Arab lobby in the United States

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The Arab lobby in the United States is a collection of formal and informal groups and professional lobbyists paid directly by Arab governments or Arab citizens in the United States that lobby the public and government of the United States on behalf of Arab interests[1] and/or on behalf of Arab Americans in the United States.[2][3]


The National Association of Arab-Americans ("NAAA"), founded in 1972, was a political advocacy group whose goals were "to strengthen U.S. relations with Arab countries and to promote an evenhanded American policy based on justice and peace for all parties in the Middle East."[4] In the early 1970s there was growing anti-Arab sentiment related to the Arab–Israeli conflict and the 1973 oil embargo, leading to government investigations, executive orders, and legislative provisions to combat terrorism. These especially impacted on Arab American rights and activism. The response was the creation of groups like the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab American Institute.[2]

According to Michael Lewis, Director of Policy Analysis for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, for many years these groups worked together on the Palestinian issue, including through newspaper, direct mail and advertising campaigns against U.S. loan guarantees to Israel and states' purchase of Israel bonds, condemnation of Israeli human rights and calls for the U.S. government to pressure Israel, as well pro-Palestinian protests and letter-writing campaigns. Lewis states that they also offered testimony to congress and criticized Israel's congressional and organizational supporters, sought to pass pro-Palestinian resolutions in state and national party platforms; offering pro-Palestinian testimony before Congress and attempted to sue Israel in U.S. courts. According to Lewis after the Palestine Liberation Organization had reached an agreement with Israel, there was some division among the groups, however they continue to lobby for Palestinians.[5]

Lobbying by Arab states[edit]

Many of the players in the Arab lobby are paid directly by Arab governments. The New York Times describes them as an "elite band of former members of Congress, former diplomats and power brokers who have helped Middle Eastern nations navigate diplomatic waters here on delicate issues like arms deals, terrorism, oil and trade restrictions." Powerful lobbyists working on behalf of the Arab lobby include Bob Livingston, Tony Podesta, and Toby Moffett. Arab governments have paid "tens of millions of dollars" to "top" lobbying firms that work to influence the American government.[6] This includes the Saudi Arabia lobby, Egypt lobby and the Libya lobby.

In the wake of 9/11, Saudi Arabia hired the lobbying firms Patton Boggs and Qorvis, paying $14 million a year.[6][7]

Lobby fees paid by Arab governments to individual firms "commonly" reach levels of $50,000 and above. In 2009 alone the United Arab Emirates spent $5.3 million, as the Emirates were seeking nuclear technology. In 2009 Morocco spent $3 million and Algeria spent $600,000 on Washington, D.C. lobbyists. According to Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists, "These kinds of regimes have a lot of money at their disposal, and that'’s a great attraction."[6]

According to ProPublica, 4 of the top 10 governments lobbying in Washington are Arab, in terms of spending. The United Arab Emirates places first, having spent $10,914,002 in 2007 and 2008. Iraq, Morocco and Saudi Arabia also each spent over $3 million, and the non-Arab, Middle Eastern nation of Turkey also spent over $3 million.[8]

In June 2017, Qatar began a "massive lobbying campaign" in the U.S. after President Donald Trump sided with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Arab countries in imposing a blockade against Qatar. Through August 2018, "Qatar has hired 35 US lobbying firms and paid them a total of at least $19.5 million." According to disclosure filings, "The lobbyists contacted hundreds of members of the US Congress and dozens of journalists and Trump administration officials while spending millions of dollars on advertising that promotes Qatar as a US ally."[9] Lobbyists hired by Qatar include Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners and former attorney general John Ashcroft.[10][11] Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, brother of the Emir of Qatar, is alleged to be directing the U.S. lobbying campaign.[12]

Arab American civil rights and advocacy groups[edit]

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) was started in 1980 by United States Senator James Abourezk. It is the largest Arab American grassroots civil rights organization in the United States. Former US Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar is the current president. ADC is at the forefront in addressing anti-Arabism - discrimination and bias against Arab Americans. It also advocates what it calls a more balanced US policy towards the Middle East.[13]

The Arab American Institute ("AAI"), founded in 1985 by James Zogby, is a non-profit, membership organization and advocacy group based in Washington D.C. that focuses on the issues and interests of Arab American nationwide. The organization seeks to increase the visibility of Arab American involvement as voters and candidates in the American political system. It issues "Action Alerts" and encourages individual lobbying and participation in an annual national lobby day. It has promoted actively professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.[14]

Power of lobby[edit]

Academics Ali A. Mazrui and Nabeel A. Khoury have written about the virtual non-existence of an Arab lobby in America.[15]

In a 2007 State Department Foreign Press Center Briefing James Zogby of the Arab American Institute denied Arab Americans lobby for Arab governments. He told an audience: "There are many Arab lobbies. Each Arab government hires lobbyists to do their work for them. And we Arab Americans are not an Arab lobby. I think that the thing in the Jewish community that's interesting is that the Jewish community is supportive of Israel and the Israeli Government works very closely with elements in the American Jewish community around a convergence of ideas and issues and interests, and that has created the sense of an Israel lobby." Zogby also said "The reality about Arab Americans is that we are emerging as a political group."[16]

Researchers Sherri Replogle and Khalil Marrar write: "While pro-Arab lobbying pales in comparison to those of the pro-Israel lobby, the end of the Cold-War, the current war on terrorism, and clear American and international support for the two-state solution as manifested by public opinion polls, policymakers' statements, and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1397 and 1515, provide the pro-Arab lobby with a crucial opportunity to realize its vision of Palestinian statehood."[17]

In 2010 lobbyists paid by the government of Egypt succeeded in preventing the Senate from passing a bill calling on Egypt to curtail human rights abuses.[6]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Mark N. Katz,Viewpoint: Where is the Arab lobby? Middle East Times.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b Arab Americans by Helen Samhan Archived 2008-04-08 at the Wayback Machine, originally published in the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ Joseph Puder, The Arab Lobby Can't Buy Support, The Bulletin, Philadelphia, September 17, 2007.
  4. ^ page on NAAA. Archived March 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Michael Lewis, Israel's American Detractors - Back Again, Middle East Quarterly, December 1997.
  6. ^ a b c d Eric Lichtblau, Arab Unrest Puts Their Lobbyists in Uneasy Spot, The New York Times, March 1, 2011.
  7. ^ Kurlantzick, Joshua (2007-05-07). "Putting Lipstick on a Dictator". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2007-08-22.
  8. ^ Anupama Narayanswamy and Luke Rosiak, Adding it up: The Top Players in Foreign Agent Lobbying, ProPublica, August 18, 2009.
  9. ^ "Accusations, lawsuits challenge Qatar's multimillion-dollar lobbying, 'damage control' PR". The Arab Weekly. August 5, 2018.
  10. ^ "Qatar hires Trump-linked lobbyist ahead of emir's visit". Al-Monitor. April 9, 2018.
  11. ^ "Qatar, accused of supporting terrorism, hires ex-U.S. attorney general". Reuters. June 10, 2017.
  12. ^ "Trump fundraiser expands U.S. lawsuit accusing Qatar of hacking his emails". Reuters. May 24, 2018.
  13. ^ "American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee web page". Archived from the original on 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  14. ^ You can still watch Walt and Mearsheimer on 'Viewpoint' Archived 2007-12-21 at the Wayback Machine on the AAI website.
  15. ^ See Ali A. Mazrui, “Between the Crescent and the Star Spangled Banner: American Muslims and U.S. Foreign Policy,” International Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 3 (July 1996), 493-506; Nabeel A. Khoury, “The Arab Lobby: Problems and Prospects,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Summer 1987), 379-396; Andrea Barron, “Jewish and Arab Diasporas in the United States and Their Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy,” in Yehuda Lukacs and Abdalla M. Battah, eds., The Arab Israeli Conflict: Two Decades of Change (London: Westview, 1988), 238-259.
  16. ^ "Arab Americans and the Middle East Policy in the 2008 U.S. Elections" Archived 2009-02-04 at the Wayback Machine, Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute Foreign Press Center Briefing, Washington, DC November 29, 2007
  17. ^ "The Effects of the Pro-Arab Lobby on American Foreign Policy in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association 48th Annual Convention, Hilton Chicago, CHICAGO, IL, USA, Feb 28, 2007