- Published: 06 November 2014 06 November 2014
By Rod Such
Ads began appearing on Portland buses last week that read, "Israel's War Crimes, Your Tax Dollars at Work." The ads show a photo of a Palestinian woman sitting in the rubble of her bombed-out Gaza home. I helped pay for this ad, and I want Portland residents to know why.
Almost 44 years ago to the day, fresh out of college and just starting a career as a journalist, a friend and I watched CBS correspondent Mike Wallace interview Private Paul Meadlo on "60 Minutes." Meadlo participated in the massacre of Vietnamese men, women and children in My Lai village during the Vietnam War. Wallace asked Meadlo if his combat unit killed babies. The transcript reads, "Q. And babies?" Meadlo answered, "And babies."
After the interview, my friend David commented, "If we don't do something to end this war, we'll be just like the 'good Germans' who pretended they knew nothing about the Holocaust." His remark resonated with me, and I resolved to get involved in the antiwar movement. Weeks went by, however, and I did nothing. Then one morning, on my way to work, I saw a billboard ad, a photograph of the bodies of the My Lai villagers — men, women and infants — heaped in a pile with the words: "Q. And babies? A. And babies."
I knew then that I was not going to be able to escape this daily reminder that my own government was committing war crimes. I was not going to be able to go about my day-to-day business without confronting this awful fact. That ad changed my life in a way because I soon quit my job and went to work full-time for the antiwar movement.
I want people in Portland not to forget what happened this past summer when their tax dollars helped the Israeli government carry out a 50-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip that killed an estimated 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians. About 500 children died, including babies.
During a 7-hour period, more than 7,000 artillery shells landed in the single residential neighborhood of Shuja'iyya in an attack that retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Robert Gard called "absolutely disproportionate." The disproportionate use of force and the selection of civilian targets — homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, playgrounds, markets and beaches — are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are irrefutably war crimes. Like the My Lai massacre, Israel's attack on Gaza represented a form of collective punishment carried out against a civilian population.
Israel has the strongest military in the Middle East. The U.S. government guarantees Israel a "qualitative military edge" with the most technologically advanced army, navy and air force funded by $3 billion annually in U.S. taxpayer aid. In contrast, resistance fighters in Gaza have no army, navy or air force. They are limited to primitive missiles, mortars, small arms and tunnel warfare. Most of Israel's 73 casualties were soldiers. Seven were civilians, including one child. Hamas also committed war crimes in firing missiles against Israeli civilians, but the U.S. government is not funding Hamas.
Some people ask me why I am anti-Israel. If I criticized human rights violations in China, would that make me anti-China? If I criticized human rights violations in this country, would that make me anti-American? I oppose the Israeli government's deliberate targeting of noncombatants, like four boys playing soccer on a beach. So did thousands of Israelis who demonstrated in Tel Aviv. I support the Palestinian people's struggle for freedom and justice. My tax dollars are being used to carry out massacres, and for that I am both ashamed and outraged.