EL AL plane 2 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
WASHINGTON - A bill protecting travelers from denial of life insurance simply because they travel to Israel cleared the House Wednesday in a 312-110 vote.
The measure now needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president. It comes in the wake of cases where insurers modified coverage because of the perceived danger of travel to countries such as Israel.
The law, if passed, would specify that insurers can't consider past or future "lawful foreign travel" in providing coverage, though there would be exceptions for destinations with high alerts from the Center for Disease Control and where there is ongoing military conflict involving armed forces of a sovereign nation.
"If we allow companies to deny life insurance for legal travel abroad, we give in to those who want to restrict our freedoms. Terrorists such as al-Qaida will not dictate where and if we can travel," said bill sponsor Debbi Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) in hailing its passage. She also pointed out that the intentional death rate in Israel is only 11 per 100,000 as compared to the US rate of 17 per 100,000.
Several Jewish groups, including B'nai B'rith International and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, welcomed the vote.
"After filling out insurance applications and listing Israel as a destination of choice, travelers have repeatedly found they are rejected for coverage by their life insurance company of choice," said William Daroff, director of the United Jewish Communities' Washington office. The House action "protects consumers from unfair life insurance discrimination."
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), who was a co-sponsor of the insurance legislation, also joined 15 other Jewish Democratic members of Congress on Thursday in criticizing Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia) for blaming the Iraq War on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee by saying AIPAC "pushed this war from the beginning" in a recent interview in Tikkun.
The letter termed his statements "irresponsible" with "absolutely no basis in fact."
"The idea that the war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish Americans is factually incorrect and unfortunately fits the anti-Semitic stereotypes some have used historically against Jews," the letter states. "We find them [your statements] deeply offensive and call on you to retract your statements."
In response to the letter, distributed by the office of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California), Moran stated, "I appreciate the concerns of my colleagues, and I regret any efforts to misconstrue my position and long-standing support for Israel. I have been and remain firmly of the view that diplomatic leadership, rather than military aggression is essential for peace in the Middle East."
In the Tikkun interview, Moran also said, "The reason I don't hesitate to speak out about AIPAC's influence - notwithstanding the fact that I'll be accused of being anti-Semitic every time I suggest it - is that I don't think AIPAC represents the mainstream of American Jewish thinking."
"Jewish Americans, as a voting bloc and as an influence on American foreign policy, are overwhelmingly opposed to the war," he said. "There is no ethnic group as opposed to the war as much as Jewish Americans."