That twenty per cent of the House of Representatives will be spending its recess holiday on American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) paid tours of Israel does not seem to have made the mainstream news.  The tours, one consisting of 26 Democratic congressmen headed by House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and two others of 55 Republicans, one led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, are ostensibly intended to provide congress with a “deeper understanding” of the situation in the Middle East.  Sure it will, but one suspects the understanding will be in one direction only.

Cantor is trying hard to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House by moving to the right on both the economy and on foreign policy, where his views are strictly Israel-first wrapped in the usual neocon packaging incorporating assertive projection of US national power.  In November 2010, he met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pledged that the Republican Party would serve as a “check” against any unwelcome initiatives by President Obama.  At the time Cantor was not yet Majority Leader of the House but his offer to support a foreign leader against the president of his own country went unchallenged and did not in any way impede his march onward and upward.  Cantor is now also setting himself up as a darling of the tea partiers in the wake of the recent government debt ceiling debacle.

Meanwhile back on Capitol Hill, other friends of Israel were busy prior to recess, also without any mainstream media coverage.  Two congresswomen from Florida, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have introduced legislation that will allow Holocaust survivors living in the United States to receive federal funds to help them stay in their homes, rather than having to move to an institution. The bipartisan bill places survivors on a special list of elderly citizens receiving preferred treatment through a grant program to help them with their transportation and other needs.

“As a nation that upholds the values of freedom, liberty and justice, we have a moral obligation to acknowledge the plight and uphold the dignity of Holocaust survivors to ensure their well-being,” Wasserman Schultz said. “We must do all we can to honor their struggles and their lives by improving their access to transportation to get them where they need to go, and improve their home-care options so that they can have peace of mind. This bill does just that, and it’s time to make it happen.”

Americans who really like Israel and everything that pertains to it are certainly free to express their views, but there is something unseemly and even grotesque about the continuous promotion of foreign and ethnic group interests ahead of those of the United States and other American citizens. AIPAC is a lobby dedicated to maintaining uncritical US government support for a foreign country and it can be argued that Washington entered into at least one foreign war because of it.  The congressmen who accept the junkets should be asking themselves whose interests they are really serving.  At a time when both Democrats and Republicans are openly discussing cutting medical benefits for ordinary Americans, it is also difficult to understand what twisted thinking supports allocating additional taxpayer provided special medical benefits to some medicare recipients based on events that took place thousands of miles away from the US more than sixty-six years ago.