access to senior policymakers than most. And Keith was introduced to me by a colleague as "someone from the Lobby who you could stomach dealing with".

Rosen, on the other hand, has a far different reputation. I think his own testimony speaks volumes. Seems among the first places he ran upon learning of the FBI's case against him was to an Israeli Embassy official in DC (Rosen: "there was probably some reference to [convicted US spy Jonathan] Pollard, because that's the first thing that comes to mind in such a controversy." No doubt, Steve.) 

Rosen says he met with Rafi Barak, the Israeli deputy chief of mission, at a local "Bread and Chocolate," but upon hearing Rosen's straightened situation, all Barak wanted was the bill and to get the hell away.

After reading the exhaustive autopsy of AIPAC's darkest internal matters, it's hard to imagine how they got anything at all done. It appears their donations have sharply declined in recent years. Despite that they've managed to advocate for a US war with Iran, promoted policies to foster an internal Palestinian war, spearheaded the narrative that collective punishment against the 1.6 million people of Gaza is humane - all the while, it seems, they were engaged in their own bloody, civil war within the cubicles.

No wonder Josh Block, the AIPAC spokesman, emailed me a few weeks back to say he was quitting the Lobby to open his own private shop. From this side of the keyboard, there was no love lost.  

It was AIPAC's Block, after all, who threw me out of their annual shindig in 2008 for daring to ask if AIPAC had gone too far with Rosen and Weissman. Seems I really did happen upon a touchy subject.

Though I wish I could claim otherwise, I had no way of knowing just how sensitive, and scandalous, it all really was.

Clayton Swisher, based in Doha, covers stories across the Middle East and further afield.

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