Top Pro-Israel Lobbyist Forced Out Over Slurs
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chief lobbyist for America’s most powerful pro-Israel interest group is being forced from his post after he was quoted in a new book as slurring Orthodox Jews.
The resignation of Thomas Dine, who for 13 years has directed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, followed angry calls from the group’s membership for his departure.
Dine, 53, was interviewed four years ago by Israeli journalist David Landau, whose book ″Piety and Power: The World of Jewish Fundamentalism″ was published several weeks ago.
In it, Landau quoted Dine as saying he had never been to Brooklyn, N.Y. - home to many Orthodox Jews - because the congressmen from there already were pro-Israel, adding: ″I don’t think mainstream Jews feel very comfortable with the ultra-Orthodox. It is a class thing, I suppose. Their image is ’smelly.‴
Later, Dine said some Jewish aid workers don’t fly on El Al, Israel’s national airline, because of ‴those people.′ But I fly El Al to Israel because it is direct. Yes, TWA flies direct, too. But it is low class, like the Orthodox. Yes, that’s still the image. Still the poor immigrant image. That’s the perception of a lot of people I mix with.″
In his resignation letter Monday to Aipac President Steve Grossman, Dine acknowledged making the comments but said they were misleading and did not reflect his true beliefs. He concluded: ″It is an unfortunate reality that some people weigh this incident more heavily than my total record.″
Dine said he plans to write, and to start his own Washington lobbying firm.
Grossman said in an interview Tuesday that he and other Aipac leaders and members feared Dine’s comments could be polarizing and divisive for the organization. ″Tom’s effectiveness ... may have been seriously undermined or compromised,″ he said. ″We simply could not permit that to happen.″
During Dine’s tenure, Aipac membership grew from 8,000 to 55,000. The group swelled from a solely Washington operation with a $1.4 million budget to a network with 14 U.S. offices and a budget of $15 million.
Aipac also became legendary for its clout in Washington. It has been the chief defender and promoter of Israel’s status as the leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid. The Jewish state now gets $3 billion a year in cash from the United States, and hundreds of millions more in non-cash benefits.