Opposing $300k Taxpayer Dollars for the Maryland Israel Development Corporation

We recently discovered that the State of Maryland has been giving over $300,000 from the taxpayers annually to the Maryland Israel Development Corporation (MIDC).

The MIDC is a corporation setup by the State of Maryland to promote Israeli companies to do business in Maryland. There is no corporation created and funded by taxpayer dollars to promote companies from Korea, Taiwan, France or any other country here. Israel is the only country that gets this special treatment from the State of Maryland.

Barry Boggage, the Executive Director of the MIDC last year stated that his ultimate goal "is job creation, in Maryland and Israel". Why anyone thinks our state government should be funding job creation in Israel truly confounds us.

So today, three of our members -- Saqib Ali, Samira Hussein and Nathan Feldman -- testified before Montgomery County's state legislators asking them to stop funding the MIDC. Watch the video here:

The full transcript of their testimony is below:

 

Saqib Ali: Good evening thank you my name is Saqib Ali. I live in Gaithersburg and I appreciate your time and attention. And it's nice to still see some old colleagues from back in the day, so hi guys. Not "old" colleagues, digging, right? I'm here today to talk about Maryland business development funds.

There is an organization called the Maryland Israel Development Corporation. This is a state-it’s a public-private partnership established by the state, to promote Israeli companies to do business in Maryland. And I've passed out a handout to you, you should have it, it shows that for the past two years at least Maryland, the state government, has been giving three hundred thousand, over three hundred thousand dollars, a year to this corporation. You know in principle I have no problem whatsoever with business development funds for international companies to do business in Maryland. Seems like a good thing. Increases our tax revenue base. But what I'm, what doesn't make sense to me is to target it specifically to this one country, Israel. Try as I might I looked around I couldn't find a Maryland Korea Development Corporation, or a Maryland India Development Corporation, a Maryland Mexico Development Corporation, or a Maryland Palestine Development Corporation. So my question and my plea is why is this money targeting only one small sector of international companies when it could be targeting all international companies wherever the opportunity may be. And I'm asking you, especially those in the budget committees, to redirect this money to a general fund that doesn't specifically target just companies from one country in a seemingly arbitrary
way. Thank you.

Samira Hussein: My turn? Thank you. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for holding this forum to give us the opportunity to hear our concerns. My name is Samira Husein and I am Palestinian American. I have lived in Maryland since 1982. I work for Montgomery County Public Schools, and for my children they graduated from MCPS and two graduated from USG, so they’re doing a great job, everybody. And I also serve as a volunteer in several ways. I am an immigrant, but actually I'm a refugee, and this issue really I care about a lot. And Saqib just told you about the Maryland Israel Development Corporation. Of the companies that we do deal with, they brought this company, it’s called Elta. Elta, the state gives them a tax break. Elta has contract to help build President Trump wall. I don't want my money to go to such companies. I want my money to go to education, to opportunities for children. I am an ESOL student. I was an ESOL student, I've benefited a great deal out of that. I want the money goes to pre-k for everyone, not just selective group of people. And thank you for your public service.

Nathan Feldman: Good evening everybody. My name is Nathan Feldman, and as you heard earlier from our old friend Saqib Ali, the Maryland Israel Development Corporation receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money from the state of Maryland, and I'm here to testify that this money and this relationship is not only somewhat strange as was referenced before, but it is actively harmful. You'll find in one chart that I supply from the MIDC of their strategic partners, as referenced by Samira one of their top partners is Elta Systems, an Israeli weapons manufacturer that is headquartered in Annapolis Junction. Now this company, which has close ties with the MIDC for business development, has also helped supply a prototype to the Donald Trump border wall, among other violations of basic human rights that the company has either engaged in or is in the process of attempting to engage in, including funding the genocidal Burmese military in its genocide against the Burmese Muslim population. Now to me it doesn't make very much sense that Maryland would want taxpayer money going to such an entity or to the assistance of such an entity in its activities. You'll find that the City of Tucson when it found out about Elta’s involvement in trying to build the Trump border wall actually pulled its investments from Elta, and my hope is that we can stop this public-private partnership from the state of Maryland in this particular special way because attracting businesses to the state of Maryland to assist in building a border wall I think goes against the values of our state. It goes against our values as Americans vis a vis valuing immigrants and it goes against our best interests as a welcoming community. Thank you very much.

Delegation Chair Senator Craig Zucker: My good friend Senator Kramer has a question.

Senator Ben Kramer: Thank you for that Mr. Chairman and I want to say that it's always a pleasure to see my old friend former delegate Saqib Ali, and he's certainly not getting any younger but good to see you. I appreciate your commentary and I would just share with you that the small investment that the state makes into its dynamic relationship with the State of Israel has returned dividends in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars because the state of Maryland along with many other states in this nation recognized that as the only democracy in the Middle East the State of Israel many years ago formed a special relationship with Maryland and in doing so the amazing technology that has developed in Israel and it is now one of the leading nations on the planet in technology this despite the fact that it has been under constant attack and continues to be by its Arab neighbors Israel is a technological miracle and the advances in medicine between the University of Maryland system in the State of Israel as well as the advances in technology through cooperation of Maryland enterprise and that found in Israel has been significant. It's been dramatic and again has improved the lives of not just Maryland's residents but across the globe because these advances have helped people in every nation and I would proffer to you the tiny tiny investment that the state puts into that has brought about an amazing revolution in technology that has brought significant benefit to lots of individuals so I just wanted to point that out to you. Again always a pleasure to see you my friend and thank you for that Mr. Chairman.

Delegation Chair Senator Zucker: Senator Kramer thank you for that very good insight.

 

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