(ATLANTA, GA - 8/15/2019) The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Georgia), Jewish Voice for Peace Atlanta, and Project South today expressed support for a federal ethics complaint filed with Congress after Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath and other members of Congress joined an all-expense-paid trip to Israel sponsored by an arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which funds Islamophobic causes and lobbies Congress to support rightwing Israeli policies.
In a statement, CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said:
"We expect Representative McBath and other members of Congress to visit their districts and serve their constituents, not to take free trips abroad sponsored by a lobby group that supports anti-Muslim bigotry here at home and unjust wars overseas.
"As a friend of the Georgia Muslim community and an advocate for justice, Rep. McBath should make amends with her constituents, cut ties with AIPAC, and pledge to never participate in unethical trips like this again. So should every other member of Congress."
Federal law prohibits lobbyists from providing "gifts of travel" to lawmakers, but a loophole has permitted AIPAC to create a non-profit offshoot, the American-Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which funds annual congressional trips to Israel with money provided by AIPAC supporters.
Earlier this week, the anti-war group CodePink filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics over the practice.
During the trips, AIPAC's nonprofit arm reportedly whitewashes the impact of the Israeli government's racist and segregationist military occupation of the Palestinian people. The group also arranges for members of Congress to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an unrepentant anti-Arab racist.
“Now that Representative McBath has traveled to Israel and experienced the massive Israeli propaganda machine, it is only right that she meet with us, her constituents, to discuss the human rights violations that Israel commits against Palestinians using U.S. tax-payer money," said Connie Sosnoff, a 6th district resident and member of Jewish Voice for Peace Atlanta.
"We ask Representative McBath to consider how these trips are part of a larger strategy that promotes racism, Islamophobia, and oppressive conditions from the West Bank to Southwest Atlanta," said Emery Wright, Co-Director of Project South. "We are certain that AIPAC has whitewashed these connections and realities of oppression. We call on Representative McBath to stand with the Palestinians struggle on the principle that a ‘threat to justice anywhere in a threat to justice everywhere.’"
On June 28th, JVP-Atlanta, CAIR-Georgia, Black Lives Matter Atlanta, Project South, Masjid Jafar of Johns Creek, and numerous 6th District residents sent a letter to Rep. McBath that asked her not to attend the trip.
The letter cited the lobby group's attempts to bias members of Congress to support the Israeli government’s racism, bigotry, and oppression of the Palestinian people, as well as AIPAC's own history of supporting Islamophobia, encouraging war against Iraq and Iran, and targeting elected officials who speak up for a peaceful U.S. foreign policy.
41 House Democrats led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ultimately attended the trip, while least 30 House Democrats declined to do so for various stated reasons. A Republican delegation led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also participated in the trip.
According to reports published today, the Israeli government is considering banning Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress, from entering the country.