Congressional Junkets to Israel: A Key Tool of the Rightwing Lobby

One of Jimmy Carter’s most powerful points at Brandeis Tuesday was a challenge to Brandeis to organize its own trip to the Occupied Territories to find out whether he was exaggerating the horrible conditions that Palestinians face. “See for yourself.” That’s an important issue. Today’s Christian Science Monitor has a strong piece by former S.D. Sen. James Abourezk talking about the Israel lobby’s use of congressional trips to sway political opinion to the view that one side has the moral high ground in the unending cycle of violence there.

According to the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper, congressional filings
show Israel as the top foreign destination for privately sponsored
trips. Nearly 10 percent of overseas congressional trips taken between
2000 and 2005 were to Israel. Most are paid for by the American Israel
Education Foundation, a sister organization of the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee, the major pro-Israel lobby group.

New rules require all trips to be pre-approved by the House Ethics
Committee, but Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts says this setup
will guarantee that tours of Israel continue. Ron Kampeas of the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency reported consensus among Jewish groups that “the new
legislation would be an inconvenience, but wouldn’t seriously hamper the
trips to Israel that are considered a critical component of
congressional support for Israel.”

These trips are defended as “educational.” In reality, as I know from my
many colleagues in the House and Senate who participated in them, they
offer Israeli propagandists an opportunity to expose members of Congress
to only their side of the story. The Israeli narrative of how the nation
was created, and Israeli justifications for its brutal policies omit
important truths about the Israeli takeover and occupation of the
Palestinian territories.

Abourezk doesn’t know about the journalists. The journos who have taken one-sided junkets to Israel don’t have to declare them…