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April 7, 2016

Alison Weir’s New Billboard Campaign Promotes USS Liberty Conspiracies

Ali­son Weir, the direc­tor of the anti-Israel organizations If Amer­i­cans Knew and the Coun­cil for the National Inter­est, is behind a series of billboards that read “Help the USS Liberty Survivors Attacked by Israel.”

Billboard in Pennsylvania

Billboard in Pennsylvania

The billboards, which have appeared so far in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, are “paid for by www.honorlibertyvets.org,” a website that promotes the anti-Israel conspiracy theory that Israel intentionally targeted a U.S. war­ship dur­ing the height of the 1967 Six-Day War. This website as well as the GoFundMe page raising money for the billboards are linked to anti-Israel activist Alison Weir.

The tragic assault by Israeli forces during the Six Day War in 1967 on an American vessel, the USS Liberty, has been a source of controversy and conspiracy theories since it occurred. Several government investigations have concluded that the attack, in which 34 American servicemen were killed and many more injured, was carried out in error. Furthermore, every piece of information declassified to date has supported this conclusion.

Nevertheless, the Honor Liberty Vets website claims Israel had a “motive” for attacking the American ship, stating “One hypothesis is that Israel intended to sink the ship (with no survivors) and blame Egypt because this might have brought the United States into the 1967 war.” The site also paints Israeli interests as trumping America’s: “No nation or people should be above the law; nor should American interests be subordinated to the interests of any foreign nation. Those Israelis responsible for ordering the attack and the resulting murder of American sailors must be held accountable for their actions.”

For Weir, and others who subscribe to the belief that Israel intentionally targeted the ship with the goal of killing American servicemen, the incident and the alleged U.S. government cover-up that followed powerfully demonstrate the supposed treachery and power of the Jewish State and its American supporters. The story, told from this perspective, has become a propaganda tool to undermine the legitimacy of Israel.

These theories about the USS Liberty fit into Weir’s worldview, in which the Jewish State is a violent aggressor that corrupts the American political system and prevents criticism of its conduct from being voiced by the mainstream media. As a result, she contends, Americans are kept in the dark about how their taxes fund Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians.

In Weir’s discussions of Israel’s influence, she often employs anti-Semitic imagery and portrays Israel as a ruthless force that controls American policy through brutal intimidation and deception. Weir views herself and her organizations as part of a growing movement to promote U.S. interests by educating Americans about the vast conspiracy to keep the truth about Israeli practices hidden from them.

Weir’s Council for the National Interest, an anti-U.S. aid to Israel group based in DC, previously employed billboards to disseminate its messaging with a 2013 cam­paign called “Stop the Blank Check to Israel.” At least ten such ads, which read, “$8 Mil­lion a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense! STOP The Blank Check.org,” were erected in Atlanta.

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December 27, 2013

Campaigns In Atlanta And London Target Israeli Policy In Bethlehem

st-james-church-wall-bethlehem

St. James Church Wall

Right in time for Christmas, two campaigns have begun that demonize Israeli policy in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

In Atlanta, Georgia, five electronic billboards are currently on display for a two week duration that depict Jesus’s parents Mary and Joseph being unable to gain entry into Bethlehem in modern times because of Israel’s security barrier on the border of the West Bank (the image was created by the artist Banksy). These billboards are sponsored by If Americans Knew (IAK), a virulently anti-Israel organization that has been running anti-Israel billboards in cities across the United States over the past year.

In London, England, St. James’s Church erected a large display outside of the church to depict the security barrier that surrounds Bethlehem. The church’s reverend, Lucy Winkett, claimed that the display, which resembles the security wall in Israel, was designed to show passersby “what the people of Bethlehem are experiencing today.”

The mock security wall outside St. James’ Church is part of a festival called “Bethlehem Unwrapped,” which is being sponsored by the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based group that advocates for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel. The festival will take place in London from December 23, 2013 until January 5, 2014. It will feature, among other programs, a comedy show called “Stand Up Against the Wall,” a “Bethlehem Christmas dinner,” and a debate titled “Both sides of the Barrier – Separation or Security?” which will feature Jeff Halper, the founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Leila Sansour, a resident of Bethlehem; Yiftah Curiel, the Public Affairs spokesman at the Embassy of Israel in London; and Alan Johnson, a representative from the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Both the billboard and mock wall display deliberately fail to account for Israel’s legitimate security concerns. While IAK claims that their billboards, “will be seen an estimated 4 million times,” those who view the billboards will not receive any information about why the security barrier was built and what it has done to thwart terrorist attacks.

Indeed, Israel’s security barrier was built as a defensive measure that was first approved by the Israeli government in 2002 to prevent Palestinian terrorists from reaching their civilian targets inside Israel. Since it was built, there has been a sharp decrease in Palestinian terrorism – not because there have been no attempted attacks, but because the security barrier has impeded terrorists from reaching Israeli cities, or has forced them to take more circuitous routes, leading to their capture.

Although both campaigns seek to reinforce the point that Bethlehem has become inaccessible because of the wall, thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world visit Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations every year. This year was no exception, according to news reports, the turnout was “the highest in years.”

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March 8, 2013

Anti-Israel Activity Reached Fever Pitch This Week

Anti-Israel activists took a multi-faceted approach to attacking Israel in the public sphere this week. In the span of 7 days, divestment resolutions were considered at three college campuses, ten anti-Israel billboards were put up in Atlanta, over 30 college campuses hosted Israeli Apartheid Week programs and two daylong BDS conferences were scheduled.

These initiatives are formally or informally part of a global effort to advance the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. They demonstrate the anti-Israel movement’s commitment to employing multiple tactics and campaigns to attract support for its positions.

A flyer advertising the first public discussion on the divestment resolution at UCSD

Here’s a closer look at what’s taken place this week:

  • Campus Divestment Resolutions: Student governments at Stanford University, the University of California (UC), Riverside, and UC San Diego considered divestment resolutions targeting multinational companies that work with Israel like Caterpillar, General Electric and Northrup Grumman. The results were mixed: the resolution at Stanford was voted down; UC San Diego did not vote on its resolution (after a discussion that lasted until 2am) and will resume discussing it next week, while UC Riverside passed its resolution in a stealth manner reminiscent of the recent resolution at UC Irvine. The divestment resolution at Riverside was introduced without advance notice and seems to be part of an effort to ensure that pro-Israel students are left in the dark and are therefore not present at the public discussion to voice their perspective and advocate against the bill.
  • Israeli Apartheid Week: At least 35 college campuses in the U.S. are participating in IAW this year, the ninth consecutive year that the program has been held in cities around the world. Most of the events in the U.S. were formally scheduled to take place March 4-8 but some are stretching into next week as well (due to various university-related scheduling conflicts). IAW events this year have primarily included anti-Israel speakers, mock “apartheid walls” and checkpoint displays on campus, and screenings of two critical of Israel films,  the Oscar award-nominated “5 Broken Cameras” and a more extreme film called “Roadmap to Apartheid.” “Roadmap to Apartheid” is narrated by The Color Purple author Alice Walker and analogizes Palestinian refugees to Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and partially condones terrorism as a “symptom” of the conflict.
  • BDS Conferences: This past Saturday the University of Texas, Austin, hosted a daylong “BDS Conference” that featured extreme speeches by Nada Elia, a faculty member at Antioch University in Seattle, and Sherry Wolf, a Jewish socialist and activist. Elia avowed that she would not reject Palestinian extremism because Palestinians “have a right to resist” and compared Israelis to American slave-owners. Wolf used the platform to claim that the notion that Israel is the Jewish people’s homeland is “bulls–t” and accused Israel of “terrorism” and institutionalized racism against the Palestinians. She further described Zionist Jews as “white supremacist racist[s].” On Saturday, March 9, a similar conference will take place on the Auraria campus in Denver. Participants will “learn about the history of both Palestine and the global BDS movement, hear what coalition groups are working on, and participate in BDS and coalition-building training,” according to the event flier.
  • Anti-Israel Billboards: The Council for the National Interest, an anti-U.S. aid to Israel group based in DC, recently started a campaign called “Stop the Blank Check to Israel” which hopes to place billboards in cities across the country. Ten such ads, which read, “$8 Million a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense! STOP The Blank Check.org,” have recently been erected in Atlanta. Ads with similar messages have appeared in the past year in Den­ver, Detroit, Los Ange­les, Chapel Hill and New York.

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