Israel Lobby Dominates Congress, Media Covers it Up

You might think that 20 percent of the American Congress going on all-expenses-paid, week-long junkets to a foreign country — paid for by a lobby for that country — would be newsworthy, especially when the top congressional leaders of both parties are leading the trips.

You would be wrong.

Eighty-one congressional representatives from all over the country, led by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, are traveling to Israel this month. Most are freshmen congressmen, and the group includes half of all the freshmen Republicans voted into office in 2010.

The week-long trips are being paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which was created in 1990 as a supporting organization of AIPAC, America’s major pro-Israel lobbying organization, sharing the same building. AIEF, which is only one of numerous organizations pushing pro-Israel policies, has an annual budget of over $24 million, with an even larger endowment.

This is an extraordinary situation. 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.

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.

A staff member of one representative participating in this month’s junkets said the representative had no choice. If the congressional rep didn’t go on the trip, the rep would be targeted by AIPAC, large quantities of money, including massive out-of-state money, would be raised for the opponent in the next election, and quite likely the representative would be defeated. The staffer said that the Israel Lobby is far too powerful to ignore and that American voters have no knowledge of what’s going on.

It’s no surprise that voters are unaware that their representatives are being propagandized and pressured by a foreign lobby. Their news media almost never tells them.

US media out to lunch

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 Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, Boston Globe, Fox News, CNN, ABC, NBC et al, failed to inform Americans about the trips. The Washington Post, after the story was posted throughout the blogosphere, finally covered it belatedly on Page 13. The CBS website had a story on the situation, but CBS News made no mention of the junkets on-air.

The only AP stories on the subject are scattered local stories about individual representatives. For example, AP’s Chicago bureau reported that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is taking part, without reporting that he was one of 81 representatives accepting these all-expenses-paid junkets and that his trip was being paid for by the pro-Israel lobby.

A few other American media outlets reported the story in interestingly diverse ways:

Washington’s Politico covered it twice.

The Atlantic‘s website reported on people who were “kvetching” about the one-sided nature of the junkets, pointing out that some of the reps were also going to meet with some Palestinian leaders, without telling how many (no one will say) and for how long (apparently for a few hours of the week-long trip).

Los Angeles’ Jewish Journal was remarkably forthright, reporting that “the congressional reps will be getting the dog and pony show,”

Commentary gloated at the “astonishing” number of representatives going on the trip, noting that “Congress is the backstop that gives Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu the ability to say ‘no’” to the president of the United States.

While Commentary claims that the willingness of congressional representatives to go on all-expenses-paid trips by one of the country’s most powerful lobbies “is a good reflection of American public opinion on the Middle East,” this is actually far from accurate.

Surveys find that an extraordinarily strong majority of Americans — typically between two-thirds to three-quarters — do not wish the U.S. to take sides on Israel-Palestine. Such widespread desire for non-intervention is particularly noteworthy given that U.S. news sources across the political spectrum are consistently highly Israel-centric in their reporting.

It is quite likely that such voters would be unhappy to learn that a foreign lobby has such power over their elected representatives, leading them to give the favored nation, one of the smallest and wealthiest countries on the planet, over $8 million per day of American tax money when the U.S. is in the middle of a financial crisis.

Perhaps that’s why AP and the others don’t tell them.

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By Alison Weir, president of the Council for the National Interest and executive director of If Americans Knew. She can be reached at contact@cnionline.org. This article was originally published by Antiwar.com, CounterPunch.org

Read more by Alison Weir

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One response to “Israel Lobby Dominates Congress, Media Covers it Up

  1. Alison, I am outraged at the trips you describe. Here in Illinois the Jewish United Fund provides the same thing and targets non-Jewish influential people, bragging about the success of the operation on its website. Chicago’s Mayor Daley, Illinois Governor Quinn and my state senator have taken the trip. I wish links were allowed in comments. Since they are not – I will include below my demand for an explanation from my state senator, Jeff 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 the 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.

    Sincerely,
    Clif Brown