Institutions and organizations that financed the expenses of 129 trips of members of Congress to Israel in 2019 (Al Jazeera)

The Intercept has revealed the names of major foundations and nonprofits that have been funding trips to Israel for members of the US Congress and making donations to other political and cultural groups in the United States.

According to the investigation, conducted by National Security and Foreign Policy Editor Morteza Hussein, these trips play an important role in rallying support for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in the corridors of Congress, which is the first legislative branch in the constitutional order of the United States.

Millions of dollars are spent each year to transport hundreds of members of Congress to Israel on 8-day trips, which so far largely remain a "mystery."

According to the unedited 2019 tax return obtained by The Intercept, the funders of these trips are a group of large foundations and nonprofits, some run by families who in turn make donations to other political and cultural groups.

The trips are organized by an intermediary called the American Israel Education Fund, an organization founded by AIPAC from which it borrows offices, board members and even part of its logo.

According to the unedited 2019 tax return, the fund attracted millions of dollars from eight groups, real estate companies and family charities.

Funded Groups

The investigative report identified these groups as the Kuret Foundation, the Swartz Foundation, the Jewish National Fund, the One 8 Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Paul Singer Foundation, the Milton Cooper Revocable Fund, and Heidi Orden Estates.

These donors contributed to 129 trips to Israel in 2019 sponsored by the American Israel Education Fund, with a total value of $2.32 million, according to The Intercept, citing a public records database known as Legacy Storm.

Full-cost trips are important for AIPAC as they help it keep bipartisan members of Congress firmly on Israel's side, according to The Intercept.

Significant impact

Yousef Mounir, head of the Palestine/Israel program at the Arab Center in Washington, D.C., said, "It's clear that trips have an impact, as personal experiences in Israel often appear in congressional narratives that justify supporting pro-Israel policies."

He said it was part of a broader strategy to maintain close ties between the United States and Israel.

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Whitman told The Intercept that his committee and the American Israel Education Fund are "strictly separate entities that adhere to all relevant government guidelines, regulations and laws."

However, Murtaza Hussein says in his investigation that he contacted the fund via e-mail and contacted donor institutions to ask for comment on the matter, but all of them did not respond.

Millions of dollars

Among the donors that have contributed the most to the fund are the Bay-based Koret Foundation ($5 million), the Jewish National Fund ($3.5 million), and a trust created in the name of real estate mogul Milton Cooper ($2.475 million).

The Swartz Foundation, which contributed $1.45 million, is best known for its founder, Sidney Swartz, former president and CEO of Timberland, a popular manufacturer of work shoes and outerwear.

The Paul Singer Foundation awarded the fund $1.25 million in 2019. In 2022, the same foundation, along with the Swartz Foundation, also donated $25 million and $<>,<>, respectively, to the United Democracy Project, AIPAC's grand political action committee that supports rivals of progressive candidates critical of Israel, according to detailed tax receipts from that year.

According to The Intercept, AIPAC and policymakers working to advance its interests have come under increasing criticism in recent years, with some members of Congress and the American public criticizing the United States' comprehensive support for Israel.

Source: The Intercept