One of the more interesting aspects of the relentless march of the Israel Lobby in the United States is the extent to which it has expanded its reach down into the state and even local level.
Documents released under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act indicate that not only does VIAB not create opportunities for Virginians, it also is active in working against the BDS movement. According to the documents, VIAB, which avoids any public disclosure of its activities, is currently also being scrutinized by the state Attorney General over its handling of government funds.
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The Virginia Coalition for Human Rights (VCHR) reports that VIAB is “the only Israel business promotion entity in the United States embedded within a state government and funded entirely by the state’s taxpayers. In terms of the overall state budget, VIAB’s direct share is small ($209,068 for fiscal years 2017 and 2018). However, VIAB’s diversion of state, federal and private grants, as well as demands on state-funded entities like colleges and universities to collaborate in projects designed primarily to benefit Israel, run in the millions of dollars per year. VIAB’s main objective is to provide preferential and unconditional funding to oftentimes secretive Israeli business projects designed to entwine Israeli industries into Virginia industries and government. VIAB seeks to transcend warranted, growing and legitimate American grassroots concerns about human rights in Israel-Palestine by pressuring state lawmakers and the local business community into providing unconditional support and developing a long-term ‘stake’ in Israel.”
Per VCHR, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act found that VIAB, among other suspect practices, had “Provided reports of success that the office of the Governor found to be “inflated without merit.” VCHR concluded that “there should be no preferential and unconditional Commonwealth of Virginia support for Israeli business projects for four key concerns: moral, economic, good governance and state public opinion.” Moral was due to Israel’s “dismal human rights record,” economic because Virginia has a half-billion dollar trade deficit with Israel, good governance because VIAB’s board and leadership are drawn from the “Israel advocacy ecosystem,” and public opinion because opinion polls suggest that over one third of Virginians favor halting all funding for “Israeli business ventures.”
On a similar issue a shadowy group called the Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS), which is actually a “partisan group with backing by state and local Israel advocacy organizations,” is seeking to change the information conveyed by the history and social studies textbooks used in K-12 classrooms across Virginia. ICS recommended changes include: “1. Emphasizing Arab culpability for crisis initiation leading to military action and failure of peace efforts—and never Israeli culpability, even when it is undisputed historic fact. 2. Replacing the commonly used words of “settlers” with “communities,” “occupation” with “control of,” “wall” with “security fence,” and “militant” with “terrorist.” 3. Referencing Israeli claims such as “Israel annexed East Jerusalem” and the Golan Heights as accepted facts without referencing lack of official recognition by the United Nations and most member nation states.”