To the members of the Illinois legislature traveling on a Jewish United Fund delegation to Israel – Mondoweiss

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On September 1, 2023, the IL Coalition for Human Rights (ICHR) sent the following letter to members and staff of the Illinois legislature participating in a Jewish United Fund delegation to Israel from August 31 – September 9. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

Letter to the Members/Staff of the IL Legislature joining Jewish United Fund Delegation to Israel

Date: September 1, 2023

To:  Members of Delegation:
Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch
Majority Leader Robyn Gabel
Speaker Pro Tempore Jehan Gordon-Booth
Assistant Majority Leader Kam Buckner
Deputy Majority Leader Lisa Hernandez
Assistant Majority Leader Natalie Manley
Rep. Bob Morgan, Co-Chair IL Legislative Jewish Caucus and Asst. Majority Whip
Tiffany Moy, Chief of Staff
Jaclyn Driscoll, Spokesperson

We have just read of your trip to Israel, led by the Jewish United Fund, from Aug. 31 – Sep. 9. While your announcement came after your departure, it is important for us to address some serious concerns about this official delegation.

This trip to Israel is a blatant propaganda trip to give comfort and a feeling of normalcy regarding Israel’s current government under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, the most right-wing, extremist and racist leadership coalition since Israel’s inception.  International opposition to Israeli apartheid is at an all-time high, following the widespread pogroms against Palestinians throughout the West Bank. 

Whether or not it is your intention, your official visit is providing political cover for the right-wing Israeli government officials and their settler proxies. Although you are interspersing a few meetings with Palestinians in the midst of your meetings with the Israeli officials, this trip clearly sends the message that for Illinois, it is business as usual for Israel.  

Israel has dual legal and political systems that explicitly privilege Israeli Jews over Muslim and Christian Palestinians living in the same geographic area (though separated by walls, checkpoints and separate roads).  Palestinians who have never known a day of freedom in their lives are being gunned down on a nearly daily basis by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Discriminatory policies such as the prohibition of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories from voting or protesting has led Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem (the most well-known Israeli human rights organization) to define Israel’s systematic discrimination as apartheid against its Palestinian population. You would have never taken a trip to apartheid South Africa in 1984; it should also be unfathomable when the victims of apartheid are Palestinian. The important work that all of you do on behalf of racial and economic equality and immigrant rights at home is tarnished by your allowing your role as leaders of our state to support Israeli apartheid.

Given that you are already on your way to Israel, we would like you to keep the following questions and context in mind when you meet with Israeli officials:

  1. Apartheid – Human Rights Reports: Amnesty International and B’Tselem have determined that Israeli authorities are enforcing a system of apartheid against all Palestinians, in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, while Human Rights Watch has determined that Israel is enforcing a system of apartheid at the very least against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. These reports draw on years of research and observation. What is Israel doing to reverse the system of apartheid?
  1. Justice System: 
  • Palestinians living under occupation are tried in Israeli military courts while Israeli settlers living in the same geographical areas are tried in civilian courts inside Israel. The military judicial system is part of a “separate and unequal” reality. Two populations, two different legal systems. Are there any steps being taken to reform the criminal justice system so that the two populations living in the same area are not held to different standards of justice? 
  • Settler and soldiers are not held accountable for killing and maiming Palestinians, including journalists, medical workers, and children. Has anyone been held accountable for the murder of journalist Shireen Abuakleh? How many settlers and soldiers have been convicted for the killing of Palestinians in the last year?
  1. Nation State Law: In 2018, the Israeli parliament approved the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law that enshrines Jewish supremacy over indigenous Palestinian citizens. The law has three major components:
  • It states that “the right to exercise national self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people.”
  • It establishes Hebrew as Israel’s official language, and downgrades Arabic – a language widely spoken by Arab Israelis – to a “special status.”
  • It establishes “Jewish settlement as a national value” and mandates that the state “will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.”

How does this law fit within a commitment to democracy for all human beings?

  1. Gaza: Israel holds an entire population of refugees hostage in Gaza, controlling their movement, severely restricting their imports and exports, preventing them from fishing in the sea bordering Gaza, and routinely bombing civilians and civilian infrastructure. How much does Israel rely on U.S. financial support in carrying out those oppressive actions?

We encourage you to use your critical eye and commitment to human rights and democracy for all human beings as the lens through which you examine what you are seeing over the next eight days.

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