January 30, 2009

Former Clinton Administration Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross is under consideration as US State Department envoy to Iran. Ross is currently the chairman of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI) in Jerusalem, established by the Jewish Agency in 2002. Ross could face legal challenges under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, if he enters US government service.

FARA protects the American people and Congress from stealth propaganda and foreign lobbying through strict public disclosure filings. The Jewish Agency has repeatedly surfaced during investigations in the US. In the 1960s the Senate Foreign Relations Committee uncovered a network of stealth Jewish Agency "conduits" financing grassroots Israel lobby startup groups through the American Zionist Council (AZC). During 1963 hearings the Senate revealed the equivalent of $35 million went toward US lobbying, including $38,000 to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) founder Isaiah Kenen between 1960-1961.

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Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered the AZC to register as the Jewish Agency’s foreign agent in November of 1962. The AZC shifted lobbying activities over to AIPAC and shut down. In 1969 the Department of Justice ordered the Jewish Agency to file its secret 1953 Covenant Agreement with the Israeli government. The Covenant agreement reveals the Jewish Agency’s ongoing receipt of Israeli government funds for operations and powers such as executive review of legislative matters before they go to the Knesset. The Jewish Agency New York office, like the AZC, quickly shut down only to reorganize under a new US shell corporation in 1971.

Since 2002 former American diplomat Dennis Ross has filed no FARA activity declarations. This could be a problem according to IRmep director Grant F. Smith. "The US Department of Justice has always asked US recipients of Jewish Agency funding — whether the American Zionist Council and its US executives, or the Jewish Agency’s New York office — to register as agents of a foreign principal. With US-Iran diplomacy and restoration of productive relations looming so urgently, now is certainly not the time to resurrect foreign agent registration battles."

Researchers may view newly released documents about the Jewish Agency and the US Department of Justice Foreign Registration Act at The Israel Lobby Archive is a unit of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep) in Washington.

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