On June 18th CBS Outdoor censored 23 LA billboards, calling for an end to aid to Israel. CBS Outdoor did so on the (absurd) pretext that the billboard sponsors had “used the ‘CBS Outdoor’ name without permission” when they called on their supporters to thank CBS Outdoor for endorsing the principle of free speech in running the ads.
Now Howard Berman has spoken out against the billboards. On June 25th, after the billboards were taken down, Berman published a letter on his website addressed to Stop30Billion attacking the organization. For what it’s worth, the congressman, who got into public life in part because of his love of Israel, is in a political dogfight with fellow CA congressman Brad Sherman, their districts having been merged. Sherman better get on the stick!
From the JTA:
U.S. Rep. Howard Berman slammed a Los Angeles-area group for anti-Israel billboards that call for an end to U.S. aid to Israel. In his letter to The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, Berman (D-Calif.) emphasized the importance of providing assistance to Israel.
“We are the leading voice in the international community, and have the world’s most powerful military, yet your organization would have us abandon our closest ally in the Middle East and allow its deterrent capability to wither on the vine,” Berman wrote to the group, which posted its billboards in the San Fernando Valley. “That is not the way to demonstrate international leadership.”
Berman noted in a follow-up statement that aid to Israel was a top legislative priority for him… “I am not going to stand by and remain silent as some outside group comes into our community with these outrageous billboards calling for an end to our security partnership with Israel.”
StandWithUs, a pro Israel group, says it’s about to put up pro-Israel billboards:
StandWithUs has countered anti-Israel billboards placed by stop30billion.org and its partner organizations since 2007. In 2007 and 2009, SWU ads appeared in Washington, DC, Albuquerque and Houston (with Bridge Houston), with the message, “Teach Peace, Not Hate.” In 2010, it was Chicago’s Metro system, and SWU allied with other groups to successfully persuade Seattle’s Metro to reject proposed ads with inflammatory, anti-Israel messaging. In September 2011 SWU countered 25 anti-Israel ads in New York’s subway system with 25 ads that informed the public that “Israel Needs a Partner for Peace.” In 2011-12 SWU countered four anti-Israel ads in San Francisco BART stations, some of which are up right now with messages highlighting Israel’s achievements in AIDS research and Water Conservation. In April 2012, we placed billboards in Denver with the message, “Baby Israela, delivered by Israeli Medics in Haiti. Israel Saves Lives.” StandWithUs will be placing billboards in Los Angeles in the coming months.
What we need is a national conversation about the billions being forked over to Israel at a time when congressional legislation is being initiated out of Israel and politicians debate as if they were running for the Knesset instead of the White House or Congress. Americans need their tax dollars at home.
The negative response to the LA billboard campaign from critics was swift, as to be expected. Thanks to Congressman Berman for adding fuel to the fire. During this election season, let’s talk about Israel and what our taxes are supporting. Let’s make a real conversation. Huge shout out to Stop30Billion for pushing the envelope.