MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Meet VIAB: Virginia’s Taxpayer-Funded Israel Lobby – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. Fox on July 31, 2018

Virginia, truly the promised land.

Early in 2018, the federations that staff VIAB (PDF) attempted to ram through a series of controversial changes to Virginia K-12 textbooks with the help of an outside Israel advocacy organization, the “Institute for Curriculum Services.”

https://original.antiwar.com/smith-grant/2018/07/30/meet-viab-virginias-taxpayer-funded-israel-lobby/

The Virginia-Israel Advisory Board VIAB has one key difference with scores of privately funded state chambers of commerce created to foster closer economic integration between the United States and Israel while supporting the Israeli government’s policy agenda.

Originally created by an uncodified act in 2001, VIAB has been funded by Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayers. Its charter is to “advise the Governor on ways to improve economic and cultural links between the Commonwealth and the State of Israel, with a focus on the areas of commerce and trade, art and education, and general government.” VIAB is a pilot for how Israel can quietly obtain taxpayer funding and official status for networked entities that advance Israel from within key state governments…

Early in 2018, the federations that staff VIAB (PDF) attempted to ram through a series of controversial changes to Virginia K-12 textbooks with the help of an outside Israel advocacy organization, the “Institute for Curriculum Services.” The proposed edits to McGraw Hill, Prentice Hall, National Geographic and other publisher textbooks demanded they teach that Israel does not occupy any foreign territory and that Arabs alone were responsible for all crisis initiation in Middle East conflicts, among other dubious claims. When the stealth campaign was disclosed, it provoked an immediate “campaign for textbook accuracy” from the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights alongside prominent state educators. VCHR is a coalition of 16 organizations representing 8,000 Virginians…

VIAB maintains a veil of secrecy over some of its projects. In 2013, the VIAB board gave an aquaculture project the code name “Project Jonah” stating that “All Board members are asked to refer to the project by this code name. Leaked information could jeopardize funding opportunities from the State.”

Obtaining massive state and other local funding for Israeli projects is undeniably IABVs principal objective…

VIAB thrived during Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration (2014-2018). Among McAuliffe’s most generous out of state campaign contributors were Israel boosters Haim Saban and J.B. Pritzker. McAuliffe was a regular at off-the-record “no press allowed” appearances before Israel advocacy organizations where he was encouraged to talk about “the Virginia Advisory Board and its successes” But internal emails reveal how VIAB chafed under open meeting and sunshine laws and the commonwealth’s financial reins even under McAuliffe. After the governor’s office became skeptical about VIAB’s operations, VIAB deployed a strategy used for decades by Israel affinity organizations in crisis such as the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA): a complete reconstitution.

Before stepping down in at the end of the McAuliffe administration in January, Virginia Secretary of Commerce Todd Patterson Haymore complained in a private email (PDF) about VIAB’s job creation claims. “I can’t argue with the short annual report where they stated they helped create 127 jobs/$436k tax dollars; however, the annual report is likely the most inflated without merit that I’ve seen in my decade here.”…

The Virginia Office of the Attorney General issued on May 22, 2017 a secret letter to the VIAB “regarding the selection and appointment of the position of Executive Director of the Virginia-Israel Advisory Board .” The VIAB apparently considered the letter a challenge to its authority to pick and install its own executive director without the governor’s interference. VIAB had already begun searching for a “suitable” successor executive director to Robbins by posting job descriptions on Israel advocacy organization websites.

In early 2018, VIAB shaped (PF) and monitored HB1297, a new law designed to “keep the VIAB independent” by transferring funding and oversight of VIAB from the office of the governor to Virginia’s legislature and reducing the number of gubernatorial appointments from 13 to five…

VIAB quietly operates as a taxpayer-funded lobbyist for a foreign country in the fifth most economically important state of the union. Whether VIAB ever faces the backlash feared by a fellow Israel advocacy organization may depend on the actions of vastly more representative Virginia-based grassroots organizations dedicated to conditioning state support for Israel on improving its deplorable human rights record.

Note: VIAB rebranded itself as the Virginia-Israel Advisory Authority as part of in its recent legislative reconstitution.

Be seeing you

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I am not a number. I am a free man!-Number 6

 

 

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