May 7, 2009
Billboards of HateBy Janet Levy
On April 21, Cindy Sheehan -- known for camping outside President Bush's ranch in 2005 to protest her son's military death in Iraq -- joined representatives from the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel. Sheehan and representatives of the 12 organizations that make up the Coalition dedicated 10 billboards in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which call for ending American military aid to Israel.
The billboard message, "Tell Congress: Stop Killing Children, No More Military Aid to Israel," refers to a U.S. pledge to aid Israel over a ten-year period. The billboard features a picture of an Israeli tank juxtaposed with an innocent-looking headdress-cloaked Muslim Palestinian girl.
Last week, after fielding hundreds of complaints about the billboard ads, Lamar Advertising, which owns the billboard space, covered or removed the ads. A company spokesman denied knowledge of the billboard content; yet, news reports stated that a Lamar graphic designer suggested the images subsequently used.
The billboard creator, the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, was founded by two Jews, Lori Rudolph and Rich Forer. It reports its mission as working "to inform the public and our elected officials how the Israeli military misuses American-made weapons technology and violates human rights." It also endeavors to report on the support provided to the Israeli defense establishment by the New Mexico state government, contractors and universities. In addition, the Coalition seeks to inform the public about the ongoing "illegal" occupation of "Palestinian Territories" by Israel which contributes "to unceasing conflict and suffering." The Coalition's literature refers sympathetically to the "indigenous" Palestinian population and explains how U.S. taxpayers are funding ongoing human rights violations and war crimes allegedly committed by Israel.
Apparently, the organization doesn't have a problem with U.S. aid to the Palestinian terrorist groups, Hamas and Fatah, which use aid money to indoctrinate children to hate and attack Israel, fund terrorist training camps, build weapons-smuggling tunnels and purchase weapons and missiles to fire at Israeli civilians. Nor does it appear that group members lose sleep over the impact of unceasing missile attacks, incendiary devices or suicide bombers that make their way into Israeli communities from Arab-Palestinian territories.
The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion is comprised of several left-wing, anti-war and anti-Israel groups such as Amnesty International, Veterans for Peace and the Middle East Peace and Justice Alliance. These groups are decidedly anti-Israel.
For example, Amnesty International (AI) has focused a disproportionate share of criticism against the United States and Israel. In addition to opposing the U.S. war on terror, AI condemned military actions and security precautions, including the Patriot Act following 9/11. The organization accused Israel of "war crimes" and "deliberate destruction" during its defensive war against Hezb'allah in 2006; and, while it censured Israel in 63 official documents, it issued only 10 publications or alerts against the Palestinian Authority, six against Saudi Arabia and 20 against the Hezb'allah terrorist group.
Meanwhile, Veterans for Peace opposes the anti-missile defense shield, protests any attempts to outlaw the desecration of the American flag and combats recruitment efforts by the U.S. military in high schools around the country. The group opposes American support for Israel and refers to the U.S.-Israeli relationship as a "symbiosis of two world-class killing machines." Veterans for Peace actively supports war-crimes prosecution for members of the Bush administration, a U.S.-negotiated reunification of Korea and American participation in the International Criminal Court.
A visit to the website for the Middle East Peace & Justice Alliance (MEPJA) reveals a listing of materials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as helpful resources. The relationship between MEPJA and CAIR is unclear, but contact information is provided on the site for Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's national communications director. Hooper has refused to denounce the terrorist acts of Hamas and Hezb'allah but openly condemned Israel when Israeli troops killed Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. CAIR promotes itself as a Muslim civil rights organization; but, according to former chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, Senator John Kyl, CAIR receives backing and support from the Saudi -Wahhabi establishment. CAIR has been characterized by terrorism expert Steven Emerson as "a radical fundamentalist front group for Hamas."
In planning-session minutes leading up to the billboard launch, the Coalition to Stop the $30 Billion to Israel cited two federal laws under which aid is provided to Israel: the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) and the Arms Export and Control Act (AECA). Group members concurred that the provision in the FAA to prohibit "assistance to countries that violate human rights" was applicable as a case against Israel. The group also noted the AECA requirement that "weapons purchased from the U.S. to be used for legitimate self-defense." Although the proportion of rocket attacks against Israel and those returned by Israel in the six-month period before the Gaza defensive was listed in the Coalition's minutes as "1,000 to 0," Coalition members astonishingly concluded that since, "No Israelis were killed, legitimate self-defense does not apply here."
They also concluded that Israel was "failing to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants" and "failing in its proportionate response." Recommendations were fielded to work with Israeli "peace groups" and the J-Street Lobby. The J-Street Lobby is a George Soros-funded, non-governmental organization that has criticized Israel's military action to stop Hamas terrorist attacks as well as Israel's efforts to topple the "legitimate" government of Hamas, even though Hamas denies Israel's right to exist.
Israel's Middle East Record
The charges of human rights violations are remarkable given that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. In direct contrast to the treatment of Jews in Arab Muslim countries, Arab-Israelis enjoy all of the same rights afforded to Jewish Israelis and have even served in the Knesset. Instead of the repressive and cruel practices of Islamic governments found in varying degrees in most Middle Eastern Muslim countries, Israel guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom of speech and the press.
In 2005, Israel voluntarily expelled 11,000 of its own citizens from their homes, farms and businesses in Gaza in the service of peace and in an effort to provide territory exclusively for Arab-Palestinians. Subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal, a regional takeover by Hamas and escalated attacks against Israeli border communities proved that Israel did not have a peace partner in what became yet another base for Iran. With Hamas in power and calls in its charter for the destruction of the state of Israel, a "land for peace" strategy has clearly been an untenable option. Palestinian leaders demand Judenrein land concessions for Palestinian habitation, while the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas also demand the right to flood Israel with Arab-Palestinians. They denounce Israel's natural growth and development at the same time as they seek to allow Arab towns to expand without restriction.
Israel's three-week defensive operation in Gaza in late 2008, known as Operation Cast Lead, was prompted by an onslaught of over 8,000 missile attacks from Gaza aimed at civilian communities. Remarkably, a necessary military action to protect Israeli citizens prompted outrage and sympathy for the very Palestinian citizens who had elected Hamas as their government. Absent was any outrage and pity for the Israeli men, women and children who had been under almost constant rocket attacks in their communities for the previous four years. Israel was essentially blamed for the war that Hamas perpetuated against it.
Contrary to the claims of the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, of the 1,400 mostly Palestinian civilian deaths that occurred during the Gaza defensive, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) examined a list of names of the deceased and concluded that 75% of Palestinian casualties were actually Hamas militants, many of whom fought in civilian clothes.
Despite unheard of measures to protect civilians by the IDF, civilian deaths resulted when Hamas launched attacks from schools and residential areas and used civilians as human shields, especially children. Further, despite tens of thousands of telephone calls, leaflet campaigns and megaphone warnings to civilians by Israel, Hamas succeeded in preventing the exodus of Gaza residents.
Unbelievably, six weeks after Operation Cast Lead, Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel returned to pre-war levels and the United States and Europe were busy pledging billions to Hamas-controlled Gaza and reducing aid to Israel. Still missing from the dialogue were concerns about Israeli children and any outrage at the recent Grad missile attack on a high school in Ashkelon. Israel is increasingly depicted as an aggressive bully rather than a victim of a clearly stated plan of annihilation. It is condemned for self-protective measures and blamed while Arab-Palestinian terrorism is overlooked.
As for the argument of proportionality, it is an apocryphal claim that smacks of anti-Semitism. Hamas missile onslaughts provoked Israeli military action and as the terrorist group is wholly dedicated to the annihilation of Israel, Israel's response corresponded to that deadly threat and not to the Palestinian's obviously weak capacity to wage war. Ironically, Israel is condemned for protecting its citizens with countermeasures that are more accurate and effective than that of the Palestinians. Because Israel builds bomb shelters, installs warning systems, imposes checkpoints and constructs a security fence to avoid civilian casualties, it faces charges of disproportionality. If this standard had been in place during World War II, victory would have certainly eluded the Allies. The very notion of Israel defending itself from Hamas attacks is obfuscated by specious arguments of equivalent culpability that are analogous to an equally ridiculous claim denying that World War II was caused by German aggression.
Billboard Company Actions
Founded in 1902, Lamar Advertising, the company that produced and posted the billboards for the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, has 200 outdoor advertising companies and transit franchises across the United States and Canada. Its annual revenues exceed $1 billion and it employs over 3,000. Although V.P. and General Manager of Lamar's Albuquerque office, Mike Mons, stated that he reviews all billboards of a political nature for the company, he contends that by some fluke he missed this one. This explanation hardly seems plausible given that the billboard ads had already run for three weeks prior to being either covered or removed. When questioned about the number of responses received by Lamar about the controversial billboards, Mons stated that the number of calls and e-mails probably totaled close to a thousand so far.
However, Mons was unwilling to disclose whether the majority of responses were against or for the billboard message. His biggest concern appeared to be successful negotiation of ad guidelines with the Coalition to end the discomforting barrage of calls and emails to his company. Mons appeared unconcerned about the impact of the message and refused to comment on its political implications. Hal Kilsahl, V.P. of Governmental Relations at Lamar, said the company was concerned that the billboard message implied the U.S. military was killing children. Lamar was going to propose a revised message, he said, that would read "Tell Congress: No more military aid to Israel."
According to Coalition founder Lori Rudolph, the group met last night and voted to continue the billboard campaign. The Coalition is identifying new text and renegotiating the contract with the advertising company. They are wary, however, of attempts by supporters of Israel to pressure Lamar and may decide to postpone their billboard campaign. Apparently, Lamar agreed to honor the Coalition's contract as long as the words, "killing children," were eliminated. Lamar has stated that it will honor its initial eight-week contract with the coalition and pledged to cover all downtime and production costs to develop new ad copy and install new ads.
As Barack Hussein Obama draws closer to Iran, Syria and its proxy, Hezb'allah, moves to negotiate with Hamas and intensifies pressure on Israel, accusations about the influence of the "Israeli lobby," but not the Saudi lobby, abound. Increasingly, America's problems are blamed by Obama appointees on U.S. support for Israel and U.S. foreign policy appears to be becoming less favorable to the Jewish state. In addition, the Obama administration's derision of Israel's very urgent concerns about Iran's nuclear weapons development and its insistence on Palestine as a primary focus, further fuels the perception of a change in the U.S. commitment to Israel. Obama appears to be following the path of pushing Israel to sacrifice its security for the formation of a terrorist state and agent for Iran.
It is notable that an effort to demonize, delegitimize and turn public opinion against Israel is occurring against the backdrop of a U.S. foreign policy that is becoming less favorable to the Jewish state. Misguided anti-war activists like Sheehan and the Coalition are just a part of those who are increasingly vocal in their condemnation of Israel and who use one-sided, emotional arguments. It took a few short years in Nazi Germany to turn German citizens against its Jewish population to the point of participation and complicity in one of the worst genocides the world has ever known. The underlying motivation to erode U.S. support for Israel must be exposed for what it is - anti-Semitism - before it is too late.