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Pressure Points: A 'Counter Voice' to AIPAC

Two pacifist groups have launched a $100,000 billboard advertising campaign to challenge the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobby, during AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C.

The Campaign

The two-week ad campaign by Jewish Voice for Peace and Avaaz.org started Sunday to coincide with AIPAC’s three-day annual conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The ads feature Jewish-Americans with the words “AIPAC does not speak for me. Most Jewish Americans are pro-peace. AIPAC is not.”

The Message

Jewish Voice for Peace and Avaaz.org oppose military buildup and settlement expansion in the West Bank and say that AIPAC does not represent the Jewish-American community, which they maintain favors peace efforts.

The Players

Jewish Voice for Peace describes itself as a national peace organization “inspired by Jewish tradition” and promoting a “U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East based on equality, human rights and respect for law.”

Avaaz.org is an international group that seeks to gin up grass-roots action on issues ranging from poverty to climate change. The word “avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in several languages.

The Budget

The $100,000 campaign is “a much bigger reach than anything we’ve ever done at Jewish Voice for Peace,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, the group’s executive director. It’s also the first time Jewish Voice for Peace is working with Avaaz.org. The two pacifist groups had a combined budget of about $3.2 million in 2010, according to tax records, compared with $61.3 million spent by AIPAC. AIPAC spent $2.8 million on lobbying in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Skinny

The ads aim to deliver “a counter voice” to AIPAC during a conference that draws thousands of activists and hundreds of elected officials, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Jewish Voice for Peace and Avaaz.org are particularly concerned about expansion of a settlement in Israel known as the E-1 Plan, which Vilkomerson said “would cut the West Bank in two and make a two-state solution impossible.” The campaign reflects mounting Jewish-American frustration with AIPAC, she added.

“We want to get the message out that AIPAC’s agenda is an extremist one and is not representative of the Jewish-American community,” Vilkomerson said.

AIPAC officials could not be reached for comment.

Pressure Points is an occasional look at lobbying in campaigns from Roll Call’s team of Influence reporters.

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