Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stifling free speech as a way of helping Israel

Shakeel Syed is on the board of American Muslims for Palestine and a US Campaign Steering Committee member. Jeff Warner works with our member group Los Angeles Jews for Peace.

Our message was simple: "Tell Congress: Spend Our Money at Home, Not on the Israeli Military."

We wanted people to understand how their tax dollars are spent. We contracted with CBS Outdoor for a 28-day campaign of 23 billboards. They erected them in Los Angeles and surrounding cities in June, and we thanked them publicly for allowing free speech. 

However, a week later, CBS Outdoor took down all our billboards, telling us laughably that our applauding them for allowing free speech was tantamount to their endorsement of our message. They wanted us to take our money and go away quietly. But we decided otherwise.

CBS Outdoor likely buckled to pressure from pro-Israeli groups and their paid shills in Congress. Rep. Howard Berman wrote a memo (available on his website) to the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, the sponsor of the billboard campaign, condemning the billboards  and referring to alleged complaints from his San Fernando Valley constituents.  

In response, Berman received praise from pro-Israel groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League, organizations who called the billboards "provocative." 

So what if the billboards contained a message that Berman and these pro-Israel groups found provocative? Who are they to judge what political messages people in Los Angeles should be allowed to see? We believe that provocative discussions make democracy flourish and stifling discussion will kill democracy.
 

As taxpayers, we care how Congress spends our money. As citizens, we want our country to be generous but not reckless. Berman and vast majority of his Congressional colleagues continually demonstrate recklessness in wasting our treasure serving Israeli interests rather than fulfilling the needs of the American people.



Sign up to help organize opposition to military aid for Israel and make sure to register for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference September 21-23 at St. Louis University.