Pro-Israel activists and elected officials who put a foreign country’s interests before the interests of Americans are behind a widespread campaign to extend an Israeli law that could jail any Israeli who criticizes Israel or advocates a boycott of Israel to now include Americans. The Israeli law, approved in 2011, and the American laws are based on the same principle of censorship and violation of the American Constitution of Free Speech and Civil Rights. One recent proposal has been introduced by two pro-Israel minions in Illinois
By Ray Hanania
Illinois is ranked as the worst-run state when it comes to finances by the financial website 24/7WallStreet.
A major part of the problem is the state’s bloated and broken pension system, which rewards insiders with outrageously high pensions while overtaxing everyday residents who can barely put food on their table.
Yet, despite the disaster that is the Illinois Pension system, a system that manages nearly $80 billion in investments for Illinois teachers, state government employees and elected officials, two legislators in Illinois want to use Illinois’ crippled pension funds to help a foreign country they favor.
Instead of trying to take Illinois out of its pension-driven debt, several members of the Illinois legislature, who will benefit with exorbitant pensions when they retire, have decided to use that money to beat up on anyone who criticizes a foreign country, Israel.
What do the state’s pensions have to do with Israel? Nothing, unless you consider that American taxpayers are forced to give Israel more than $5 billion annually in financial aid that might otherwise be used to help the poor, the needy and challenges facing average Americans.
Yet that’s not apparently a concern of the sponsors of the legislation, State Sen. Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz. Silverstein and Feigenholtz are pro-Israel extremists whose actions will undermine peace.
But is it their right to take the hardworking money of American taxpayers in a country where free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy, and punish those who criticize Israel?
That’s what their bills will do. These are bills that are being replicated in several other states where Israel has government minions waiting to do that country’s bidding.
The Silverstein-Feigenholtz bill would prohibit the state’s retirement systems from investing the hard-earned money of Illinois taxpayers in any company or organization that criticizes Israel.
Those retirement systems include the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System which oversees $44.8 billion in investments, the Illinois State Universities’ Retirement System which oversees $17.3 billion in investments, and the Illinois State Employees’ Retirement System, Illinois Judges’ Retirement System, and Illinois General Assembly Retirement System which, combined, manage $15.4 billion in investments.
It’s an example of how elected officials can abuse their authority to reinforce their personal political beliefs.
I am an American taxpayer and Illinois taxpayer, who, by the way, served in the U.S. military defending this country during the Vietnam War. Is it right that my tax dollars can be used by Silverstein and Feigenholtz to play their political favoritism?
I criticize Israel’s government actions all the time. Not because I hate Israel or Israelis — my wife and son are Jewish — but because I oppose the illegal conduct of Israel’s government as it applies to the Christians and Muslims who live under its occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem. I also oppose Israel’s government sanctioned discrimination and civil rights abuses against Israeli Arab “citizens” who are Christian and Muslim.
It would be wrong for me to advocate a law that prevents Silverstein and Feigenholtz from spending their own money anyway they wish. They can help Israel’s government confiscate of Christian lands in Bethlehem all they want.
It’s a moral dilemma they face as individuals, but I doubt it will keep them up at night.
But they have no right to take American tax dollars and use them to benefit a foreign country just because they are close to that foreign country. They have no right to place Israel’s interests above the rights and interests of American taxpayers, whose money they help manage, albeit poorly.
Silverstein’s bill, SB 1761, and Feigenholtz’s bill, HB 4011, have the backing of Illinois Senators Michael Connelly, Darin M. LaHood, Pamela Althoff, Julie Morrison, Chris Nybo and Matt Murphy and Illinois House members Lou Lang, Daniel Burke and Scott Drury.
What the proposed bills do is undermine American Democracy, exploit the power of the sponsors, benefit a foreign country, and punish everyday Americans who exercising their Constitutional rights of free speech to criticize a foreign country.
The Silverstein-Feigenholtz bills, which punish Americans for criticizing a foreign country, sound so un-American to me.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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MORE on how pro-Israel activists and American politicians are undermining the U.S. Constitution to deny Americans the rights of free speech and civil rights to criticize a foreign country, Israel. Individuals found guilty under this biased Israeli law would be forced to pay huge penalties or could be jailed if they resist:
This is the 2011 Israeli law, followed by a similar law adopted in other U.S. States:
Law Preventing Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott – 2011
1. In this bill, “a boycott against the State of Israel” is defined as: deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or body solely because of their affinity with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage.
2. Boycott – a civil wrong:
A. He who knowingly publishes a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel, where according to the content and circumstances of the publication there is reasonable probability that the call will lead to a boycott, and he who published the call was aware of this possibility, will be considered to have committed a civil wrong to which the Civil Tort Law [new version] is applicable.
B. In regards to clause 62(A) of the Civil Tort Law [new version], he who causes a binding legal agreement to be breached by calling for a boycott against the State of Israel will not be viewed as someone who acted with sufficiently justified cause.
C. If the court will find that a civil wrong, as defined by this law, was deliberately carried out, it will be authorized to compel the person who committed the wrongdoing to pay [punitive] damages that are independent of the actual damage caused; in calculating the sum of these damages, for example, the court will take into consideration, among other things, the circumstances under which the wrong was carried out, its severity and its extent.
3. Regulations limiting participation in tenders
The Finance Minister is authorized, with the agreement of the Justice Minister and the approval of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, to set regulations that would limit the participation in a tender of he who knowingly published a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel, or who committed to take part in a boycott, including a commitment not purchase goods and/or services produced and/or provided in Israel, by one of its institutions, or in an area under its control; in this clause, a “tender” is defined as any public tender that must be administered in accordance with the Mandatory Tenders Law – 1992.
4. Regulations suspending benefits
A. The Finance Minister, upon consultation with the Justice Minister, may decide in the case of someone who knowingly published a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel or committed to take part in a boycott, that:
1. He will not be considered a public institution under clause 46 of the Income Tax Ordinance;
2. He will not be eligible to receive money from the Council to Regulate Sports Gambling under clause 9 of the Regulation of Sports Gambling Law – 1967; the authority to utilize this clause requires the agreement of the Minister of Culture and Sports;
3. He will not be considered a public institution under clause 3(A) of the Budget Foundations Law –1985, regarding the receipt of budgetary support under any budget line item; the authority to utilize this clause requires the agreement of the Minister appointed by the government as responsible for said budgetary line item, i.e. in accordance with clause 2 of the budget law, which defines “responsibility for implementing the budget line item”;
4. He will not be eligible to utilize guarantors under the Guarantors on Behalf of the State Law – 1958.
5. He will not be eligible to enjoy benefits under the Encouragement of Capital Investment Law –1959, or under to the Encouragement of Research and Development in Industry Law – 1984; the authority to utilize this clause requires the agreement of the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Employment.
B. In exercising the authority granted to the Finance Minister according to subsection (a), the Minister of Finance will act in accordance with the regulations that will be established in this matter, with the agreement of the Minister of Justice, and with the approval of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee; however, if no such regulations have been established, this in no way diminishes the authority of the Minister under subsection (a).
The Minister of Justice is appointed to implement this law. 6. Effective Date Clause 4 shall come into effect 90 days after the publication of the law.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, Middle East Monitor in London, the TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appeare in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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