For critics of the Israeli government, news that 20 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives is heading to the Jewish state during the three-week recess is a pretty clear sign that the U.S. does not use an even hand in the Middle East. While many members of Congress scheduled visits to the Palestinian territories as well, the Israel trip is sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a group affiliated with the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee. They signed up 55 Republicans and 26 Democrats, with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer leading the Democrats and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor leading a cohort of Republicans. The first group is scheduled to arrive today. The large group of vacationers (The Atlantic's Jeffery Goldberg says the numbers "seem even higher than usual") didn't go unnoticed in the foreign affairs blogosphere.
"Action alert! Call your representative & ask them where they are during recess- in their districts or in #ISRAEL!?" tweeted Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink. Not wasting a moment, right-wing firebrand Andrew Breitbart first employed his signature hate retweet and then went straight for the ad hominem attack. "What's not to H8 about sickening Code Pink? Jodie Evans, come clean on how you got & are spending your mega-millions! ... Code Pink... is partially funded by leader Jodie Evans' dead mega-capitalist hubbie!"
Taking a more measured approach, foreign affairs bloggers Jeff Blankfort and Phil Weiss at Mondoweiss employed sarcasm to make a point:
This is just another example of how we are living in inflationary times. In 2009, the year before the last election there were only 55 members of Congress going to Israel during the August recess, 25 Republicans followed by 30 Democrats. This brings up the old joke: "Why doesn't Israel want to become the 51st state? Because then it would only have two senators."
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels at Commonweal got a little sarcastic herself. "Will they fit in visits to Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, I wonder?" Meanwhile, the pro-Israel blog Israel Matzav, home to an American expat living in Israel was ecstatic. "The Congress is coming, the Congress is coming!" read the headline. Welcome to Israel, folks. And if you want to hear from an American blogger who grew up in Boston and last lived in the US in New Jersey, please send me an email."