State lawmakers object to billboards honoring Navy veterans, questioning US foreign aid

Letter from PA state legislators

Alison Weir
If Americans Knew
May 20, 2016

UPDATE: Harrisburg ABC 27 News broadcasted a report on the controversy.

Fourteen Pennsylvania House of Representatives members from South Central Pennsylvania are demanding that billboards they deem critical of Israel be removed from area highways.

“We are appalled that Pennsylvania lawmakers are taking time away from their duties representing the people of Pennsylvania to attack free speech and oppose American veterans,” says Alison Weir, representative of groups that placed the two billboards. The lawmakers sent a letter to Weir calling for the removal of the billboards.

One billboard read: “Help Liberty Veterans attacked by Israel,” and directed viewers to the website This billboard was on Highway 83 South near the Newberry exit and was scheduled for March 28 through April 28.

This billboard referred to a 1967 incident in which Israeli forces perpetrated a sustained air and sea attack on the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy electronics surveillance ship, killing 34 Americans and injuring 174. Liberty crew and family members are still seeking a full, public investigation into the assault (normally standard practice for such an attack). Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Four-Star Admiral Thomas Moorer notably backed the call for investigation.

Four of the sailors killed and eight who survived were from Pennsylvania.

The second billboard stated: “$10 million a day to Israel? Our Money Is Needed in America / Get the Facts at * Paid for by” This billboard, at 83 North near the Lewisberry exit, was scheduled from Dec 21, 2015 through Jan. 21.

Weir replied with her own letter to the lawmakers. “Rather than playing politics with our veterans and favoring the foreign country that attacked them, please support these veterans and their families,” she writes.

The lawmakers’ letter calls the U.S. aid to Israel an “investment.”

“This is disingenuous: Congress itself refers to the money as ‘aid’ and ‘assistance,’” writes Weir. She quotes Paul Pillar, of the National Intelligence Council, who says: “The U.S. aid is a subsidy for Israeli taxpayers, paid for by American taxpayers.”

On average, Weir points out, Israelis get 7,000 times more U.S. money per capita than other people around the world. Weir says that Israel has lower unemployment and a better trade balance than the U.S.

She cites experts who say U.S. policies towards Israel only make matters worse and argues that it perpetuates a cycle of violence that endangers Israelis, Palestinians and others.

In their letter to Weir, the representatives also wrote that “international diplomacy is the purview of the federal government and states should not interfere.”

Weir says she is shocked at the lawmakers’ implication that Pennsylvanians should not “interfere” in federal policies.

On the contrary, she writes: “It is the right of every American to learn the facts on American policies, and it is our duty to object when we feel policies are wrong. This is the basis of our republic and the core issue of democracy. As many commentators have aptly noted: ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty.’”

The lawmakers’ initiative was spearheaded by Representative Seth Grove of Dover, who went on a junket to Israel last year organized by the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, whose website lists “supporting Israel” among its activities.

Continue scrolling to read both letters and see photos of the billboards.

Weir is executive director of the nonprofit If Americans Knew, which placed the “$10 million” billboard. If Americans Knew is the fiscal sponsor for another group, “Friends of the Liberty,” which put up the Liberty billboard.

Letter from PA State Legislators

Click image to enlarge. The letter was mailed on May 3, 2016.

Response to Letter Objecting to Billboards

Dear Pennsylvania Assembly Members Seth Grove, Bryan Cutler, Ron Marisco, Stan Saylor, Mauree Gingrich, Kristin Hill, Greg Rothman, Mike Regan, Rob Kauffman, Will Tallman, Kate Klunk, Scott Wagner, Rob Teplitz, and Kevin Schreiber:

I received your letter objecting to two billboards we recently placed in Pennsylvania.

The first billboard informed Pennsylvanians about the massive amount of their money that is being sent to a foreign country – a country that has lower unemployment than the U.S. and boasts of its economic prowess – and suggested that this money is needed in America.

The second billboard asked Pennsylvanians to honor and support the most decorated Navy crew since WWII – men who had endured a ruthless, unprovoked air and sea assault that killed 34 of their shipmates and injured 174 of them, over two-thirds of the entire crew. Four of the young sailors killed were from Pennsylvania, and eight who survived the attack currently reside in Pennsylvania.

I am astonished that you found these billboards offensive, took time away from your legislative duties to craft your letter to us, and am appalled by the rationales you provided for your objections.

Let me examine the facts pertaining to each billboard and address your objections.

$10 million a day to Israel? Our Money Is Needed in America

Get the Facts at * Paid for by

American politicians from both parties, many of whom have received campaign donations and/or gifts from the Israel lobby, give Israel over $10 million per day in foreign aid. This is done without debate or public awareness.

On average, Israelis receive 7,000 times more U.S. tax money per capita than other people around the world. And the great likelihood is that the amount is about to go up to $11-$12 million per day per day.

In your letter you call our aid to Israel an “investment.” This is disingenuous: Congress itself refers to the money as “aid” and “assistance.” Paul Pillar, of the National Intelligence Council, is more direct: “The U.S. aid is a subsidy for Israeli taxpayers, paid for by American taxpayers.”

According to the official government report on this disbursement, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” June 10, 2015, Congressional Research Service, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $124.3 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance.”

This report shows that Israel also gets additional perks. For example, Israel – unlike other foreign recipients of US military aid – is permitted to spend millions of our dollars on its own competing companies, which then take business away from U.S. companies, costing Americans thousands of jobs.

We think people in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States have the right to learn about this extraordinary expenditure of our money and to decide whether or not they approve of it – especially since numerous surveys have shown that the large majority of Americans do not wish to take sides on Israel-Palestine.

Moreover, this massive aid is used to kill and oppress Palestinians and perpetuates a cycle of violence that endangers everyday Israelis, and leads to escalating extremism that places everyone in peril.

In your letter you mention the problem of waste in the federal budget. Many people believe that sending billions of dollars to Israel is among the waste in government that should be addressed – particularly since indications are that this is a failed policy that only makes matters worse.

This is detailed in numerous analyses, including a powerful commentary by international affairs expert Chas Freeman, who writes:

“It’s time to recognize that the United States can’t solve the Israel-Palestine issue, can no longer protect Israel from the international legal and political consequences of its morally deviant behavior, and has nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by continuing to be identified with that behavior. Israel makes its own decisions without regard to American interests, values, or advice. It would make better decisions if it were not shielded from their consequences or had to pay for them itself. America should cut the umbilicus and let Israel be Israel.”

In your letter you bring up the almost $4 billion in exports and imports with Israel, as though this is relevant to our billboard.

Our billboard is about the US handout to Israel, not trade, so I’m trying to figure out what your point is.

If you’re trying to suggest that it’s good to give another country billions of dollars, because they’ll then buy more American products, I suggest that we give these billions of dollars to American citizens, who will be quite happy to purchase more American goods themselves, especially items they’ve been putting off during difficult financial times.

Or perhaps this is just meant to switch the subject; since you can’t realistically object to questioning aid sent abroad when it’s needed at home, you instead bring up another subject and hope people won’t notice the switch.

However, even this new subject is problematic. Trade with Israel is connected to policies put in place by Israel partisans that many analysts find detrimental to many Americans.

One such policy was the US- Israel Free Trade Agreement, the very first free trade agreement our nation ever signed. Israel was delighted with the agreement; Americans less so. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to understand that giving American companies access to 8 million Israelis hardly balances out giving Israeli companies access to 322 million American consumers.

An article by journalist Colin MacKinnon in the Washington Report for Middle East Affairs some years ago – “The U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement: Aid Instead of Trade?” – discussed the inherent problem with linking the American economy, “the largest economy on earth,” with “an economy like Israel’s, which is small, troubled and has a persistent state component.”

MacKinnon reported that the free trade agreement was sold as “a way of weaning Israel away from reliance on U.S. financial support.” This pitch was based on “wishful studies from conservative think tanks such as the consistently pro-Israel Heritage Foundation, which made ‘trade instead of aid’ the slogan of the campaign.”

In reality, however, MacKinnon reports that the agreement did the opposite: “It had no discernable effect on the level of American aid to Israel. In fact, by eliminating U.S. tariffs while permitting a whole range of Israeli non-tariff barriers, the treaty is turning out to be just another form of U.S. aid to Israel.”

According to an article in the New York Times, “To say that trade agreements are good for America doesn’t mean that they benefit all Americans. Some firms can take advantage of the new opportunities and others suffer from increased competition.”

Another analyst wrote: “For years, the United States has consistently run much larger trade deficits than other developed nations, and we have suffered more trade-related job loss as a result. While growing exports tend to support domestic employment, growing imports costs jobs and reduces domestic output. Thus, the size and growth of trade deficits is strongly correlated with trade-related job loss.”

Given such facts, it’s not surprising that the most recent figures available show that the US had a $9 billion trade deficit with Israel.

In fact, not long ago an Israeli journalist called Israel “the new golden country” and bragged about how much better things are for Israelis than for Americans – free tuition to college, free healthcare, lower unemployment, etc. Of course, he didn’t mention that this is helped by our long give-away to Israel and other actions on Israel’s behalf.

Maybe it’s time we turned things around, and Israelis started giving Americans $10 million per day.

The second billboard that you find objectionable announced:

Help The USS Liberty Survivors attacked by Israel

I am astonished to learn of your opposition to helping and honoring American combat veterans who have been treated badly by the media and others, and blocked from receiving the treatment they are owed.

Billboards about the USS Liberty are being placed around the country on behalf of the group “Friends of the Liberty,” which consists of individuals from across the political spectrum who support the Liberty crew’s desire for public awareness and assistance.

This group includes family members of those who were killed, personal friends of crewmembers, and many others who have learned about their plight and wish to help. The group works in close conjunction with Liberty survivors, while our nonprofit organization provides fiscal sponsorship.

For almost fifty years the sisters, wives, brothers, and sons of the 34 men who were killed onboard the USS Liberty; the 174 men who were injured; and the others who escaped physical trauma but who will never forget their fallen shipmates have been waiting for the treatment they deserve: a thorough, public investigation of the attack and related actions, including the Presidential recall of rescue flights, the subsequent order that the incident be covered up, the suppression of key information, and the inappropriate treatment of crew members.

For details on all this please see the Moorer Commission findings of 2003, which are in the Congressional Report, and an article by Admiral Thomas Moorer in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, the military newspaper published for our servicemen and women abroad. Admiral Moorer was a four-star admiral, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a decorated World War II veteran.

Sadly, Israel and its partisans have long tried to block such an investigation, lied about what occurred, and called these men and their families “anti-Semitic” for speaking about what was done to them.

In your letter, instead of discussing the rights and needs of these veterans, you use the opportunity to praise Israelis and denigrate Palestinians. Once again, you bring up a subject that has nothing to do with our billboard.

Moreover, your statements are not only irrelevant, they are extremely inaccurate.

You claim that the U.S. and Israel have become “strong allies.” In reality, this much vaunted but largely non-existent “alliance” consists of Americans giving money and weaponry to Israel, dying in wars for Israel, and suffering hostility because of our support for Israel. In return the Israeli government insults U.S. Presidents from both parties, frequently ignores U.S. official requests and policies, steals our technology – often then selling it to others – and regularly spies on us. (Many Israelis citizens, it’s important to point out, oppose these governmental actions, as should you.)

You write that our organization doesn’t “tell the whole story on the conflict in the Middle East,” although in reality our website contains massive information on this, including a detailed account on the history and references to numerous books on this issue, including my own: Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the US Was Used to Create Israel. (Perhaps the fact that you got our organization’s name wrong indicates that you haven’t actually read our information for yourselves.)

The fact, as thoroughly documented by many historians, including Israelis, is that Israel was created through a war of violent ethnic cleansing; continues to confiscate still more land belonging to the indigenous Muslims and Christians who long inhabited the region alongside a small population of indigenous Jews who shared the land peacefully; and kills 16 Palestinian children for each Israeli child who is also tragically killed.

Your repetition of Israeli talking points about Oslo II indicates that you’re either unaware that these have been widely discredited and that it was not the “generous offer” that the media led people to believe for awhile, or you hope that others don’t know.

You’re misrepresentation of this issue is particularly ironic, since one of the most accurate and informed authors on this topic – a top journalist who wrote five books and numerous articles on the subject – lived in York, Pennsylvania until he passed away last year: Donald Neff.

But let me reiterate, none of this has anything to do with the billboard on the Liberty. This billboard simply asked Americans to help and honor veterans attacked by a foreign military.

Rather than playing politics with our veterans and favoring the foreign country that attacked them, please support these veterans and their families.

Even if you believe that Israel is a splendid ally; that all Palestinian men, women, and children are terrorists; that Palestinian farmers have no right to the land they cultivated for millennia; that it is appropriate for Israel to wall in 1.8 million human beings in Gaza – even if you believe all this and more – it is still your ethical and moral obligation as American elected officials to support American veterans who have asked for your help in procuring the treatment they deserve.

Finally, you write that “international diplomacy is the purview of the federal government and states should not interfere.”

Our billboards were not addressed to the state government, they were addressed to the citizens of Pennsylvania. I’m shocked that you seem to suggest that Pennsylvanians should not “interfere” in federal policies.

On the contrary, it is the right of every American to learn the facts on American policies, and it is our duty to object when we feel policies are wrong. This is the basis of our republic and the core issue of democracy. As many commentators have aptly noted: “Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty.”


Alison Weir
Executive Director, If Americans Knew
Member, Friends of the Liberty

Local news coverage:
US-Israel relationship questioned in I-83 billboard

Dennis Owens
ABC 27 News
May 20, 2016

STRINESTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – The “I” in I-83 might stand for international relations on one stretch of York County.

Northbound drivers between York and Harrisburg can get a glimpse of an unusual billboard tucked between trees on the left-hand side of the road near the Strinestown exit.

It calls attention to the USS Liberty, an American ship attacked by Israel in 1967. The words “attacked by Israel” are prominent on the billboard.

It hopes to drive traffic to The website raises questions about America’s closest ally in the Middle East.

Another billboard that recently ran in the Midstate focused on the $10 million-a-day America gives Israel. It directed viewers to Alison Weir, a former newspaper editor in Northern California, created the website and placed the billboards.

“We have given tiny Israel far more of our tax money than we’ve given to any other country on Earth,” said Weir, who said she is neither Jewish nor Palestinian.

The billboards caught the attention of state lawmakers.

“In my humble opinion, it’s to incite anti-Semitic behavior and that’s a shame,” Representative Seth Grove (R-York) said.

Grove was one of 14 Pennsylvania legislators to sign a letter denouncing the billboards, saying IfAmericansKnew is trying to “incite anti-Israel sentiment within our region.”

The letter also asked Weir to remove the billboards from Pennsylvania roadways, concluding “the conversation concerning international diplomacy is the purview of the federal government and states should not interfere.”

Weir says she put the billboards up in four states to raise awareness. Americans, she says, are uninformed or misinformed about atrocities resulting from the US-Israeli relationship. She’s disturbed by what she calls the mistreatment of Palestinians that is mostly ignored by Americans and American media. She says she’s also disturbed that lawmakers would try to silence a healthy discussion on the topic.

“We all know in our Republic, in a Democracy, it’s essential that we all get involved in government. If we think there are policies that are misguided, we should very publicly object,” Weir said. “It’s my view that Americans should have the full facts on this issue. This (support for Israel), like any important issue, should be done with the voters authorization and it should be discussed.”

But Grove said the billboard placement makes no sense. International diplomacy tucked along a highway in York County is the wrong message in the wrong place.

“I think we need to maintain our ally and our friendship with Israel,” Grove said.

New Book on the Israel Lobby

Alison Weir's new book Against Our Better Judgment: How the U.S. was used to create Israel brings together meticulously sourced evidence to outline the largely unknown history of U.S.-Israel relations.

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