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The American Zionist Council (AZC) was a group formed in 1949, which represented nine nation-wide Zionist organizations in matters related specifically to Zionism, following the independence of Israelmarker. It was founded as a tax-exempt umbrella organization of American Jewish groups, which focused on Israel and included the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Hadassah and other Zionist organizations active in the United States. It acted as an umbrella group for public relations, outreach, and lobbying on Capitol Hill. Many consider AZC, and its intermediate successors as the parent lobbying organization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or (AIPAC).

Between 1951 and 1953, its Washington representative was Isaiah L. Kenen. In the early 1950s, an unsubstantiated rumor circulated that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, at loggerheads with U.S. supporters of Israel, sought to investigate the American Zionist Council on the basis that it had used tax-exempt funds to lobby. Though false, the rumors persisted and tarnished the council. Consequently, Kenen organized the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs (AZPAC) in 1954 to act as a pro-Israel lobby with control and financing independent of the AZC.

It again changed its name to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 1959; Edward Tivnan notes the name change was “thus coming to terms with the reality of the largely non-Zionist nature of Jewish politics in the United States (and depriving the “Zionist conspiracy” theorists among the nation’s anti-Semites of an easy victim).”

AZC’s early years were characterized with bureaucratic struggle within Jewish and pro-Israel movements. Its name change to the AIPAC alienated the Zionist Organization of America, and an important representative to the World Zionist Organization, which felt that AIPAC might surrender lobbying control to Jews who, while willing to help fund Jewish charities, schools, and kibbutzim were less dedicated to the traditional Zionist idea of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state. The two organizations refused to cooperate for several years.

Competitive strains also existed between AZPAC/AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which was also founded in 1954, to act as an umbrella lobbying group. Kenen however, considered them as irresolute on matters of vital importance to Israel "because it could not move on any issue unless it had a consensus."

In 1962, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy ordered the AZC to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act or (FARA) as the foreign agent of the Jewish Agency . In 1963, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings regarding its funding.

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