Tuesday July 31, 2018
The Virginia-Israel Advisory Board VIAB has one key difference with scores of privately funded state chambers of commerce created to foster closer economic integration between the United States and Israel while supporting the Israeli government’s policy agenda.
Originally created by an uncodified act in 2001, VIAB has been funded by Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayers. Its charter is to “advise the Governor on ways to improve economic and cultural links between the Commonwealth and the State of Israel, with a focus on the areas of commerce and trade, art and education, and general government.” VIAB is a pilot for how Israel can quietly obtain taxpayer funding and official status for networked entities that advance Israel from within key state governments.
According to emails recently released under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, VIAB’s lofty claims about creating Virginia jobs and mutually beneficial business opportunities faced growing skepticism inside the governor’s office. VIAB also uses state resources to fight Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. BDS is a nonviolent movement to pressure Israel to stop violating Palestinian human rights. VIAB faced intense scrutiny over its handling of funds by the Virginia State Attorney General. Resistance to public scrutiny and oversight led VIAB to lobby for more "independence" from the governor in early 2018. This move sounded alarm bells at another Israel advocacy organization which feared that VIAB could face public backlash.