Dueling billboards in Montana (and StandWithUs ceo says aid to Israel is actually aid to Americans)

Israel/Palestine
on 19 Comments
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StandWithUs billboard on the corner of Harris Street and Cedar Avenue in Helena, Montana (Photo: Eliza Wiley/Independent Record)

Helena, Montana’s Independent Record, has jumped on the billboards calling for an end to aid to Israel. The newspaper notes that a “war of words” is being waged between billboards from both sides of the question in the capital city– “bringing home the international debate on Israel and the Palestinians”.  

Helena Montana
Helena, Montana

As we reported earlier, on May 20th the first billboards appeared in Helena telling Congress to quit funding the Israeli military. Since then, StandwithUs has  jumped into the fray as it did in Denver, Houston and elsewhere, seeking to put a positive spin on Israel’s atrocities.

The Independent Record’s hometown reporter Al Knauber offered extensive quotes from both sides, including Stop30Billion co founder Armen Chakerian, and Service for Peace and Justice activist Will Boland. Knauber’s coverage served as a platform for debate with the war of words on full display inside the article itself.

Knauber also cited the reports of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and French lawyer and judge Christine Chanet, who is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Ouch.

From his piece, Dueling billboards in Helena call US aid to Israel into question:

According to the online site for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the international fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, a news release on the report states that “a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians are violated in various forms and ways due to the existence of the settlements.”

“These violations are all interrelated, forming part of an overall pattern of breaches that are characterized principally by the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people which occur on a daily basis,” the statement continues.

“In compliance with Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel must cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” said Ms. Christine Chanet, chair of the Mission from France.

Knauber gave the final word to StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein (sounding rather snippity IMHO):

Rothstein said her organization has placed billboards in response to billboards in communities across the nation.

StandWithUs placed billboards in Missoula in March to counter a similar anti-Israel billboard campaign, a news release from the group noted.

“We always do,” she said of the response by StandWithUs to billboards targeting Israel. “It’s a pattern of ours as it’s a pattern of theirs,” she said.

…A combination of anti-Israel groups pretend to be pro-Palestinian, Rothstein said.

“The bottom line is they don’t want an Israel. They want Israel to be gone,” she said.

Rothstein subsequently entered the comment section and claimed there were so many false allegations in the article it was difficult for her to know where to begin. She stated that the Human Rights Council was not a reliable source (even though Knauber never referenced the Human Rights Council) and said that US aid to Israel is actually aid to Americans:

US aid to Israel benefits Americans because 75% of it is spent in the US, creating jobs in America. America spends billions to keep its soldiers around the world to shore up its allies, but has no soldiers in Israel… The real question is: When will the Palestinian leaders, Hamas and Abbas, give up their bigotry and accept Israel as a Jewish state next door and say “yes” to Israel’s many offers for peace?

Meanwhile, JTA’s article about the “Billboard battle” in Montana wraps up with an unusual factoid:

Montana had 1,350 Jewish residents as of 2010. A study that year placed Montana as 42nd among states for number of Jews per 100,000 residents.

I’m not sure what that has to do with these billboards. Israel is an American issue, not just a Jewish one.

At this point, Helena Service for Peace and Justice and Coalition to Stop 30 Billion to Israel has generated a dialogue that gets lots of people thinking, people who otherwise might not want to think or talk about Israel/Palestine or if they do think about it think it’s not their place to talk about it. The billboards have created a massive opportunity for exposure.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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19 Responses

  1. Boycott Israel on Campus
    July 21, 2013, 2:34 pm

    A very recent newspaper article has appeared, regarding a “Boycott Israel” bus advertisement. The ACLU sued to enforce peoples’ right to run that ad —

    “AATA agrees to settle lawsuit over refusal to allow anti-Israel advertisements on buses”, July 19, 2013, at:

    http://www.annarbor.com/news/aata-agrees-to-settle-lawsuit-over-not-allowing-anti-israel-advertisements-on-buses/

    The article shows that the city bus authority has agreed to pay an undisclosed portion of the ACLU’s attorney fees.

    The same article also ended up on the Associated Press wire.

  2. broadside
    July 21, 2013, 3:49 pm

    I remember years ago interviewing that hack of hacks, CT senator Christopher Dodd, and (to his evident surprise) asked him what America got from Israel, since it seems all we ever do is give to it. He almost puffed out his chest as he issued that standard line about America spending billions to keep its soldiers around the world, but has no soldiers in Israel.

    What a pathetic, bottom-of-the-barrel, last-resort defense.

  3. Daniel Rich
    July 21, 2013, 4:53 pm

    Israelis celebrate Rachel Corrie pancakes.

    Join a foreign army?

    “Photos of the event were posted on the Facebook page of the “Heritage House,” a settlement in occupied East Jerusalem that houses so-called “lone soldiers,” men recruited from overseas to join the Israeli occupation forces.”

    The current laws are set forth in Section 958-960 of Title 18 of the United States Code. In Wiborg v. U.S. , 163 U.S. 632 (1896), the Supreme Court endorsed a lower court ruling that it was not a crime under U.S. law for an individual to go abroad for the purpose of enlisting in a foreign army; however, when someone has been recruited or hired in the United States, a violation may have occurred. LINK.

    Ah, it’s good to have friends in high places…

    This message is sponsored by: ”Friends of the Nepali, Wingless Fruit Fly.’

  4. mijj
    July 21, 2013, 7:23 pm

    So we have Israel with no borders implying, to the enthusiastic zionist, that the entire world is Israel. And now we have StandWithUs CEO implying, to the enthusiastic zionist, that Israel is part of America.

    This sends a confused message. Some clarity, please. To the enthusiastic zionist: is America part of Israel, or is Israel part of America?

    • Egbert
      July 22, 2013, 3:54 am

      mijj: “Is America part of Israel, or is Israel part of America?”

      enthusiatic Zionist: “Yes”

  5. Ellen
    July 21, 2013, 7:50 pm

    It is underway — the heartland is asking questions: why their money is going to Israel. Is this a good investment — especially when CENTCOM makes clear that the policy is undermining the standing and long term security of the USA. Do you really think the denizens of Montana really care if Israel celebrates diversity? !!!!

    They DO care about the billions of US tax payers money in so-called “aid” going there. They do care about supplying their sons and daughters to onging conflicts in the ME.

    • ritzl
      July 22, 2013, 3:30 am

      @Ellen I hope the two get combined in the near future. A billboard with the “end aid to Israel” message combined with the “undermining” assessment quote of either or both of the last two CENTCOM commanders.

      It draws the viewer’s perception of the ad away from “mere” opinion and more into the realm of military fact.

  6. RoHa
    July 21, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Israel may “celebrate” diversity, but they don’t seem to want too much of it in Israel.

    • Dutch
      July 21, 2013, 10:52 pm

      Au contraire. They’re actually stepping up the ethnic cleansing.

      The good thing of the article is the that a simple billboard can start a debate. So let these StandWithUs op’eds and billboards coming. Hit ‘m Up!

      And don’t you guys forget: It’s for Palestine. 1S1P1V.

  7. Hostage
    July 22, 2013, 2:48 am

    US aid to Israel benefits Americans because 75% of it is spent in the US, creating jobs in America.

    The problem with that nonsense is that 100 percent of the money could be spent at home on essential services and infrastructure and we would be the beneficiaries.

    As it is, the manufactured goods or end products are given away free of charge to a foreign power that competes against the USA in the global arms business, while the great-grandchildren of US taxpayers will be stuck paying the tab + interest.

    Remember that the Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel told Channel 10 news in Israel:

    And it’s true, we are using this organization, StandWithUs, to amplify our power. There are other organizations, some Jewish and some non-Jewish, with which we are partnering in the same fashion. This is certainly an approach which will become even more evident with time.

    Israeli Foreign Ministry Sponsoring U.S. BDS Lawsuits http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2011/09/19/israeli-foreign-ministry-sponsoring-u-s-bds-lawsuits/

    • Citizen
      July 23, 2013, 6:08 am

      Israel’s been ignoring US patents and corruption is rampant in its weapons industry, both issues brought up upon its application to the OECD–by Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, not by the US. Tiny Israel is #1 drone supplier to the world, US is #2.

  8. Hostage
    July 22, 2013, 3:05 am

    P.S. I’m just curious if its only me who noticed that Detroit’s pension shortfall accounts for about $3.5 billion total, the amount we manage to send to Israel every year with regular supplemental increases. Cries of Betrayal as Detroit Plans to Cut Pensions http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/us/cries-of-betrayal-as-detroit-plans-to-cut-pensions.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    The politicians claim these cuts are inevitable with falling federal revenues, but make no such allowance for inevitable cuts in funding for Israel. Michigan Officials Stress Pension Cuts Unavoidable While Declining Federal Funds http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/07/21/2333761/michigan-officials-stress-pension-cuts-unavoidable-while-declining-federal-funds/?mobile=nc

    • MRW
      July 23, 2013, 4:25 am

      Thank you, Hostage. I was just about to comment on this fact.

      I read somewhere that Detroit needs $16 billion to get out of debt. That’s less than what we gave Israel in the last six years.

    • Daniel Rich
      July 23, 2013, 7:14 pm

      @ Hostage

      side note: “The politicians claim these cuts are inevitable with falling federal revenues”

      Pensioners paid for their pensions upfront. The reason why those coffers have been emptied out rests solely on the shoulders of those corrupt politicians, whose irresponsible spending sprees haven’t been propelled to where they ought to be, the nearest courthouse.

      The time for tar and feathers has long since past. Justice demands the selection of some unbiased firing squads and when the dust has finally settled, let that ‘man’ in the sky sort it all out…

    • Dutch
      July 23, 2013, 10:27 pm

      This should be the message of a poster or ad campaign.

      $ 3.5 billion taxpayer’s money. What do we use it for? Detroit or Israël?

  9. thetumta
    July 22, 2013, 10:12 pm

    Detroit looks like Gaza if you haven’t noticed. Of course every dollar slated for Israel and Egypt should be temporarily routed to Detroit for the duration of the emergency. They are Americans after all.
    Hej! Tumta

  10. Citizen
    July 23, 2013, 6:16 am

    Would be interesting to see a Helena town hall meeting on the issue. See how much the cowboys and cowgirls have learned.

  11. Citizen
    July 23, 2013, 6:34 am

    You can check out about a dozen comments from the Helena locals here, including a few identifying themselves as Jewish: http://helenair.com/news/local/dueling-billboards-in-helena-call-us-aid-to-israel-into/article_865506b8-edde-11e2-8dfc-001a4bcf887a.html

    • MHughes976
      July 23, 2013, 12:19 pm

      I thought those comments were quite interestingly balanced. The way is led by ‘annier’ – I suppose our annie isn’t a Montana cattle rancher in her spare time?

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