CAIR: US LOBBYING EFFORTS INFLUENCE POLICY IN MIDDLE EAST
Lobbying [the influencing of public officials] is a big part of the political process in the United States, with thousands of groups representing a wide spectrum of causes. Over the years, the Jewish-American lobby has emerged as very influential on issues relating to Middle East. But over the last few years, the Arab-American lobby's influence has grown significantly.
America's unwavering support for Israel has often been a source of contention in the Middle East. Many Arab-Americans say this was evident during the recent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel's influence with decision makers is partly the result of the strong pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S.
Eugene Bird is from the Council for the National Interest, a pro-Palestinian lobby group in Washington D.C. "We [the U.S.] are the greatest Jewish power. We have 5.5 million Jews, more Jews here than other [country] in the world. They are an important part of our community."
Several pro-Israeli lobbying groups declined VOA's requests for interviews. However, lobbying experts say the pro-Israeli lobby is among the most active in influencing U.S. foreign policy.
Massie Ritsch is from the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan organization that tracks campaign contributions. "Money influences politics, and campaign contributions and lobbying do have an influence on American government. The pro-Israeli lobby is probably the most influential among foreign interests. They account for about one quarter of the money spent on federal lobbying."
On the other hand, Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says the pro-Arab-lobby is in its infancy. "The pro-Arab or Islamic lobby in the United States is a new phenomenon. When we work in this young organization, which is 12 years, compared to 60- or 90-year-old Jewish organizations [that] have been working on influencing the administration and the Congress to [support] Israel. We do not look at it that way. We look at it as, we are a civic organization that cares about domestic issues."