Monday, July 25, 2011

[ePalestine] Richmond Times-Dispatch: Why does state give Israel special treatment?

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Why does state give Israel special treatment? 


Published: July 24, 2011 

These are tough economic times for the nation and for Virginia. Like the federal and all other state governments, the Commonwealth has been cutting costs wherever it can, and our citizens are feeling the effects of these cuts. In May, Governor McDonnell sent an e-mail to all state employees, asking for our suggestions on ways of saving money. 

Just as cuts are necessary in tough times, it also makes sense to make a special effort to encourage investment from outside the Commonwealth. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) exists specifically for this purpose, and its website justifiably boasts that more than 700 internationally owned businesses from 45 countries operate in Virginia, have over the past 10 years invested $5.6 billion and employ more than 150,000 Virginians. 

Against this background, it is puzzling that the Commonwealth has a separate advisory board to encourage investment from only one of the 190-plus countries in the world, apparently duplicating the work of the VEDP. That country is Israel — the 18th-largest foreign investor in Virginia. (Israeli companies have over the past decade created 1,134 new jobs in the state, less than 0.8 percent of the total number of jobs attributable to foreign investors.) 

According to its website, the Virginia Israel Advisory Board (VIAB) shows potential Israeli investors "how operating in Virginia will provide a host of opportunities for your business and make you successful." Last year, the VIAB cost Virginia taxpayers $134,173, including a salary of $85,225 for its director (itemized on the publicly available list of state employees and their salaries). 

What is puzzling, though, is why — in times when the Commonwealth us cutting back on core services such as education and health care — it is spending more than $134,000 for an advisory board focusing on only one country. There is no special office to encourage investments from Japan, our largest foreign investor, nor for any of the other top 10 investors in the state. Only Israel warrants a special state advisory board. 

This all raises two important sets of issues. The first relates specifically to Virginia's budget. Supporters of the VIAB argue that it has more than paid for itself in the investments it has brought to Virginia. If that is indeed the case, and the VIAB model works, then surely we should be sparing no effort to set up similar advisory boards for other countries — or at the very least for the 17 countries that invest more in Virginia than Israel does. 

If VIAB is redundant, then eliminate it. If it works, duplicate its approach in attracting investment from other countries. Either way, the Commonwealth would benefit economically. 

The second issue is specific to Israel. Why and how did the commonwealth select Israel alone for special treatment, and the promotion of Israeli investments? Some of the country's policies and practices, particularly with regard to the occupation of the Palestinian territories, are in clear violation of international law (and recognized as such by the rest of the world, including the U.S.). Have any of the investors VIAB has worked with operated in the illegally occupied territories? 

If Virginia chooses to have a special relationship with Israel, and to have a well-paid director of the VIAB on its official payroll, taxpayers at least deserve a clear explanation of why this is the case. 

Donald Rallis is an associate professor of geography, Nabil Al-Tikriti is associate professor of history, and Ranjit Singh is associate professor of political science and international affairs, all at the University of Mary Washington. 

To leave a comment see article at:


ePalestine Blog:


Everything about this list:

To unsubscribe, send mail to:

To subscribe, send mail to: