Using American tax dollars to undermine civil rights

Gov Bruce Rauner and the members of the Illinois Legislature need to stop a bill that is intended to deny Americans civil rights and the Constitutional right of free speech to criticize a foreign country, Israel. The bill introduced by State Sen. Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz wrongly equates criticism of Israel, a foreign country, with “anti-Semitism.” Israel’s government deserves criticism for rejecting peace and more should criticize it

By Ray Hanania

RayHanania155x130A big shout out to the hundreds of seniors who laughed, cheered and jeered during my recent presentations on Chicagoland politics, journalism and the Middle East at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights and at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.

I hope this story about what these two Illinois legislators are doing doesn’t cut your funding because you hosted me!

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

A major problem is the state’s bloated pension system which rewards insiders with outrageously high pensions while over-taxing everyday residents who can barely put food on their table.

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

Americans protesting the oppressive and brutal policies of the foreign country of Israel should not be punished by pro-Israel minions like Il Sen. Ira Silverstein or State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz

Americans protesting the oppressive and brutal policies of the foreign country of Israel should not be punished by pro-Israel minions like Il Sen. Ira Silverstein or State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz

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 create jobs.

But that’s not the concern of the sponsors of the “You Can’t Criticize Israel” law introduced by State Sen. Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz.

Silverstein and Feigenholtz would take the hardworking money of American taxpayers in a country where free speech is the cornerstone of our Democracy, and punish anyone who criticizes Israel.

It doesn’t make sense. But bills like this are being introduced in states across America, the land of the almost free.

The Silverstein-Feigenholtz bill prohibits Illinois’ retirement systems from investing in any company or organization that criticizes Israel by boycotting it.

The retirement systems affected 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.


Criticism of Israel’s extremist government and policies
is not anti-Semitism or wrong. It is moral, principled
and should be encouraged not punished. Israel is a 
“foreign” country and American legislators should not
censor Americans who challenge Israel’s abuses.


It’s an example of how elected officials abuse their power to impose personal political beliefs.

I’m an American 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 Israel’s government policies that strip Christians and Muslims of their rights in Israel and in the Occupied West Bank and Occupied Jerusalem.

Yet, under the Silverstein-Feigenholtz bill, any group that shares my Constitutionally protected opinion would be punished. Rather than confront Israel’s moral dilemma, Silverstein and Feigenholtz are playing into the hands of extremists.

They have no right to use American tax dollars to benefit a foreign country when Americans in this country need it more. They have no right to place the interests of a foreign country above the rights of American taxpayers, whose money they control.

The two bills (HB 4011 and SB 1761) have the backing of Reps Lou Lang, Daniel Burke and Scott Drury, and Senators Michael Connelly, Darin M. LaHood, Pamela Althoff, Julie Morrison, Chris Nybo and Matt Murphy.

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and media consultant. Reach him at [email protected]

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania Chicago political beats and Chicago City Hall at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published the The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for the Jerusalem Post,, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine.

Hanania's Chicagoland columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald, the Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is Email him at: [email protected]
Ray Hanania

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  • Ray Hanania

    What is most disturbing about this is that State Sen. Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz are calling people who criticize Israel “anti-Semitic” … and they sought to push this through quietly to stifle debate and public discussion. It’s shameful conduct. Worse are those who support Israel who are upset that anyone would DARE to criticize or speakout against Silverstein and Feigenholtz who should be ashamed of themselves for this effort to deny Americans their right to free speech. Israel is a foreign country. This is America! Please share this and standup to the real hostility of Silverstein and Feigenholtz!