(LOS ANGELES, CA 8/15/2019) – The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) and the Los Angeles chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) today expressed support for a federal ethics complaint filed after California Reps. Gil Cisneros, Jimmy Gomez, Mike Levin, Harley Rouda and other members of Congress joined an all-expense-paid trip to Israel sponsored by an arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an anti-Palestinian lobbyist group that has funded Islamophobic causes.
In a statement, CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said:
“Reps. Cisneros, Gomez, Levin and Rouda serve a geographic area encompassing approximately 500,000 American Muslims. It is highly disturbing our elected representatives would take a trip abroad sponsored by a lobby group that supports anti-Muslim bigotry here at home and unjust wars overseas.
“We call on these representatives to apologize to their constituents, cut ties with AIPAC and refrain from partaking in unethical trips like this again. We commend the many other members of Congress, especially the local representatives who refused to partake in this trip. So should every other member of Congress.”
In a statement, Estee Chandler, founder of the Los Angeles chapter of JVP, said:
“AIPAC has a long history of propagating Islamophobia, promoting far-right policies and working to spread the Israeli government’s racism, bigotry and oppression of the Palestinian people here in America. This is the last group that members of the United States House of Representatives should be taking sponsored trips abroad from. We stand in solidarity with CAIR-LA in calling for Congress, especially our representatives, to apologize and pledge to stop participating in these trips.”
Federal law prohibits lobbyists from providing "gifts of travel" to lawmakers, but a loophole has permitted AIPAC to create a non-profit offshoot, the American-Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which funds annual congressional trips to Israel with money provided by AIPAC supporters.
Earlier this week, the anti-war group CODEPINK filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics over the practice.
During the trips, AIPAC's nonprofit arm reportedly whitewashes the impact of the Israeli government's racist and segregationist military occupation of the Palestinian people and lands. The group also arranges for members of Congress to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an unrepentant anti-Arab racist.
Forty-one House Democrats led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ultimately attended the most recent trip, while least 30 House Democrats declined to do so for various stated reasons. A Republican delegation led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also participated in the trip.
CAIR-LA is Southern California’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice and empower American Muslims.
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CONTACT: CAIR-LA Communications Manager Eugene W. Fields, 714-851-4851 or firstname.lastname@example.org