There’s been a lot of talk about foreign governments intervening in our political process over the last few years, but some stories certainly don’t permeate mainstream discourse.
A case in point was on display this week. The Forward reported that the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) received a grant from the Israeli government for more than $100,000 last year. The IAF is a nonprofit that was established in 2007 to foster cooperation between pro-Israel forces and governments around the world. In 2014, the group helped develop South Carolina’s anti-BDS law, which prohibits state entities from contracting with groups that boycott Israel. The IAF went onto lobby 25 additional states to adopt anti-BDS measures after South Carolina’s was approved.
The IAF didn’t disclose the grant (which is probably illegal), but it’s certainly not the only such organization to take money from Israel. The Forward reports that 11 pro-Israel groups have received $6.6 million from that government since 2018. There are rules designed to try to prevent this kind of stuff, like the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). However, Israel apparently uses shell companies to maneuver around these sticky details. DC Attorney Amos Jones, who works on FARA cases, told The Forward, “They can have all the shell companies they want or whatever you want to call it. If that is a foreign organization or group of people, then they can be a foreign principal, thereby requiring persons acting under their direction inside the United States to have to register.”
Let’s run a quick thought experiment. Envision a pro-Russia nonprofit accepts a grant from Putin’s government, aligns itself with U.S. politicians, and then helps pass a number of laws that prohibit you from, say, boycotting Russian vodka over LGBTQ rights. How would United States liberals react to such a development? How many hours of programming would Rachel Maddow devote to such a story?
This example is wildly inadequate of course. In order for it to make sense as a comparison, the U.S. would have to give $3.8 billion to Russia in military aid every year. The point has been made a million times before, but it bears repeating in the wake of stories like this: people in the United States can condemn the actions of foreign governments, but they can’t generally take any responsibility for them. We are all complicit in Israeli apartheid.
This was an excerpt from our weekly politics newsletter, The Shift, where Michael Arria takes you to the front lines in the battle over Palestine in the United States. Sign up below to receive the newsletter in your inbox every Thursday.