Why does the U.S. tolerate foreign influence from Saudi Arabia and Israel on its domestic policies while not tolerating that from China or Russia? Is there a reason for this? AIPAC is known to be one of the biggest lobbying groups, yet we don't seem to care too much about the influence Israel has on U.S. domestic policies. But when there's a hint of involvement from Russia or China, people scream murder. Is there a reason for this?

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    You may want to look into the way stuff is conducted. There will be pro-russia lobbying no one complains about - the complaints you hear include alleged anonymous interference in an election, not lobbying.
    – user19831
    Jul 10, 2019 at 5:38
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    The U.S. totally tolerates direct influence from China and Russia, and any other country. It's called diplomacy. On the other hand, clandestine influence is an altogether different matter, and I'm inclined to think it's not tolerated from any country. It should not be surprising, however, if attempts at clandestine influence by countries that the U.S. considers geopolitical competitors or adversaries is taken as more of a threat than those by countries it considers friends or allies. Jul 10, 2019 at 17:45

4 Answers 4


AIPAC is not a foreign influence. It is a United States organization run by US citizens.

When you hear complaints about Russia and China, they tend to be about actions that are believed to involve the governments of those countries. For example, the claim is that the Russian government spear-phished John Podesta to get his emails. Or that a Chinese company that is linked to the Chinese government put backdoors in their mobile phones. Or that a Chinese spy was embedded in the staff of a US Senator.

I suppose it is possible that AIPAC is secretly run by Israeli spies, but it seems far simpler to regard it as simply an organization of people who are US citizens with a similar ethnic background to people in Israel. That would be sufficient to explain its actions.

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    Also the type of action is important. If AIPAC started hacking emails and leaking them anonymously, it'd probably lead to some complaints.
    – user19831
    Jul 10, 2019 at 5:39
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    The "believed" is the key word here. When actions are attributable then voters can make up their own minds. When the actions are hidden or the authors of content inaccurate that is when foreign interference happens.
    – Jontia
    Jul 10, 2019 at 6:10
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    I like this answer, but its weird that it got the checkmark without once mentioning one of the two countries asked about in the question.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 10, 2019 at 18:44
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    @barlop - That comment is even more confusing. The question was asking about general "foreign influence ... on domestic policies", not just election interference via hacking (which I don't believe China has been accused of either). Either way, it doesn't explicitly say that. Its a point that needed to be made, and I'm glad it did, but it doesn't seem like it completely answers the question.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 10, 2019 at 19:26
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    You dodged the heavy influence of Saudi Arabia, which is probably the most interesting here
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 10, 2019 at 21:41

There are different types of foreign influences.

Lobbying through AIPAC or other groups as done by Israel and Saudi Arabia is legal, direct and somewhat transparent. Consequently, this is usually tolerated (although some people do have slight ethical concerns about the pratice).

Influence through hacking, phishing, spying or other such methods is illegal, indirect and subversive. These methods hides the motives, acts and consequences wanted by the actors. Hence, these kind of actions are not tolerated. China and russia have been largely accused of conducting this type of influence.

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    Are you suggesting neither Saudi Arabia or Israel use indirect or subversive methods of influence against the US in addition to the more transparent ones?
    – JJJ
    Jul 11, 2019 at 2:33
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    @JJJ he's answering the question, which explicitly says "AIPAC is known to be one of the biggest lobbying groups, yet we don't seem to care too much about the influence Israel has on U.S. domestic policies."
    – user19831
    Jul 11, 2019 at 12:21
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    "There are different types of foreign influences." Somehow my feeling is that Israel or Saudi Arabia aren't any better at all types of foreign influence than Russia or China. Jul 11, 2019 at 21:27
  • I'm simply stating that a lot of the criticism of the foreign influence from China and Russia is directed towards hacking or other illegal/subversive interference.
    – everyone
    Jul 12, 2019 at 1:54
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    It's a bit inaccurate to speak of lobbying through AIPAC as done by Israel. AIPAC is an American organization, largely comprised of American Jews, that promotes policies that they view as supportive of Israel, because a number of Jewish people are supportive of Israel. One would have to equate Jews and Israel to say that AIPAC's lobbying is "done by Israel." A good analogy would be how some Chinese-American organizations have opposed the Dalai Lama - it's not because they're Chinese lobbying groups, it's because some Chinese-Americans are very supportive of the Chinese government.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 12, 2019 at 9:40

Israel is an ally to the U.S., and Saudi Arabia is the second largest exporter of oil to the U.S. and was defended by the U.S. during the Gulf War. Politically and ideologically, the governments of Russia and China are enemies to the United States. The Vietnam War and Cold War are still in many people's memories, and while there have been tensions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, they are small by comparison. Conflicts between Israel and the U.S. are practically nonexistent.

Subversive acts on the parts of China and Russia against U.S. interests are not uncommon, while examples of subversion on Israel's part are practically nonexistent, and our history with Saudi Arabia is more neutral. The tolerance for influence on domestic policy between the U.S. and Israel can be explained largely by our cultural and especially our ideological affinity.


Communist legacy vs. Religion

The post-World War I and post-World War II Red Scares left a legacy of distrust of Russians and Communists. The 1940s Soviet Union had great success in infiltrating the diplomatic and scientific research establishments of the United States and United Kingdom; the fall of China to the Communists was a major defeat for the U.S. Russia is the successor state to the Soviet Union, and its current president was a K.G.B. officer. China is still governed by the Communist Party.

Most Americans know very little about Judaism and Islam. Most of those who do, are Jews or Muslims. Various propaganda efforts have made Americans un-inclined to wage wars for religious or racial reasons.

Great Powers vs. Minor Powers

Russia and China are nuclear-armed Great Powers that have demonstrated that they can defeat the United States in wars (either directly, or through proxies). China defeated the United States in the third phase of the Korean War, and held on for a draw in the fourth phase. The Soviet Union sponsored North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and provided the tanks that North Vietnam used to conquer South Vietnam. Russia, China, and the United States are currently in a three-way nuclear stand-off, at a Mutually Assured Destruction scale.

Although both Israel and subjects of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have participated in act-of-war scale attacks on the United States, Americans do not consider either country to be capable of defeating the United States in a war. (This paragraph references the U.S.S. Liberty incident, and 9/11.)


Most Americans are unaware that countries spy on their allies, and operate propaganda campaigns to encourage their allies to provide military support.

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