Massachusetts State Senators: Don't go to Israel!

Ten reasons our elected officials should cancel their December 2015 trip to Israel

1. It’s a conflict of interest: This trip is sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) and paid for by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) – both partisan pro-Israel organizations that regularly lobby lawmakers on behalf of Israel. The trip is designed to present Israel in a positive light and combat international condemnation of its treatment of Palestinians.  These organizations recently introduced a resolution to the MA senate applauding economic collaboration with Israel; it was only one of numerous bills addressing issues of importance to Israel and its local backers that have come before the legislature. While accepting the gift of this trip from Israel-backers may not violate the law, it is ethically questionable.

2. Israel violates international law: It is no secret that Israel ‘s ever expanding occupation of Palestinian territory blatantly violates international law. Just this month, in yet another contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Israeli ‘Civil Administration Office’ approved a plan to build 2200 more units of settler housing. Other violations of international law include the collective punishment of Palestinians through home demolitions of the homes of suspects’ families, extra-judicial executions, detentions without trial, and war crimes like the bombing of hospitals and the killing of passengers on flotilla ships (now being considered by the International Criminal Court)

3. Massachusetts must stand against segregation and racism: Far from being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’, in Israel segregation, inequality and discrimination against Palestinians are enshrined in law. Palestinians must carry identity cards (like the notorious passbooks that black South Africans had to carry during apartheid).  A system of Jim Crow laws privileges Israelis with a matrix of roads for Jews-only, a separation wall, and segregated public transportation systems for Israelis and Palestinians. Schools, housing, health care and services are segregated and unequal.  Massachusetts has a proud history of fighting discrimination, standing with the civil rights movement, and opposing apartheid in South Africa. Black asylum seekers in Israel are put in open air camps and attacked by settlers with impunity. Your trip signals tacit acceptance of racism.

4. Human rights violations are rampant in Israel: According to a 2015 Amnesty International report “Israeli forces committed war crimes and human rights violations during a 50-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip that killed over 1,500 civilians, including 539 children, wounded thousands more civilians, and caused massive civilian displacement and destruction of property and vital services. Israel maintained its air, sea and land blockade of Gaza, imposing collective punishment on its approximately 1.8 million inhabitants and stoking the humanitarian crisis. In the West Bank, Israeli forces carried out unlawful killings of Palestinian protesters, including children, and maintained an array of oppressive restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement while continuing to promote illegal settlements and allow Israeli settlers to attack Palestinians and destroy their property with near total impunity. Israeli forces detained thousands of Palestinians, some of whom reported being tortured, and held around 500 administrative detainees without trial.”  

5. Israel treats Palestinian children like criminals: According to prisoner support group Addameer, 500 Palestinian children are arrested and detained every year;  3 of 4 experience physical violence after arrest.  New laws mandate a minimum three-year sentence for stone-throwing. Reports show that Israeli security forces have choked detained children, thrown stun grenades at them, beaten them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of their parents or lawyers, and failed to let their parents know their whereabouts. 133 children have been arrested since October 1 across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Israel.  

6. Israel’s “greening of the desert” leaves Palestinians high and dry: Israel’s water comes from  Palestinian aquifers, leaving Palestinians with less than 10% of their own water. The result is that Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories consume well below the 100 liters per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organization while Israeli’s consume three times as much. Moreover, Israel controls water for agriculture and constructs roads and walls to divert Palestinian water for it own use. As such, water – a basic human right - is used as a weapon of control by Israel. 

7. Israel uses technology in service of oppression: Israel's so called “advanced” technologies are used to make the lives of Palestinians unbearable.  They have developed sophisticated systems to "corral" Palestinians with gates, walls, checkpoints, and identity cards. One touted product is skunkwater, whose smell has been described as a cross between skunk spray and a dead body. The liquid is regularly pumped across and inside homes of Palestinians under occupation, rendering anything it touches unusable. Israelis are hoping to market this product in the U.S.

8. Potential jobs created by a relationship with Israel are not worth the moral and ethical costs: Creating MA jobs by entering into business partnerships with Israeli companies amounts to aiding and abetting Israel’s discriminatory policies and human rights violations. It is a form of appeasement. We should not do business with the government of Israel just as we did no business with South Africa under apartheid.

9. Opposing Israeli policies is NOT anti-Semitic: Supporters of Israel try to discredit critiques of Israel by accusations of anti-Semitism.  As countless Jews and Jewish organizations have attested, this is a smokescreen tactic used to deflect legitimate criticism. In fact, Jewish values demand that Israel be held accountable for its racist and violent actions.

10. You are accountable to your constituents: While this trip is not paid by taxpayers, we do pay for your time. Until Israel abides by international law, it is inappropriate for MA lawmakers to spend time supporting Israeli policies rather than focusing on urgent issues here in MA.

Until Israel abides by international law, we commit to opposing the use of MA taxpayer dollars to fund collaborations with the state of Israel.