Thursday, August 23, 2012

junkets to Israel - by reporters too

A little over a year ago I wrote about the trips taken to Israel by my own Illinois State Senator, Jeff Schoenberg funded by the Jewish United Fund and provided a copy of the letter I wrote to him to which there has been no reply.

The JUF trips are only the tip of the iceberg - there are many pro-Israel organizations doing the same thing and one of the biggest is the American Israel Education Fund (AIEF), a "charitable" 501(c)3 group almost entirely funded by the lobbying group, AIPAC, as a way to get around the rules set by Congress in 2007 specifically to prevent lobbying groups from sponsoring junkets.

An excellent account of the issue can be found in Nathan Guttman's article in the Jewish Daily Forward, Laughs Aside, Junkets Raise Serious Issues. He reveals that reporters are taken on these propaganda trips as well...
AIEF takes more than just members of Congress on trips to Israel; it takes journalists, too, on a regular basis. Discussing the latest Sea of Galilee events, Chris Matthews host of MSNBC’s“Hardball,” said on August 20: “I’ve been there a number of times, a trip sponsored by a pro-Israel group, Jewish group, very educational trips. They show you a lot about the geography of the land and the situation they’re facing with the Palestinians.”

MSNBC did not return several calls requesting comment on Matthews’ participation in these trips and the network’s policy on joining press junkets.

A spokesman for AIEF would not provide details on the number of reporters hosted by the group in Israel, but there are estimates based on reports of participants indicating that dozens of journalists have participated in pro-Israel junkets throughout the years.
Is it any wonder Americans have a one-sided view of what is happening in Israel and the territories it occupies?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

segregated roads - different license plates

You likely know that there are roads in the West Bank which are allowed only to Israelis. These are modern highways, built with U.S. funding. There are others that Palestinians may use with restrictions and finally there are roads that any Palestinian may use which are not well maintained and often are dirt.

The system works, for Israelis, because Palestinians are forced to use a different license plate.

It sounds complicated and it is; a daily complication for Palestinians. It's useful to see the whole thing on a map. My fuzzy reproduction below doesn't allow you to read the legend, so view the map full size to appreciate the benefit the apartheid road system can bring to one people at the expense of another.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ma'ale Adumim: stolen trees, stolen water, stolen land

Phil Weiss, creator of the Mondoweiss blog, recently visited Israel and toured the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim with Jeff Halper of ICAHD.

In this video, Jeff points out the ancient Palestinian olive trees that were uprooted and planted here as landscaping, a fountain that endlessly splashes some of the 85% of West Bank water that the settlements have appropriated, and Ace Hardware doing business on stolen land.

Americans can and do go to live in such places as this, claiming them as an ancient homeland. Nowhere to be seen in this video are the former Arab residents of this land, long since removed.

You can get the back story from B'Tselem in their 2009 publication, The Hidden Agenda: The Establishment and Expansion Plans of Ma'ale Adummim and their Human Rights Ramifications

Friday, August 3, 2012

Illinois automatic Israel bond purchases continue

As I have mentioned in the past, each year the Illinois State Board of Investments makes a purchase of $12 million in Israel State debt. This automatic purchasing began when Illinois State Senator Jeff Schoenberg, a strong supporter of Israel, got legislation passed that allows Illinois to purchase foreign debt.

Since that time, with the exception of a couple of early years when one or two other countries had debt purchased by Illinois to give the appearance of impartiality, Israel's $12 million from Illinois has stood alone as a single foreign debt line item in a list of well over 100 other items all of which are U.S. government or agency debt.

2012 will be no exception.

Here is my letter to each member of the 9 member Illinois State Board of Investment...

Dear (board member's name):

As you know, the rule of law is vital to the functioning of society. We in Illinois and the United States are expected to obey the law. So it is with countries. The U.S. repeatedly calls upon other countries to uphold the law.

At the end of World War Two, in an effort to prevent the seizure of territory by conflict and the moving of the citizenry of the conqueror onto such land as Germany had done, the 4th Geneva Convention outlawed the practice.

You, as a member of the Illinois State Board of Investment are in a position where you can and do choose to invest in a country that flagrantly violates the law of the 4th Geneva Convention to which the United States is a signatory. Israeli settlements are that violation.

In a story filed by reporter Chaim Levinson on July 31 in the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, was a story under this headline: “Israeli Government Spent 1.1 billion (in Israeli currency) on Settlements in 2011”

This year, in a continuing series since Senator Jeff Schoenberg, a supporter of Israel, made it possible through legislation, Illinoisans, most of them unaware, have been supporting Israel with their tax money through the decision of the investment board to buy Israel debt and that of no other country.

Though there are many countries that meet the qualifications for the investment of Illinois funds, the fact that Israel alone is the beneficiary makes it clear that the return on investment is not the primary reason for this essentially automatic annual purchase of $12 million that appears as a line item each year. I doubt that any annual discussion of this beyond the perfunctory takes place; the idea that it is a good thing to do going unquestioned.

I want to strongly urge you to reconsider this automatic purchasing because there is no restriction on how Israel may use money obtained from Illinois. The consequences are grave for hundreds of thousands who you do not see and do not hear from, people who have no Illinois State Senator to plead their case before you make your decision.

Last week in the New York Times, Member of the Israeli Knesset, Dani Dayan wrote an opinion piece stating that the settlements are here to stay and everyone should get over it, an echo of Germany’s assertion that conquered Eastern Europe was “living room” for Germans to use. Your actions make Dayan’s stance possible. End the purchase of Israeli debt by Illinois. You owe it to the rule of law.

Clif Brown