Saturday, January 27, 2007

Free Congressional Trips to Israel Costly
from a peace activist friend of mine

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 00:37:32 -0500
APeace activist friend of mine.
The hidden cost of free congressional trips to Israel - AIPAC Strikes Again!!!
The hidden cost of free congressional trips to IsraelBranded as 'educational’, these trips offer Israeli propagandists anopportunity to expose members of Congress to only their side of the Senator Jim Abourezk Christian Science Monitor26 January 2007 FALL, S.D. - Democrats in Congress have moved quickly - and commendably - to strengthen ethics rules. But truly groundbreaking reformwas prevented, in part, because of the efforts of the pro-Israel lobby topreserve one of its most critical functions: taking members of Congress onfree "educational" trips to Israel .The pro-Israel lobby does most of its work without publicity. But everymember of Congress and every would-be candidate for Congress comes toquickly understand a basic lesson. Money needed to run for office can comewith great ease from supporters of Israel , provided that the candidate makescertain promises, in writing, to vote favorably on issues consideredimportant to Israel . What drives much of congressional support for Israel is fear - fear that the pro-Israel lobby will either withhold campaigncontributions or give money to one's opponent.In my own experience as a US senator in the 1970s, I saw how the lobby triesto humiliate or embarrass members who do not toe the line.Pro-Israel groups worked vigorously to ensure that the new reforms wouldallow them to keep hosting members of Congress on trips to Israel . Accordingto the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper, congressional filings show Israel asthe top foreign destination for privately sponsored trips. Nearly 10 percentof overseas congressional trips taken between 2000 and 2005 were to Israel .Most are paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, a sisterorganization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the majorpro-Israel lobby group.New rules require all trips to be pre-approved by the House EthicsCommittee, but Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts says this setup willguarantee that tours of Israel continue. Ron Kampeas of the JewishTelegraphic Agency reported consensus among Jewish groups that "the newlegislation would be an inconvenience, but wouldn't seriously hamper thetrips to Israel that are considered a critical component of congressionalsupport for Israel ."These trips are defended as "educational." In reality, as I know from mymany colleagues in the House and Senate who participated in them, they offerIsraeli propagandists an opportunity to expose members of Congress to onlytheir side of the story. The Israeli narrative of how the nation wascreated, and Israeli justifications for its brutal policies omit importanttruths about the Israeli takeover and occupation of the Palestinianterritories.What the pro-Israel lobby reaps for its investment in these tours iscongressional support for Israeli desires. For years, Israel has relied onbillions of dollars in US taxpayer money. Shutting off this governmentfunding would seriously impair Israel 's harsh occupation.One wonders what policies Congress might support toward Israel and thePalestinians absent the distorting influence of these Israel trips - or ifmore members toured Palestinian lands. America sent troops to Europe toprevent the killing of civilians in the former Yugoslavia . But when it comesto flagrant human rights violations committed by Israel , the US sends moremoney and shields Israel from criticism.Congress regularly passes resolutions lauding Israel , even when its actionsare deplorable, providing it political cover. Meanwhile, polls suggest mostAmericans want the Bush administration to steer a middle course in workingfor peace between Israelis and the Palestinians.Consider, too, how the Israel lobby twists US foreign policy into adangerous double standard regarding nuclear issues. The US rattles itssabers at Iran for its nuclear energy ambitions - and alleged pursuit ofnuclear arms - while remaining silent about Israel 's nuclear-weaponsarsenal.Members of Congress may not be aware just how damaging their automaticsupport for Israel is to America 's interest. At a minimum, US policiestoward Israel have cost it valuable allies in the Middle East and otherparts of the Muslim world.If Congress is serious about ethics reform, it should not protect the Israellobby from the consequences. A totally taxpayer-funded travel budget formembers to take foreign fact-finding trips, with authorization to be made bycommittee heads, would be an important first step toward a foreign policythat genuinely serves America .____________________________________________________Jim Abourezk is a former Democratic senator from South Dakota .

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home