By Paula Gordon
August 18, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – 22 Democratic and 36 Republican members of Congress spent a full week of the August recess in Israel rather than among the constituents they were elected to serve. Their junkets are sponsored by neo-cons and other hawks, Israeli and American, who are intent on killing a hard-won deal to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Do these Congresspeople think that we won’t notice simply because it’s August?
Why aren’t these Representatives at home listening to the real needs of Americans, needs which will not be served by American involvement in another disastrous Middle East war? They appear not to care that they were elected to serve America’s best interests, which are not those of Israel’s unfailingly belligerent Netanyahu nor of America’s homegrown war profiteers and chicken hawks.
These particular (bi-annual) junkets are not the “ordinary” kind — “one taken by an official at public expense.” These are the much less savory type of junket — “one taken by a person who is the guest of a business or agency seeking favor or patronage.”
This year’s jaunt is particularly egregious. It is a blatant effort to influence (or purchase) the votes of 58 United States Representatives as Congress is about to have its say on the most important peace initiative in the Middle East in decades.
Even more galling, America’s taxpayers are footing the bill. Predictably, the host is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Registered lobbyists cannot fund such trips and AIPAC is one such organization. Congress explicitly forbids Members taking trips paid for by lobbyists.
So AIPAC skirts the restrictions (as do an appalling laundry list of others) by having its captive 501(c)(3) tax-exempt American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) act as “host”. Like all 501(c)(3)s, AIEF is both tax-exempt and contributions to it are tax deductible. So we are paying twice for these trips (or three times if you count our annual $3+ Billion foreign aid contribution to Israel). You and I are underwriting the cost of a foreign government aggressively intervening in the creation and execution of American foreign and domestic policy. Who’s the client state here?
Israel’s Netanyahu consistently has embraced force over diplomacy. Witness how he relished destroying the Oslo accords. Maintaining Israel as the Middle East’s sole nuclear armed nation is the most obvious interpretation of his serial intrusions into our domestic politics. AIPAC does what Netanyahu tells it to do. For the past 6+ decades Congress and the Executive Branch have done AIPAC’s bidding. Who’s the client state?
When the conservative USAToday sees the common sense of the Iran deal — and the utter void of realistic alternatives beyond all-out war, well-founded skepticism about these junkets stoke the cynicism on which warmongers feed.
Deeply offensive as I find members of Congress allowing themselves to be manipulated by AIPAC, I am heartened that AIPAC is so dramatically over-reaching. Perhaps they see their former strength ebbing away. It is bad etiquette for the puppeteer to allow itself to be seen. The curtain may be lifting on the Wizard.
We must not underestimate AIPAC and their cohort. Mega-donors are spending big bucks to influence the fate of this agreement with Iran. That money comes from 501 (c)(4) tax-exempt sources that don’t need to report from whence the money flows. AIPAC’s funding is, to be generous, opaque.
I am offended and infuriated by the behavior of AIPAC, the Netanyahu government and American neo-cons (who never met a war they didn’t like so long as someone else fights it and pays for it). These new members of Congress may be junketeers, two-timers, clients or naifs. Whichever it is, they are also wrong to publicly compromise their presumed integrity.
When we’re paying attention, the people of the United States understand that war in these circumstances is a really bad idea. If your Representative went missing (AWOL actually) this August, ask him or her where they went and why, and how their absence forwarded the interests of your community and your America.
We need to explain in terms that even these misguided members of Congress can understand that their behavior is inappropriate. We cannot allow them or us to get conned (again) into a Middle East war… just because it’s August.