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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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Hindrance from Harvey relief highlights politicians pro-Israel hypocrisy


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Ever since the establishment of the state of Israel, the country has been the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II. At what point is our relationship with the country toxic to how much we spend at home? Whenever it trickles down to the most local levels of government, like it did recently.

After Hurricane Harvey, the city of Dickinson came into contact with this anti-boycott Israel legislation.

House Bill 89 of the Texas Legislature, which took effect Sept. 1, was co-authored by Representative Phil King. He said the purpose of the bill is to “contend that Israel is a key ally and trading partner of the United States and Texas should act to prevent taxpayer resources from supporting businesses which work to isolate Israel from global trade.

“C.S.H.B. 89 seeks to provide these protections by enacting provisions related to state contracts with and investments in companies that boycott Israel.”

Most people in the Houston area don’t own their own businesses, but a lot of people did sustain significant damage during Hurricane Harvey, like people living in Dickinson.

The irony is that one of the provisions to apply for a Hurricane Harvey Repair Grant with the city of Dickinson was that you must agree that “by executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.”

The Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters claims she was just doing her job as advised by a city attorney.

Peppered within a list that explains the restrictions and parameters concerning independent contractors, beneficiaries and other compliance issues is a provision that requires a political allegiance.

It has since been rescinded, but the implications of this event should not be forgotten. Oddly enough, there is no statement in the contract that requires explicit allegiance to Texas or the U.S. — only to Israel.

King was lauded for promoting free markets by a number of organizations yet promoted red-tape provisions that could potentially hinder the use of state contracts based on their political affiliations.

We provide copious amounts of aid to Israel, yet provisions like these are willing to withhold aid to victimized people within Texas’ borders for not supporting a country we implicitly support by paying taxes in the first place — all in the name of taxpayers. Not bad for someone who was presented with the “Taxpayer Champion of the Year” award in 2011.

Additionally, the press release from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, who signed the bill into law, states that “Anti-Israel Policies are Anti-Texas policies.” This type of false dichotomy is dangerous, but what can you expect when the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, visited Abbott earlier in the year as well as in 2016?

Blind allegiance to another country at the civic level exposes a sad reality in the United States. The pro-Israel rhetoric has permeated every level of government and has largely grown out of control.

The military and economic implications of maintaining friendly trade relations is one matter, but the requirement of citizens or even businesses to pledge allegiance to Israel is an entirely different one.

The majority of our foreign-aid tax dollars are given to Israel year after year as established by “bilateral contracts,” which are an oxymoron to anyone who has read them. There is little to nothing bilateral about these largely unilateral contracts when comparing the benefits Israel receives versus the U.S. In fact, Israel’s biggest trade partner within the U.S. is Texas.

Just as recently as last year, the U.S. made the largest military assistance pledge of its kind to Israel for the next 10 years, totaling an estimated $38 billion. Texas, meanwhile, is receiving less than half of that amount, $15.25 billion, for recovery from Harvey, which most say will take years to make a difference.

One insurance expert says recovery could take up to 10 years. The kicker is that four Texas representatives voted against the relief package, which sounds pretty “anti-Texas” to me.

Who were these representatives? One is Rep. Sam Johnson, who has explicitly stated in all caps on his Facebook page “I PROUDLY STAND WITH ISRAEL.” Another is Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who took a trip to Tel Aviv a couple months ago that cost taxpayers more than $20,000.

Rep. Joe Barton, leader of the congressional task force tasked with relief efforts, voted against the aid package, citing the lack of a debt ceiling, while the rest of his voting record is pro-Israel.

Last is Rep. Mac Thornberry, who was honored by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, and whose motto is “Strengthening America, Strengthening Israel.” That phrase is eerily reminiscent of Abbott’s “Anti-Israel policies are Anti-Texas policies.”  

State congressmen voted in favor of House Bill 89 to steer faithfulness of Texas businesses towards Israel, which in turn trickled down to affect the average citizen requesting relief at home.

A handful of Texas representatives who fully support Israel voted against national relief. Where does it end? At one point do we collectively consider why we continue to support a country so unquestionably?

So, while we hand F-35s over to Netanyahu, maybe now Jane Doe will get approved for assistance on that new roof she needs without having to make a foreign policy pledge.

Opinion columnist Nicholas Bell is an MBA candidate and can be reached at [email protected]

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