Three weeks before the April 15 deadline to file federal tax returns, the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a national education and advocacy organization based in Palos Hills, IL, has placed electronic billboards asking the question: “Have you declared Israel a dependent on your tax returns?” The ad, which ran last year in Washington DC, says Americans are “sweating April 15 so Israelis don’t have to,” and calls for an end to U.S. aid to the Israeli occupation. In Chicago, the ads can be seen on digital billboards at I-294 and 95th Street and I-294 and Southwest Highway through April 19.
The ad’s message may be received with more sympathy this year as it comes at a time when the relationship between the United States and Israel has become strained due to a series of events just over the last month. First, Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation from House Majority Leader John Boehner to speak to Congress on March 3 as a strategy to undermine the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program. The strain in relations was further exacerbated by Netanyahu’s pre-election claim that he would never allow a Palestinian state and for his undemocratic appeal to Israeli Jewish voters to cast their ballots to overcome the “hordes” of Arabs who were voting.
Immediately after the Israeli elections, senior Obama administration officials rejected Netanyahu’s attempts to backtrack on his statement, reasserted the U.S. position for a two-state solution, and expressed dismay “by the demonization of Israeli Arab voters employed in Netanyahu’s reelection campaign.” Recently, Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, told a national conference of J-Street, a pro-Israel lobby group that supports a two-state peace process for a Palestinian state that “Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely.”
With the disclosure just yesterday, that the Israelis have been spying on the secret U.S.-Iran negotiations and have leaked some of the confidential information to members of Congress, the tensions in this increasingly troubled relationship will only accelerate.
In a press release on the billboards, AMP National Coordinator Dr. Osama Abu Irshaid, stated,
The US is obligated to give Israel more than $3 billion per year in foreign aid and those funds are used to maintain Israeli policies that contravene international law and Palestinians’ human rights. We’ve always known that Israel doesn’t want peace with Palestinians. Now we have the proof. So why is the US still sending billions of our hard-earned tax money to a state, which does not uphold democratic principles?
By linking U.S. aid to Israel to the April 15 tax deadline, AMP hopes to raise awareness of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, and its over seven year long blockade of Gaza, both of which violate the Fourth Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Our unconditional support of these Israeli policies weakens America’s moral position throughout the world and threatens our own national security,” Dr. Abu Irshaid said.
We are asking Congress and the State Department to withhold U.S. aid until Israel complies with international law and ends the occupation, lifts the siege on Gaza, allows Palestinian refugees the right to return home and affords Palestinian citizens of Israel equal rights. It is the American thing to do.
With an increasingly conflictual relationship between the Obama Administration and the newly-elected Israeli government, the AMP billboards will likely find a receptive audience among Americans filling out their tax returns.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.