Commuters in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco stations will see Israeli and Palestinian grandfathers urging aid cut-off for the sake of peace and justice.
Berkeley, CA – Eye-catching ads calling for an end to United States military aid to Israel will greet travelers on Bay Area transit systems beginning today.
Part of a year-old national campaign, the ads depict Israeli and Palestinian grandfathers, each holding a grandchild, calling for an end to the military assistance in the interest of building "peace with equality and justice." They went up today in three of the busiest stations on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system - 12th St. Oakland, Downtown Berkeley, and Civic Center San Francisco - as well as on the Muni level of the Embarcadero station in San Francisco and on a Powell Street cable car. Next week the same ad will be posted in the 16th St./ Mission station in San Francisco.
Chief sponsor of the local ad campaign is Northern California Friends of Sabeel, the local affiliate of an international peace movement initiated by Palestinian Christians to bring justice and peace to the Holy Land through non-violence and education. Co-sponsors include Bay Area Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, the Middle East Children's Alliance, and Bay Area Women in Black.
The U.S. currently provides Israel with $3 billion in military assistance annually - more than $340,000 per hour - despite Israel's open defiance of stated U.S. policy, United Nations resolutions, and international law. Cumulatively, Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II, having received more than $112 billion in aid since 1949, according to the Congressional Research Service. Today Israel ranks second only to Iraq among recipients of U.S. funding, even though Israel's gross domestic product per capita is higher than, for example, Italy's.
"Israel is one the wealthiest countries in the world."
American aid encourages its violation of international law and moral conventions and creates serious problems for us around the world," said Hassan Fouda, a member of Northern California Friends of Sabeel and one of the organizers of the ad campaign. "Congress is planning deep cuts in social security, unemployment compensation, educational grants and other programs that help vulnerable Americans. Transferring billions of taxpayers’ money to Israel now is immoral. Americans need to speak up and be heard."
The ads are part of an initiative launched in October 2010, by a Chicago-area community group called the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine. NorCal Sabeel followed with ads in several BART stations last December. Since then similar ads have appeared in transit stations, on buses, or on billboards in Washington, DC; Boston, MA; Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ; and Albuquerque, NM. More cities are planning their own campaigns soon.
The previous round of ads in BART stations not only garnered considerable coverage in the local media, but also provoked a series of counter-ads sponsored by an Israel Lobby organization called Stand With Us. In response to complaints about those ads, BART removed them on the grounds that they appeared “disparaging or demeaning to Palestinians as a whole” and violated the district’s advertising standards; they were then replaced with new ads accusing the Palestinian leadership of "teaching hate and violence.”
The new ads now appearing in the Bay Area feature photos of Jeff Halper, a Minnesota-born Israeli professor, and Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian construction supervisor born in Jerusalem, and a grandchild of each.
Halper is co-founder and coordinator of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD); Shawamreh's Jerusalem home has been destroyed by Israeli wrecking crews, then rebuilt by volunteers organized by ICAHD, four times since 1998. The two men and their families have become close friends. They have toured the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom, speaking out against Israel's 44-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.
For more information about co-sponsors of the ad campaign:
- on the overall campaign, see TwoPeoplesOneFuture.org
- on the Bay Area campaign, see BuildPeace.org
- on Friends of Sabeel-North America, see fosna.org
- on American Muslims for Palestine, see ampalestine.org
- on Bay Area Jewish Voice for Peace, see jvp.org
- on Bay Area Women in Black, see bayareawomeninblack.org
- on Code Pink, see CodePink.org