A Family Braves Floods, Rats, and Hunger in Tijuana as They Wait for a Chance to Ask for Asylum

Eric and his wife, Oneida, took turns pushing a stroller and carrying or walking next to their two sons for nearly 2,500 miles, from southern Mexico to Tijuana. The Honduran couple and their boys, 9-year-old Kelvin and 18-month-old Julian, arrived in mid-November, shortly before winter rainstorms soaked the camps of thousands of people who have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of refugee caravans in the last few months.

After sewage-infested flooding left an earlier camp uninhabitable, Eric and his family roughed it for 10 days in a small cluster of tents under a damp concrete overpass between two busy streets, a spot that also occasionally flooded. I found them just a couple hundred yards from the El Chaparral port of entry, one of the cross-border bridges that leads to the United States. Safety and a new chance at life seemed tantalizingly close, even as despondency and the damp Tijuana winter seeped into their tent.

Throughout the city, there are now an estimated 28 shelters housing approximately 4,000 members of the caravans, who are enduring hunger, unsanitary conditions, and anxiety about their fates as the Trump administration slashes options for asylum-seekers. Without easy access to bathrooms, water bottles filled with urine are stashed against walls and behind tents. Islands of trash swirl in puddles; sopping blankets and water-pulped cardboard pile up in corners. The refugees work to sweep up and clean, but struggle against the constant flux, the rains, and the cold. One day as I spoke with Eric, a driver passed by and yelled, “Go back to your country, faggots!” The insult was typical. A strip club sat about a dozen yards from the family’s tent, and on nights when it was open, the patrons sometimes mocked and cursed at them.

Each day around 7 a.m., a couple hundred people idle near the bridge, awaiting the morning call of the now infamous “notebook” — a makeshift response to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s practice of “metering,” in which they let only a few dozen people each day into the U.S. port of entry to request asylum. A committee of refugees manages the list, overseen by Mexican immigration officials who are informed each morning by CBP how many asylum-seekers may present their claims. Eric’s number was in the 1,500s, and he estimated that he’d have to wait at least another month before his number might be called. On November 29, a group of mothers began a hunger strike, demanding that CBP permit at least 300 people a day to stake their claims. Eric and Oneida joined the strikers two days later (to protect their security and privacy, The Intercept is using pseudonyms for the family.)

As we sat at a folding table set up in the street, which served as the hunger strikers’ headquarters, I asked Eric why he had left his home in Honduras, about his experience with the caravan, and why he’d joined the strike.

Eric, silhouetted from the harsh mid-morning light, reads a passage from a abridged bible that was donated to the camp on December 8, 2018.

Eric, silhouetted from the harsh, mid-morning light, reads a passage from a donated Bible on Dec. 8, 2018.

Photo: Tracie Williams for The Intercept

“I worked in Danlí selling fruit, bags of strawberries, grapes, watermelon,” Eric began. “I cut it up and sold it. I had a cart and I would walk from neighborhood to neighborhood. But because of the crime, the gangs, I had to leave my business. They wanted taxes. If you enter into a neighborhood, you have to pay. I had to pay 25 lempiras [about a dollar] to enter into a neighborhood, but in some neighborhoods, there were three different competing gangs, and I had to pay 75 lempiras. I’d make about 200 lempiras a day, so almost half went to them.

It’s pretty dangerous, you can’t avoid paying. All you can do is stop negotiating and stop working. But if you stop working, you can’t eat, and you can’t raise your kids. And with the 200, maybe 300 [lempiras], I had to take care of my family. I had to buy shoes for my kid. My son was going to school. So maybe I could eat, but how am I going to buy clothes, buy shoes for my sons? My kids need medicine. If one of them gets sick …”

The family decided to move, selling much of what they owned — the fruit cart, some furniture, their pig — and relocating to a neighboring state, where Eric found work clearing land for coffee growers. Oneida sold French fries at local fairs. One night, Oneida was kidnapped as she was leaving work, taken to the home of a local narco, and raped. When she didn’t come home, Eric called the police, suspecting the worst. The next morning, the police located Oneida (her kidnapper had been harassing her and was the first person Eric had suspected) and she was able to escape. “It changes you forever,” Oneida said. “There are scars you have inside. You try to live with it and try not to remember, so you can be at peace.” After her testimony led to a conviction, gang members began hounding the family, pressuring Oneida to retract her statement. It got bad enough that they soon had to flee again, this time to the capital, Tegucigalpa. But that didn’t prove far enough, Eric said.

“We never felt good in Mexico where we were. We never felt safe. So I told my wife, the caravan is coming, it’s time to go.”

“They found us. They started calling again to get us to retract the charges. They were going to give us 60,000 lempiras. They started talking to us, and then they started calling my dad, who was living with us in Tegucigalpa. My dad told them, ‘You can’t buy someone’s dignity with money. It’s with respect.’ And that’s when they said, ‘OK, this is when we stop playing nice, and we start playing mean.’ That’s when they started threatening us, telling us they had found us. They knew where our family lived. And where we were from. And if they didn’t get us, they were going to get our brothers and sisters, our parents. So we decided to flee to Mexico. We moved to Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas. The situation there is pretty difficult because the Guatemalan gangs are there, and so are the narcos.”

Kelvin and Oneida watch news on television about the Central American Exodus while Eric and Julian play in the background in their room at Hotel Belen, on December 9, 2018.

Kelvin and Oneida watch news on television about the Central American exodus, while Eric and Julian play in their room at Hotel Belen on Dec. 9, 2018.

Photo: Tracie Williams for The Intercept

The narcos who had been harassing them back in Honduras originally showed up at Eric’s mother-in-law’s house: “They came in a truck, the same ones who kidnapped her [Oneida]. They have contacts everywhere. They were asking where we were. And they were asking our neighbors, wanting to pay them off. And so, this is like six months ago. … I was working in an egg warehouse, where you inspect and sell eggs wholesale. So we thought to move again, maybe outside the city. So we moved to La Libertad, another part of Ciudad Hidalgo. And then we saw that the caravan was coming, and I said to my wife, ‘Look, we have an opportunity now to go further north where they can’t find us.’ And it’s safer to go with the caravan, because we all know that in Mexico, it’s hard for Central Americans to go further north than Tapachula [in Chiapas]. We never felt good in Mexico where we were. We never felt safe. So I told my wife, the caravan is coming, it’s time to go.”

Traveling with the caravan, Eric said, “some people were generous and offered us rides. I’d say we walked about halfway and rode halfway. Some days, we walked all day. Some men came by themselves, without kids or wives, and when a car would stop, they would get on and there wouldn’t be enough space for me and my kids. There were times when they left everyone but us. We wanted to follow the caravan, but sometimes they left us behind. They’d jump on the trucks, and there wasn’t room for us, and we would be by ourselves. Night would come on and we’d look for a spot in the woods where nobody could find us, because there are always bad people. There were some really long walks, and so we’d hide in the mountains, by ourselves. Because we couldn’t keep walking at night, we were scared we’d get kidnapped. We didn’t have a tent or anything, just some blankets.”

Eric, Oneida and Kelvin walk back to the Hunger Striker camp after they receive news that they can move to a church the next day, on December 9, 2018.

The family walks back to the hunger strikers’ camp after they receive news that they can move to a church the next day.

Photo: Tracie Williams for The Intercept

Eric had first heard about the caravan on TV while the family was in Chiapas.

“I would work from six in the morning until 10 or 11 at night. They paid me 1,000 pesos a week [a little under $50] to work seven days a week. So at night, I’d watch this secondhand TV we had. We didn’t have cable, but we had a little antenna and watched Guatemalan TV, and I said, ‘Look, the Honduran caravan is coming, it’s time to get out of here. Time to go.’ We left because of our kids, we really love them. I don’t want something to happen to me and for our kids to be abandoned. So let’s go, I said. So the caravan passed through Tecún Uman [on the border between Guatemala and Chiapas] and that’s where we joined. We sometimes put both our kids in that stroller or my wife would carry the littlest one, and that’s how we did it. It was pretty difficult because we didn’t have any money.

I went to my boss, before we left, who was the municipal president, and I said, ‘Boss, honestly …,’ OK, I lied to her, I said that I was sick, because otherwise she wasn’t going to pay me. So she paid me just for the days that I worked that week. She gave me 492 pesos. I bought a bag of dried milk that cost 72 pesos, and we bought some diapers for 30 pesos, and we packed the milk and some sugar, and we had about 200 pesos left.

In the morning, we’d get up and start walking again. I remember when we got to Juchitán [in Oaxaca], we started asking for money, with my wife and kids, and we got about 400 pesos. The Mexicans were nice to us. Then a truck trailer passed and offered us a ride for 500 pesos each, and I said, OK, but I don’t have it. I told him we had 452 pesos. And finally he did take us, he gave us a ride to Puebla, outside of Mexico City, and then we got to Mexico City at like 11 at night, and it was so cold. … It was freezing, we were sleeping outside in the city. I couldn’t sleep at night, because of my wife and kids with me. I was always looking over them, but during the day, sometimes I could sleep a little. It was a lot of suffering, but sometimes we laughed.”

Oneida embraces her head in her hands while she talks on the phone in front of the Hunger Striker camp on December 9, 2018.

Oneida holds her head in her hands while talking on the phone in front of the hunger strikers’ camp on Dec. 9, 2018.

Photo: Tracie Williams for The Intercept

When Eric joined the hunger strike, there were about 25 people involved. The strike, he said, was “to pressure the U.S. to start hearing asylum claims more quickly.”

“We need asylum,” he continued. “We don’t want to be sent back to our country. We need it. We don’t want them to kill us. In Honduras, you never forget. Revenge is revenge. They’d just disappear us. That’s what happens if you have an enemy. We’re just working people. I’ve sold bread, I’ve cleared land, I’ve taken care of animals, and sometimes I wonder, why did this happen to us? If I’m in Honduras, if I can earn enough for my eggs, my tortilla, my rice, I’m happy. But why did this happen to us? Sometimes I ask my wife, Why us? I’m happy living in a small hut, selling fruit. But like they say, out of the frying pan and into the fire. Horrible things happen — it’s the law of life.

“We’re not criminals, we’re not gangsters or thieves. No, we want to cross the bridge and we want them to hear our claims.”

It’s bad luck. I think we’ve had bad luck. Because like I say, poverty doesn’t exist for me. As long as you can earn your rice and beans, you can be happy. But then the injustice, the danger, people want to kill you — that’s bad luck. Maybe we’ll never even see our family again. My aunts and uncles, my grandmother is very old and you know. My brothers. My mother, my father, we’ve all been affected.

We’re not criminals, we’re not gangsters or thieves. No, we want to cross the bridge and we want them to hear our claims. If I were a criminal, if my wife was a criminal, if we were all criminals here, we’d be trying to do something else, but we just want them to listen to us. We want to come in legally, so they can hear our claims. I think it’s possible. With the help of God, I think it’s possible.”

When we spoke, Eric had already been fasting for three days. “Just electrolytes and water. I feel bad. I get tired. The hunger is … you have to bear it. You get used to it. Some people haven’t eaten in five days.”

It started raining again during the strike. Outside of one camp, an old baseball stadium called Benito Juárez, men and women dashed to scavenge for whatever scraps of plastic or waterproof material they could find. Parents hugged their children, trying to shelter them from the pounding rain and rising puddles. UNICEF came to deliver supplies, but their truck was full of toys and hula-hoops.

After five days, Eric decided to eat. He wasn’t feeling well and was worried about losing strength for his family. Oneida had stopped the strike the night before. Others continued, and the strikers planned to go forward in shifts of five days without food. Conditions in the camp were rough — the night that Eric broke his fast, a rat bit his youngest son’s hand as the family slept in their tent.

“We made a little lean-to, but it was freezing, and then the storm came and everything flooded, everything was wet, our clothes, we were so cold.”

“Before, we were in the Benito Juárez stadium. At first it was nice, but then the storms came, and the water, and everything flooded. We didn’t have a tent. Then some man came and gave us a tent. He saw us outside, we had wet blankets, and we made a little lean-to, but it was freezing, and then the storm came and everything flooded, everything was wet, our clothes, we were so cold. We didn’t have anything else to put on. The water was up to our knees, the camp was evacuated, and they wanted to take us to the Barretal [another refugee camp]. It’s further, but we heard about the strike, and we didn’t want to go farther away from the border.

So we’re here, we’ve been here 15 days, and I’ve been trying to get a work permit, but they’re not giving it to me. And, honestly, I’ve been looking for work anyway, but they ask for my papers. I heard that there was a job fair, and I went, and they said they were going to give out permits, and we kept going and going, but we never got the permit, and I got tired of going for nothing. And at all the construction sites, they always ask for your papers. I say, ‘I’m looking for work, I need something to support my wife and kids, and I don’t want to be in the street, I want to rent a room.’ ‘Do you have papers?’ they ask me.”

Eric rest his arms on his head during his security shift on the Hunger Striker camp on December 8, 2018.

Eric rest his arms over his head during his security shift at the hunger strikers’ camp on Dec. 8, 2018.

Tracie Williams for The Intercept

After nearly two weeks, the hunger strikers’ situation seemed increasingly precarious. Rumors circulated that the police were going take down the strikers’ camp, and they began to realize that their demands were being wholly ignored. Eric and Oneida decided to stop, and the strike ended two days later, on December 11, with a march to the U.S. Consulate. The family lugged their belongings and pushed the stroller across the city to a small hotel; they had been gifted a room for two nights. About a week later, I got a call from Oneida. Like many others, the family had run out of patience and jumped the border fence to turn themselves in and ask for asylum. Oneida and the children were being held in detention in San Diego; Eric had been separated from them.

As nonprofit groups have mobilized on both sides of the wall to provide legal and other basic services to families like Eric’s, the sheer number of people and variety of needs seems overwhelming. Yet, when the clouds break, the mood in the camps is often cheerful: kids playing, folks kicking around soccer balls, people repairing their tents, and ubiquitous huddles of three, four, or five migrants in which rumors, plans, fears, and hopes run together like water.

At one point, while the family was still camped out under the bridge, Eric and Oneida’s 9-year-old son pointed to the buildings visible on the U.S. side of the border and said that he had never imagined he would be there, so close to the U.S. I asked him why he thought some people could cross and others couldn’t. “I think it’s bad,” he said, “because God made a world without borders and they put up bars.”

The post A Family Braves Floods, Rats, and Hunger in Tijuana as They Wait for a Chance to Ask for Asylum appeared first on The Intercept.

National Enquirer: Trump scandal shows the need for accountability | Emily Bell

Membership schemes could free newsrooms to pursue responsible and ethical journalism

American Media Inc’s code of ethics is a stern document. The 22 pages run through the New York-based tabloid newspaper company’s strict rules on not accepting bribes or hospitality. It is very clear that employees cannot use the company’s funds or services to contribute to any political campaign. “When in doubt, ask yourself … ‘will my actions have the appearance of impropriety?’”

In British journalism, the entire code of ethics for the industry was long based on a similar pithy epithet: “What will it look like in Private Eye?” While most media companies have a code of ethics, our readers, viewers, listeners and customers could be forgiven for not knowing where or what they are.

Continue reading…

Alexa can control your home security system

It's now decidedly easier to control your home security system if you have an Echo speaker or another Alexa-powered gadget. Amazon has enabled a Security Panel Controller framework that lets you control security systems with your voice. You can arm…

Alexa can control your home security system

It's now decidedly easier to control your home security system if you have an Echo speaker or another Alexa-powered gadget. Amazon has enabled a Security Panel Controller framework that lets you control security systems with your voice. You can arm…

Alexa can control your home security system

It's now decidedly easier to control your home security system if you have an Echo speaker or another Alexa-powered gadget. Amazon has enabled a Security Panel Controller framework that lets you control security systems with your voice. You can arm…

Alexa can control your home security system

It's now decidedly easier to control your home security system if you have an Echo speaker or another Alexa-powered gadget. Amazon has enabled a Security Panel Controller framework that lets you control security systems with your voice. You can arm…

Alexa can control your home security system

It's now decidedly easier to control your home security system if you have an Echo speaker or another Alexa-powered gadget. Amazon has enabled a Security Panel Controller framework that lets you control security systems with your voice. You can arm…

Messianic Jewish Lobbying Group Builds Support for U.S.-Funded Ethnic Cleansing Plan in Palestine

A pro-Israel activist group is quietly pushing lawmakers on Capitol Hill and key officials in the White House to embrace a plan that would entail paying Palestinian residents in the West Bank to move abroad. The plan is a bid to reshape the ethnic and religious population of territories controlled by Israel, according to the head of the group, called the Alliance for Israel Advocacy.

If all goes according to the group’s plan, legislation will be released in January, when the new Congress convenes, that will redirect U.S. funds once dedicated to the United Nations for Palestinian humanitarian assistance into a voucher program administered by the Israeli government. A draft summary of the proposal states that the money will help finance the permanent relocation of Palestinians from the West Bank to countries such as Turkey, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, or the United States.

The effort is being championed by the Alliance for Israel Advocacy, a lobbying group formed by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, a nonprofit that represents Jews who have converted to Christianity but who still practice some Jewish customs. The so-called Messianic Jews broadly share many spiritual beliefs of modern born-again evangelicals.

The Intercept was unable to confirm the Alliance for Israel Advocacy’s accounts of its meetings with Congress and the White House, and the lawmakers whom the group said were considering sponsorship of its legislative effort declined to comment on this story. But Paul Liberman, the executive director of the Alliance for Israel Advocacy, explained the policy plan — and his account of the lobbying push — in an extensive interview with The Intercept.

“If there are any Palestinian residents who wish to leave, we will provide funds for you to leave, with the hopes that over 10 years to change the demography of the West Bank towards an eventual annexation.”

“Our organization advocates, and it’s in our proposed legislation, we say, let’s offer sponsorship if there are any Palestinian residents who wish to leave and go to other countries, we will provide funds for you to leave,” said Liberman. “The only rights the Palestinians have are squatter’s rights,” Liberman continued. “If there are any Palestinian residents who wish to leave, we will provide funds for you to leave, with the hopes that over 10 years to change the demography of the West Bank towards an eventual annexation.”

Liberman said he was inspired by the Bible to build a single Jewish state in what is often called Greater Israel. His organization believes that most Palestinians must leave the country and that those who remain should “live under the doctrine of the sojourner,” according to Liberman, meaning they would not have the ability to vote and could “not participate in the sovereignty of the land.”

The Alliance for Israel Advocacy has avoided the spotlight while quietly soliciting backing from high-level officials, including conservative Republicans, evangelical leaders, and Israeli officials. When Liberman spoke to The Intercept, he was pitching the plan at the Council for National Policy, a gathering of high-powered donors and activists of the religious right. The closely guarded private event featured Nikki Haley, then the United Nations ambassador.

In the 2018 book “Trump Aftershock: The President’s Seismic Impact on Culture and Faith in America,” the Christian right author Stephen Strang, who chronicled the relationship between Trump and evangelicals, said Liberman has presented the Alliance for Israel Advocacy proposal at the White House. Strang wrote, “Liberman has been invited to three meetings at the White House to discuss their bold and viable plan.”

A summary of the legislation proposed by Liberman has been floated to several congressional offices, according to his account. The bill will propose that the money the U.S. typically budgets for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency fund — the agency that distributes aid to Palestinian refugees, the Palestinian Authority, relief nonprofits, and families living in the West Bank — would instead go into a fund designated to resettle Palestinians in countries all over the world. In 2017, the U.S. provided $364 million to UNWRA, though the funding ended in August of this year when President Donald Trump abruptly stopped the payments.

Human rights organizations were surprised to hear of the Alliance for Israel Advocacy’s proposal and quickly condemned the effort.

“Any reallocation of US funding from aid given to the UN for humanitarian work towards a voucher system set up to encourage Palestinians to leave their homes would represent support by the U.S. for ethnic cleansing,” Mike Merryman-Lotze, the Middle East Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee, wrote in an email in response to a summary of the Alliance for Israel Advocacy proposal.

“Any reallocation of US funding from aid given to the UN for humanitarian work towards a voucher system set up to encourage Palestinians to leave their homes would represent support by the U.S. for ethnic cleansing.”

Debra Shushan, the director of policy at the group Americans for Peace Now, said that under normal circumstances, any such proposal would never gain traction and would be viewed as comically extreme. But in the Trump era, once unthinkable demands have quickly become policy on Israel and Palestine, leaving Shushan concerned that the Alliance for Israel Advocacy proposal might be more than just a fringe idea.

“A plan to redirect U.S. foreign aid from supporting Palestinian refugees through UNRWA to paying Palestinians to leave the West Bank so that Israel’s own radical religious right can annex the occupied territory is morally outrageous and destined to fail,” said Shusan, adding that her organization would oppose the effort.

The Alliance for Israel Advocacy may appear obscure, but the group boasts high-level contacts throughout the Trump administration. Liberman said he has met with key administration figures, including Tom Rose, a close adviser to Vice President Mike Pence; Jason Greenblatt, the president’s chief adviser on issues pertaining to Israel; and Victoria Coates, an official with the National Security Council, among others. (The White House did not respond to requests for comment on whether any administration officials met with Liberman or his group.)

Behind the scenes, Lieberman told The Intercept, the Alliance for Israel Advocacy has nudged the administration in the direction of the overall plan for reshaping U.S. aid to Palestinians. Liberman said his group was instrumental in passing the Taylor Force Act, signed in March of this year. Critics say the law, which conditions American aid to the Palestinian Authority on ending the practice of providing financial assistance to the families of individuals who commit acts of terrorism, could be used to punish any dissent to the occupation. The Alliance for Israel Advocacy also lobbied on Trump’s recent decision to end UNWRA funding.

Public records show that the Alliance for Israel Advocacy retained the services of Fidelis Government Relations, a lobbying firm that employs Bill Smith, one of Pence’s closest former aides and his former chief of staff. The disclosures state that the firm was hired by the Alliance for Israel Advocacy in order to build relationships with the White House, including with the vice president’s office.

Originally, according to Liberman, the Alliance for Israel Advocacy had worked closely with former Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a committed Christian conservative and founding member of the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, to sponsor the voucher legislation. But Franks resigned late last year, immediately following the revelation that he had urged one of his congressional staffers to serve as a surrogate mother to bear children for him. The next potential sponsor, according to Liberman’s account, was Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., who lost in November to Democrat Kendra Horn in one of the biggest surprise upsets of the midterm elections.

Liberman recently visited Capitol Hill in search of a new sponsor for his bill. In an update for Alliance for Israel Advocacy members, Liberman noted that he met repeatedly with Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, who is open to sponsoring the legislation, though he will first “confer with his counterpart in the Knesset called the ‘Israel Victory Caucus.’” Other potential sponsors include Reps. Ted Budd, R-N.C.; John Moolenaar, R-Mich.; Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.; John Curtis, R-Utah; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; and Daniel Webster, R-Fla.

The Trump administration has maintained unusually strong ties to figures in the Messianic Jewish movement. Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, converted from Reform Judaism to Christianity while attending Atlanta Baptist College, and later built a career as a fiery defender of Jews for Jesus and other likeminded Christian organizations. In October, Loren Jacobs, the leader of a Messianic Jewish congregation, gave the opening prayer at a rally in Michigan headlined by Pence. During his remarks, Jacobs prayed for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, sparking a minor controversy given the contentious relationship between the American Jewish community and the Messianic Jewish movement.

Adherents of Messianic Judaism are often viewed skeptically across the spectrum of more established strains of Judaism — and by the Israeli government, which views Messianic Jews as Christians, not Jews, for the purposes of Jewish immigration rights in Israel. The Alliance for Israel Advocacy’s religious status, however, has not prevented the group from making some inroads with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Liberman said he has met with several leaders in the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, including Tzachi Hanegbi, a senior figure in the Likud Party. (Strang also reported the meeting between Hanegbi and Liberman.) Hanegbi directed Lieberman to meet with Naftali Bennett, the chair of the hard-right party Israel Home, a partner in Likud’s coalition. Bennett, said Liberman, encouraged him to meet with Israel Home Knesset Member Moti Yogev, the chair of the Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria, which oversees the occupied West Bank. Liberman said he secured explicit support from Yogev for the Alliance for Israel Advocacy’s voucher plan.

Yogev made headlines in recent months for demanding that Palestinian Israeli lawmakers leave Israel. “Even Ramallah will be part of Israel. Go to Paris, go to Britain, go to your anti-Semitic friends, go to whomever you want. Your place is in the departure lounge,” Yogev thundered during a confrontation that occurred at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport in September. The Knesset member has previously sponsored bills to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including the city of Ariel, Gush Etzion, and others. (Yogev did not respond to a request for comment about his work with the Alliance for Israel Advocacy.)

During the interview with The Intercept, Liberman recounted his own religious awakening. Once a committed Orthodox Jew working in the Nixon administration as an agency liaison to Capitol Hill, Liberman said he had an encounter with an individual on a bus who urged him to explore Christian spirituality. That experience led him to re-examine the Torah and eventually view Jesus Christ as a messiah figure consistent with prophecies in his own faith.

Liberman founded a Messianic Jewish congregation in the Washington, D.C., area and today leads a congregation located in Palm Springs, California. He has long agitated for the Messianic Jewish cause, building relationships with major Jewish organizations and evangelicals.

With the unorthodox dynamics influencing Trump, Liberman believes a more low-key approach can get results on his plan.

That lobbying experience has helped him craft the voucher proposal. “The usual approach is to create a public relations campaign and influence the public,” said Liberman. But with this idea and the unorthodox dynamics influencing Trump, he believes a more low-key approach can get better results. Once there is public support from either the administration or the Israeli government for the voucher plan, Lieberman said, major Jewish advocacy groups will support the effort.

One Alliance for Israel Advocacy memo on its lobbying effort states that the group’s “Biblical orientation has always received a warmer reception among Republican Members.” The Alliance for Israel, however, has floated the idea that Democrats may be amenable to their approach. In the memo to supporters, the group noted that Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., proposed the UNRWA Accountability Act, a bill designed to give the administration more authority to shape how UNRWA funds are spent. Though bill was a far cry from Liberman’s proposal, he appeared to take solace in Democratic action on UNWRA spending. “Democrats love Israel, too,” Liberman told The Intercept.

Liberman dismissed the traditional funding of UNRWA as support for terrorism and said that his proposal will be popular among Palestinians. To that end, he cited support from a poll his organization conducted.

The Alliance for Israel Advocacy commissioned the poll last year among 650 Palestinians in the West Bank to gauge support for the relocation proposal. The poll found nearly one third of youth living without full employment, and about half have already discussed moving abroad in search of economic opportunity. The survey suggests respondents would be open to resettlement abroad in exchange for $1,000 to $100,000, with the median amount at approximately $5,040.

“Over time, there could be many families interested in a fresh start with $50,000 capital for a new life,” a memo published by the Alliance for Israel Advocacy declares.

Te fact that Israel is already divided into separate territories, with Gaza and the West Bank under nominal Palestinian rule, is “inconsistent with the Bible,” said Liberman, citing scripture.

The Bible’s always been true, and anything it predicts has come true or will come true,” he said confidently. God, continued Liberman, intended for Israel to have “the borders from the River Jordan to the Great Sea, the Mediterranean Sea.”

The post Messianic Jewish Lobbying Group Builds Support for U.S.-Funded Ethnic Cleansing Plan in Palestine appeared first on The Intercept.