The Jewish United Fund fully funds trips to Israel for the purpose of building support for that country in the United States. There's nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with elected politicians taking those trips. My Illinois State Senator, Jeff Schoenberg took such a trip with no less than the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn.
Here is my personal letter to State Senator Schoenberg...
Dear Senator Schoenberg:
Recently I read of your trip to Israel funded by the Jewish United Fund (JUF) in the company of Governor Quinn. Though I do not know of your history regarding Israel, it would surprise me if this is your first trip there.
Organizations such as the JUF make it a practice of cycling influential Americans through Israel by picking up the tab while scrupulously avoiding exposing their guests to the views of the millions of occupants of the occupied territories. Young American Jews are subject to the same thing through Birthright, a pure propaganda effort.
As you should know, for over 60 years the State of Israel has been engaged in ethnic cleansing of the native Arab Palestinian population that continues to the moment I am writing you this letter. On a daily basis comes news of further oppression by the IDF in the occupied territories, more evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, more beatings of non-violent protesters, more 3AM arrests with no reason given, more children deprived of their parents, more Israeli settlers torching the olive groves of Arabs.
Israel forces millions to live under military law, has long done so and has every intention of continuing the practice.
Israel is an exclusionary country that, like the U.S. South before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's, and like South Africa in the days of apartheid, denies rights to people who live there while granting full rights to one exclusive group. In the case of Israel, it is the Jews. In America all such legal discrimination is thankfully off the books with shame that it was ever there.
The United States, the home of "liberty and justice for all" has no business doing business with such a state as Israel. What in the world are you doing going over there as a representative of the people of Illinois? Americans should be giving no support, economic or military to a state that defiantly practices apartheid. You would never tolerate for a moment the restrictions suffered by the Palestinians, who are as much at home there as you are here.
Did Martin Luther King Jr. live for nothing? Why do we have a national holiday in his name if our government officials like you are traveling to Israel for smiles and handshakes?
As the entire world community of nations outside of the U.S. is well aware, the behavior of Israel is not only illegal under international law, but is an outrageous oppression of unprecedented length that continues solely due to the support of the United States. An entire culture - the buildings, towns and people has been erased from Israel itself with the JUF and JNF proudly working to make the erasure complete and have a U.S. blessing bestowed on it. Your trips there indicate an eagerness to do this.
America committed a monumental human rights outrage when it pushed Native-Americans from their lands. We are rightly ashamed of it today, but at least the descendants of those "Indians" have full citizenship in our country. To say that Israel and America are "partners", that America "stands with" Israel and that it is a democracy is not only odious to this American but turns the meaning of words upside down.
I have recently discovered that Illinois is also buying Israel bonds - $12 million in 2010 - money upon which there is no restriction in the way it may be spent. Israel is the ONLY foreign country debt that Illinois purchases. Senator, what is going on? Who is making these decisions in the name of all Illinoisans and why only for Israel? As a tax paying citizen of Illinois I expect your answer to these questions, specifically.
I cannot express the depth of my shame that you and the governor as my elected officials from the Land of Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, are trooping to a country that specializes in denying freedom and making people into prisoners on their own land, grabbing more of that land all the while it was in a "peace process" that is now completely discredited as a fraudulent stalling tactic.
I look forward to your reply indicating to me how you justify not only supporting a country that denies full rights to millions of natives both in the territories it occupies, and to a lesser extent in Israel itself (previously occupied land), but that rejects the fundamental principles upon which the United States, including the state of which you are a citizen and legislator, is based.