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Aug-13-2011 20:43printcomments

81 House Members Enjoy Hiatus In Israel

The Washington Post provides the names of only three Democratic travelers...

US House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, is from the Atlantic Wire
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. WN Photo

(CHICAGO) - Eighty-one members of the US House of Representatives—about 20 percent of the total membership—are enjoying a late summer week-long, all-expenses paid trip to Israel.

This hasbara (propaganda) trip happens every other summer (in non-election years), but this year’s excursion to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea comes at a time when voters back home are not thinking about Israel. They are worried about their under-water mortgages and disappearing 401Ks.

Instead of returning immediately to their home districts to answer questions about the US economy, 81 House members are flying to Tel Aviv to demonstrate their loyalty and devotion to a foreign power. They are hoping, of course, as they bolster their standing with AIPAC, that financially-stressed voters will not be told that the 81 are enjoying an all expenses paid visit to Israel.

So far, the main stream media (MSM) has protected them. The only way to find out if your congress person is living in Israeli luxury for a week is to call his or her office and ask. The MSM has not bothered to identify the 81, except when a single member is mentioned in a fawning local feature story.

Allison Weir describes this bi-annual summer all-expenses hiatus trip as “extraordinary”, because “no other lobby on behalf of a foreign country comes anywhere near controlling such wealth or taking so many of America’s elected representatives on a propaganda trip to its favorite country”.

Weir, writing for the Anti-War blog, notes that most US media outlets ignored the story.

I could not find a complete list of the 81. Since this is not a Codel (congressional delegation) trip, the House website does not  offer any help. Phillip Weiss’ Mondoweiss found a picture released to the media from the Israeli Embassy, with no names attached.

Weiss assumes the picture is that of the Democratic delegation, since Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer shares front row honors with Israeli President Simon Peres. The picture is large enough for constituents to look for familiar faces.

The Washington Post provides the names of three Democratic travelers,  Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.), Betty Sutton (Ohio) and Mark Critz (Pa).

Otherwise, according to a survey by Weir, the Main Street Media has been respectfully silent and protective on the matter of the 81 who used their time away from Washington to visit sites holy to both Jews and Christians and to listen to lectures by Israeli leaders. Here is what Weir found in her survey:

The Associated Press, America’s number one news service, has decided not to report on a lobbying group taking 81 representatives to a foreign country in order to influence their votes.

Even though the trips are being reported by news media in Britain, Iran, India, Israel, Lebanon, and elsewhere, AP has decided to give the story a pass. When contacted about this, an AP editor in Washington, D.C., said AP knew about the trips and was “looking into it.”

Taking a similar tack, The New York TimesUSA TodayFox News, CNN, ABC, et al., failed to inform Americans about the trips.

When the Chicago Tribune learned that Jesse Jackson, Jr., was on the Israeli trip, it treated the visit as a human interest, feel good, story.

The Tribune used a short item from the Associated Press to inform its readers that Jackson was traveling abroad to evaluate how well Israel was handling US tax dollars which Jackson and his colleagues so generously send to Tel Aviv.

The AP story is a case study for a Journalism 101 class on how not to write a story involving a major congressional figure. Here is the soft story the Tribune ran on August 7:

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is headed to Israel for an eight-day visit. Jackson’s office says he leaves Sunday and returns Aug. 15.

The Illinois Democrat is scheduled to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as he discusses what he calls “the quest for a lasting peace in the region.” He has meetings set with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, prime ministers and others.

Jackson says he’s looking forward to learning about Israel’s business and commercial sectors as well as the latest tools and technology the country is using in its fight against terror.

The trip is being arranged and paid for by the American Israel Educational Foundation, a privately funded charity.

And that is all Tribune readers know about the journey of the 81. The AIEF is a “privately funded charity”? Nothing about the AIPAC parentage of the “charity”, and nothing at all about Jackson’s large number of traveling companions.

John Reuben, national advocacy director of of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, reports that in spite of the media’s protective cover, at least one Jackson constituent, is on the case.

Yali Amit, an Israeli-American constituent of Rep. Jackson, Jr. called his office to oppose his participation in the trip to Israel. He was told that Rep. Jackson, Jr. wants to learn what is happening there because of his position on the appropriations subcommittee that approves military aid to Israel.

Amit retorted that “you can’t learn what goes on there on a paid trip of a propaganda arm of the Israeli government.” And [Reuben adds] you certainly can’t learn about the devastating impact that these U.S. weapons have on unarmed Palestinian civilians, nearly 3,000 of whom were killed by the Israeli military over the last decade.

This year’s hasbara trip involved three separate delegations, two Republican and one Democratic; no bipartisanship here after those ugly DC scenes involving the debt ceiling.  The 81 members will visit with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was last greeted enthusiastically by 29 standing ovations when he spoke before a joint session of Congress earlier this year.

The Jerusalem Post was quick to assure American tax payers that no US tax dollars would be used on the trips. (“Move along folks, nothing to see here”.)

All expenses for the 81 members and any spouses and staff members who choose to travel, are covered by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), better known as AIPAC’s education arm. We know all about AIPAC, but what is this AIEF?

The AIEF was created in 1990 as a supporting organization of AIPAC, America’s foremost pro-Israel lobby. Financial support for AIEF, a non-profit organization, comes from tax-exempt contributions, most notably from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

AIEF, according to its mission statement, “provides grant monies to educate opinion leaders about the U.S.-Israel relationship, to expand public awareness about issues affecting the Middle East and to encourage participation in public affairs, especially by students on college campuses where anti-Israel propaganda is rampant.”

So, strictly speaking, no direct US tax dollars are funding the 81 House members on their summer outing. But it is also true that the members are traveling on round-trip first class airline tickets ($8,000 per traveler) and enjoying an all-expenses tax-free paid trip with funds from a US tax free. non-profit organization.

But the question lingers: Do these transactions meet the requirements of the US tax code. The answer, from Legistorm, a website that tracks congressional travel, suggests that these clever partners, AIEF, which is in the education business, and AIPAC, which lobbies on behalf of the state of Israel, have found themselves a convenient “sleight of hand” tax loophole.

According to the latest publicly available tax return of AIEF, the organization has no paid employees — an astounding feat in itself for an organization that raked in more than $26 million in 2009 and a mind-blowing accomplishment for an organization running three huge congressional delegations in one month.

AIEF’s partner, AIPAC,  reports that in 2009, it very generously contributed more than $3.2 million of employee salaries to cover the staff costs of AIEF.

Legistorm also reports that two years ago, during the 2009 summer congressional recess, AIEF sent 50 lawmakers and staff members from both parties on a fully funded trip to Israel.  Included in the 2009 delegation were House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who returned with this year’s even larger delegation of 81 House members, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who had business in Iowa and did not make it to Israel this August.

How tight is the Israel Lobby’s grip on Congress? What keeps these elected representatives coming back, year after year, like so many obedient children making their mandatory holiday visit to visit aging parents?

Allison Weir discovered one poignant story about an earlier traveler:

Not all those going on these trips are enthusiastic. The wife of one congressman who made a similar trip some years ago said that she and her husband had never been exposed to such pressure in all their lives. She said that at one point on their trip, her husband — a normally extremely tough man — was curled up in a fetal position.

There have been several internet hints that a few of the 81 will try and escape their Israeli minders long enough to cross over into the Occupied Palestinian Territories where they hope to experience the Palestinian narrative.

That could be a risky move, not for security reasons, but for their return flight home.  It is an abrupt shift from El Al Business Class to a middle seat in Coach. What happens to the campaign contributions these “escapees” had hoped to gain from making the trip in the first place?  These funds will dry up, quickly.

For their troubles any “escapee” who is exposed by the hasbara police, will still have the enormous advantage of bringing home pictures and memories of talking to real Palestinians, not Uncle Toms.

 Inshallah, they will also bring back to the voters, a congress member with a heightened sense of self-worth.

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Witness to Persecution August 16, 2011 3:25 pm (Pacific time)

These Organizations are terrorist working to destroy the United States so Israel becomes first in power and wealth. These politicians are TRAITORS and need dealt with accordingly. These politicians are being indoctrinated. These politicans do not understand that majority of those who emigrate to Israel are CONVERTS used to move to the WEST bank for propaganda as they become radicals. These politicians then receive kickback profiteering for contracts for friends and family by voting billions a year to give our hard working taxes to Israel big lie they are CONVERTS majority and not Jewish but hide behind religion to trick others. They are Zionist terrorist racist.

COLLI August 16, 2011 7:23 am (Pacific time)

To say that these 81 members of Congress have their priorities askew would be the understatement of the year. As the country goes swirlling down the toilet, these leeches go off joy-riding. Another bad call for the bozos!

Anonymous00001 August 15, 2011 2:53 pm (Pacific time)

The Real Cost Of US Support ---
For Israel - $3 Trillion ---
By Christopher Bollyn ---


While it is commonly reported that Israel officially receives some $3 billion every year in the form of economic aid from the U.S. government, this figure is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many billions of dollars more in hidden costs and economic losses lurking beneath the surface. A recently published economic analysis has concluded that U.S. support for the state of Israel has cost American taxpayers nearly $3 trillion ($3 million millions) in 2002 dollars.

"The Costs to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: $3 Trillion" is a summary of economic research done by Thomas R. Stauffer. Stauffer's summary of the research was published in the June 2003 issue of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Stauffer is a Washington, D.C.-based engineer and economist who writes and teaches about the economics of energy and the Middle East. Stauffer has taught at Harvard University and Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Stauffer's findings were first presented at an October 2002 conference sponsored by the U.S. Army College and the University of Maine.

Stauffer's analysis is "an estimate of the total cost to the U.S. alone of instability and conflict in the region - which emanates from the core Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
"Total identifiable costs come to almost $3 trillion," Stauffer says. "About 60 percent, well over half, of those costs - about $1.7 trillion - arose from the U.S. defense of Israel, where most of that amount has been incurred since 1973."

"Support for Israel comes to $1.8 trillion, including special trade advantages, preferential contracts, or aid buried in other accounts. In addition to the financial outlay, U.S. aid to Israel costs some 275,000 American jobs each year." The trade-aid imbalance alone with Israel of between $6-10 billion costs about 125,000 American jobs every year, Stauffer says.

Anonymous August 14, 2011 2:21 pm (Pacific time)

Well Anonymous, while the US crumbles, our President is going on vacation, again. His wife is making trips all over the world with her mother (never heard of that deal). Mrs. Obama has more than 50 women taking care of her well being because I guess she's to lazy to get her own cloth and can't take care of herself. The President plays golf and has BBQ's and parties. Anything else you want to say? At least the trip to Israel is paid for my the Israeli Government. Maybe our Commander and Chief should worry about the Economy, the American People and the National Security.

Anonymous August 14, 2011 2:17 pm (Pacific time)

I think it's great that they are going to Israel. At least they support Israel. Plus no a penny is paid by the American Tax payer. The same can't be said about the trips of the Obama family including mother-in-law. You all go and enjoy Israel and assure them that we pray for them and that we stand behind them 100%. Off course the scrum bags called liberal media ( does not support them, go figure.

Editor: Well you support Israel's murder of babies and me, I take people like you to task.  Supporting Israel is to support war crimes and genocide, you are a dirty little creep aren't you?  

Scott S August 14, 2011 1:08 pm (Pacific time)

Israel is labeled as the most important ally of the United States of America in the Middle East. On many occasions the United States has gone too far to support its strategic ally and to whitewash its crimes against humanity vis-à-vis Palestinians. But the cost America has to bear for supporting Israel and the reprimand this generates will eventually lead to the Israel to become a strategic liability to America than a loyal ally.
Israel makes its case in the United States with the presence of very strong pressure groups popularly known as ‘the Lobby,’ AIPAC being the most prominent and influential among them. These pro-Israeli lobbies are a coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a pro‐Israeli direction. Though the number of American Jews who wholeheartedly support the pro Israeli lobby in very minimal, they are highly successful in influencing the sources of power, both in the Congress and the Executive branch to define the US foreign policies in Israel’s favour. Apart from seeking to influence politicians and opinion formers, they also undertake ground level campaigns in universities and try to the influence the academia. Furthermore, they manipulate the media and act as a watchdog to make sure that the media gives an objective picture of the Middle East conflict that favor Israel.
Israel is now a moral responsibility to America that no president including Barak Obama can easily shred off. This is mostly due to the handiwork of the highly influential pro-Israeli lobbies that ensures continued support for Israel under any circumstances. The US tax payers have to essentially bear the burden of bankrolling the Israeli government for any act of violence propelled by the aggressive whims and fancies of domination by their insane leaders. A special report by Washington Report on Middle East Affairs puts the cost to American tax payers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at $3 Trillion measured in 2002 dollars1. This does not include the cost of the Iraq war, which was conducted at the behest of Israeli agents in the Bush administration, and the thousands of American lives lost in Iraq.
No friend comes costlier to the United States than Israel. Israel is the largest total recipient of direct economic and military assistance from the United States since World War II. The US has exercised its veto nearly 40 times in the UN Security Council, but more devastating than that is, it provides billions of US tax dollars of aid to Israel, a lot of it as military aid and a major chunk of it in the most lethal possible form. Interestingly the per capita income of Israel ($37,000) is now at par with the UK. Nevertheless, Israel is the still largest recipient of US foreign assistance, accounting for well over a fifth of it.
Annual US government transfers run at well over $500 per Israeli, not counting the costs of tax breaks for private donations and loans that aren't available to any other foreign country. The total aid by US to Israel since 1949 comes to over $140 billion making Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, the fourth most powerful military in the world in possession of largest fleet of F-16 fighter planes outside the US. With these facts beside him, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas W. Freeman, Jr., asserts that it is a big lie to call Israel as a Strategic Asset for the United States.2
Over the last 20 years, the US has been slowly phasing out economic aid to Israel and gradually replacing it with increased military aid.3 Beginning in 2007, the U.S. has been increasing military aid by $150 million each year. By the financial year 2013, US will be sending Israel $3.15 billion a year (or an average of $8.6 million a day) and will continue to provide military aid at that level through 2018. If this unfathomable support is going to continue Israel will outgrow United States and become a strategic burden for the US, both in economic and political terms.

Anonymous August 14, 2011 11:09 am (Pacific time)

While the U.S.. crumbles..

Scott S August 14, 2011 7:52 am (Pacific time)

America’s multiple and continuing mid east wars have all been initiated with the urging of AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, and other Israeli agencies. All have benefited Israel at our expense. American Jews were central to, and grossly enriched by, the Wall Street obscenity. Israel is a Jewish state, a racist apartheid state. It feigns and exploits alliance, but an ally Israel will never be.

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