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Ray Hanania
Ray Hanania
16 Apr 2015
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Using American Tax Dollars to Undermine Civil Rights

Comment

Illinois is ranked as the worst-run state when it comes to finances by the financial website 24/7WallStreet.

A major part of the problem is the state's bloated and broken pension system, which rewards insiders with outrageously high pensions while overtaxing everyday residents who can barely put food on their table.

Yet, despite the disaster that is the Illinois Pension system, a system that manages nearly $80 billion in investments for Illinois teachers, state government employees and elected officials, two legislators in Illinois want to use Illinois' crippled pension funds to help a foreign country they favor.

Instead of trying to take Illinois out of its pension-driven debt, several members of the Illinois legislature, who will benefit with exorbitant pensions when they retire, have decided to use that money to beat up on anyone who criticizes a foreign country, Israel.

What do the state's pensions have to do with Israel? Nothing, unless you consider that American taxpayers are forced to give Israel more than $5 billion annually in financial aid that might otherwise be used to help the poor, the needy and challenges facing average Americans.

Yet that's not apparently a concern of the sponsors of the legislation, State Sen. Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz. Silverstein and Feigenholtz, who are pro-Israel extremists whose actions will undermine peace.

But is it their right to take the hardworking money of American taxpayers in a country where free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy, and punish those who criticize Israel?

That's what their bills will do. These are bills that are being replicated in several other states where Israel has government minions waiting to do that country's bidding.

The Silverstein-Feigenholtz bill would prohibit the state's retirement systems from investing the hard-earned money of Illinois taxpayers in any company or organization that criticizes Israel.

Those retirement systems include the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System which oversees $44.8 billion in investments, the Illinois State Universities' Retirement System which oversees $17.3 billion in investments, and the Illinois State Employees' Retirement System, Illinois Judges' Retirement System, and Illinois General Assembly Retirement System which, combined, manage $15.4 billion in investments.

It's an example of how elected officials can abuse their authority to reinforce their personal political beliefs.

I am an American taxpayer and Illinois taxpayer, who, by the way, served in the U.S.

military defending this country during the Vietnam War. Is it right that my tax dollars can be used by Silverstein and Feigenholtz to play their political favoritism?

I criticize Israel's government actions all the time. Not because I hate Israel or Israelis — my wife and son are Jewish — but because I oppose the illegal conduct of Israel's government as it applies to the Christians and Muslims who live under its occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem. I also oppose Israel's government sanctioned discrimination and civil rights abuses against Israeli Arab "citizens" who are Christian and Muslim.

It would be wrong for me to advocate a law that prevents Silverstein and Feigenholtz from spending their own money anyway they wish. They can help Israel's government confiscate of Christian lands in Bethlehem all they want.

It's a moral dilemma they face as individuals, but I doubt it will keep them up at night.

But they have no right to take American tax dollars and use them to benefit a foreign country just because they are close to that foreign country. They have no right to place Israel's interests above the rights and interests of American taxpayers, whose money they help manage, albeit poorly.

Silverstein's bill, HB 4011, has the backing of statehouse members Lou Lang, Daniel Burke and Scott Drury. Feigenholtz's bill, SB 1761, has the backing of Illinois Senators Michael Connelly, Darin M. LaHood, Pamela Althoff, Julie Morrison, Chris Nybo and Matt Murphy.

What the proposed bills do is undermine American Democracy, exploit the power of the sponsors, benefit a foreign country, and punish everyday Americans who exercising their Constitutional rights of free speech to criticize a foreign country.

The Silverstein-Feigenholtz bills, which punish Americans for criticizing a foreign country, sound so un-American to me.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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