This is part II of our sit down interview with State Senator Barbara L’Italien concerning her trip to Israel late last year. Since part I of our interview in March, Senator L’Italien and the other Senators who visited Israel have come under fire by anti-Semitic, hate groups disguised as “peace” organizations but actually support Palestinian terror. They initially visited Senators to try and bully them into not going to Israel but their bullying tactics failed. We have incorporated that additional information into this part of the interview:
VP: What was the controversy with the anti-Semites who tried to get you to cancel your trip?
State Senator L’Italien: “They did come to my office wanting to meet, to basically say ‘don’t go on the trip’. I did not meet with them, but I would say, everyone has the right to travel anywhere they like. I think it’s better to learn firsthand what’s going on over there. The repercussion of what is going on in the Middle East affects us here. We’ve had a big stake in what goes on there as a country. The implications going forward of what’s going to happen with ISIS and all of that, and all those tensions, we need to understand it all because it will potentially come to our soil. The implications won’t just be at the federal level but at the state level. We are going to have to up the ante, and maybe restructure our definition of security. We need to find the balance between freedom and security.”
“So, yes we were asked not to go. This group dropped off petitions, and were most unhappy at the idea that we were going to Israel. I got a lot of emails as well, but nobody was from my district. It was all people from the Greater Boston and Cambridge area.”
“The Jewish Community Relations Council runs these group trips on a fairly regular basis. The Senate President was asked to structure a trip to Israel including Senators that would be interested in going. So, there ended up being ten Senators attending, including the Senate President and the Chair of Ways and Means. Locally, Senator Eileen Donoghue and myself were the two senators from the Merrimack Valley who attended.”
Hate Group Calls itself “Peace” Group
Masquerading as a “Peace” group, the anti-Semitic, pro-terror organization called Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA) filed a complaint with the state ethics commission in retaliation for the Senators going on the trip in spite of their protests. Their complaint alleges that the trip was a conflict of interest because it came shortly before a senate vote on Israel.
Contacted after the initial interview, L’Italien said that the vote they took was only a resolution and there was no conflict of interest because there was no money or legislation voted on regarding the group that sponsored the trip.
In a press release by the Senate President (where he humorously referred to himself in third person), he said that he was confident that no ethics laws were violated.
Local and state officials have participated in an educational exchange with Israel for the past several years. Senate President Rosenberg and the other Senate participants have followed the law and the Ethics Commission regulations in regards to this trip. He and the Senators believe in strong ethical standards and are confident that the matter will be quickly resolved.”
L’Italien agreed, saying that the trip was beneficial to national security and gave Senators a better understanding of the relationship between the many companies that Massachusetts does business with in Israel.
“As articulated by Senate President Stan Rosenberg, the challenge for our group was to take off our “American glasses” and try to absorb what we would see and hear from the people who live in this part of the Middle East from their perspectives. Israel has experienced particular success in the area of start-up companies in the high-tech industry. So, we spent a good deal of time exploring this area in search of ideas and relationships to bring back to Massachusetts. We visited many companies, including some with existing Massachusetts ties that want to do business with Massachusetts and Mass. companies.”
“We also received many insights into Israeli’s vast and complex security operations, which I believe will be instructional and invaluable for us as legislators as we face the prospect of having to direct more and more of our state budget and resources for security in the coming years.”
VP: What benefit does the state get sending Senators to Israel? Did the state pay for the trip?
L’Italien: “No. The state didn’t pay for the trip. It was paid for by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP). There were no state monies used at all. But, I just want to focus on the defense and geopolitics of the trip.”
“We spent a full day in Tel Aviv meeting with what they call the start-up nation, because a lot of the young people coming out of the IDF are really smart, and using incredible technology. They leave the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) and are coming up with new ideas to do things better. So, they have an incredible number of startups going on within the technology world that they get started and then a lot of the American companies will come in and pick them up, and mature them, and grow the businesses. So, we learned about a ton of new startups that are going on in the Tel Aviv and the Haifa areas.”
“We also learned about the desalination process and walked through a desalination plant where they take sea water and make it drinkable. They have to do this because their only source of fresh water is up in the Sea of Galilee, and that’s been drained so low. It’s actually feeds down to the Dead Sea. But, the Dead Sea is retracting at an alarming rate and there are sinkholes and a lot of problems. So, that technology is now being used to not only create drinking water in Israel, but now it’s being used in California and it’s going to need to be used in a lot of other places in our country as well.”