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Reprinted from Alternet
58 members of Congress will be in Israel in the coming days on a tour sponsored by the America Israel Education Foundation, an arm of the pro-Israel lobbying organization, AIPAC. Though AIPAC claims the trip is an annual ritual with no connection to the increasingly rancorous debate over the Iran nuclear deal, the trip offers Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a key opportunity for face-to-face fear mongering with some of the lawmakers who control the deal's fate.
After the Republican delegation visits Israel, 22 Democrats -- including several who represent key swing votes on the deal -- will be shepherded through the AIPAC tour by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, an Israel lobby favorite. The freshmen legislators will visit all the requisite destinations, from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has featured exhibits accusing Palestinians of a central role in the Jewish genocide in Europe, to the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who likes to present influential visitors with a special ring he purchased in a local pawn shop that supposedly legitimizes Israeli control over Jerusalem.
As a journalist who has covered the crisis in the Holy Land for several years, I have composed a tour route that might allow congressional newcomers to the situation to expand their understanding of Israel beyond the strict limitations imposed by their AIPAC-endorsed guides. They should engage with the reality of Israel, not only within the illusory realm of "Israel proper," but in the Jews-only settlements and Palestinian ghettoes that make up the Occupied Territories. And they should meet the people who elected Netanyahu and the most right-wing governing coalition in Israel's history.
So here is a list of a few places every member of Congress -- and every American -- should consider visiting on a trip to the Holy Land.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons. Yet according to its policy of nuclear ambiguity, which the US government has faithfully honored, the self-proclaimed Jewish state refuses to acknowledge its arsenal and will not allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials to inspect it. Unlike Iran, Israel has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Profileration Agreement. Away from the scrutiny of international inspectors, Israel has produced scores of nuclear warheads along with a Jericho missile delivery system that puts much of Europe within striking range. According to journalist Seymour Hersh, Israel received an emergency package of military aid from the US during the 1973 war through "nuclear blackmail," or threatening to blanket the Middle East in a hail of nuclear destruction if Washington failed to accede to its demands.
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