Rep. Cantor: Put your constituents’ economic concerns before Israel’s
Published: August 20, 2011
Instead, the politician is gallivanting around Israel, leading one of three congressional delegations heading there this month on all-expense-paid junkets organized by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), a “charitable affiliate” of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most influential of the myriad pro-Israel lobbying outfits.
Eighty-one representatives, nearly one-fifth of the House, will participate in these jaunts, which, according to the Washington Post, include “a round-trip flight in business class for lawmakers and their spouses (that alone is worth about $8,000), fine hotels and meals, side trips, and transportation and guides.”
But these congressional delegations are not all fun and games. Representatives will be expected to sing for their lavish dinners by honoring President Bush’s 2007 pledge to provide the Israeli military with $30 billion of tax-payer-funded weapons between 2009 and 2018. So far, increases in military aid to Israel have been spared from the budgetary chopping block by President Obama and a compliant Congress that treats Israeli militarism as more sacrosanct than medical care for seniors. This despite the fact that Israel misuses the weapons, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians living under its illegal 44-year military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.
According to aidtoisrael.org, a US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation website, constituents in Virginia’s 7th congressional district will cough up an astonishing $73 million in taxes as their share for the Israeli military during this 10-year period. With this same amount of money, each year the federal governmentinstead could give nearly 900 low-income families housing vouchers, or retrain 1,200 unemployed workers for green jobs, or fund early reading programs for nearly 2,200 at-risk children, or provide primary health care to 59,000 uninsured people in Rep. Cantor’s congressional district.
The House Committee on Ethics should open an investigation to determine if it is even legal for Rep. Cantorto be participating in junkets organized by AIEF. The guidelines of the committee are as bright and clear as the midday sun on a Tel Aviv beach in August. “The travel provisions of the gift rule severely limit the ability of Members and staff to accept travel from an entity that employs or retains a registered lobbyist.”
According to AIEF’s latest tax return, the organization has no paid employees — an astounding feat 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.
An examination of AIPAC‘s latest tax return reveals the sleight of hand. AIPAC reports that in 2009, it generously contributed $3.2 million of salaries to cover the staff costs of AIEF. In other words, an organization with registered lobbyists is paying the staff of a nonprofit organization to run congressional delegations that cannot be funded by an organization that employs lobbyists.
Constituents should be irate that Representatives accept fancy trips from AIPAC affiliates that result in theUnited States prioritizing weapons to Israel above our economic rights. And the Committee on Ethics must investigate AIPAC’s skirting of travel regulations and shut down these trips that it has until now allowed.
Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of 375 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality.