By Camille Russell
Alison Weir, author of the Amazon bestseller Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel (2014) and founder of If Americans Knew, spoke to a full house at Clovis Community College on Sept. 18. Her topic was “Uncovered: Israel’s Occupation of Palestine.” The crowd was diverse with a mix of college students and community members. GV Wire videotaped and live-streamed the event, which can be viewed on its Facebook page.
An Aug. 30 article in the Fresno Bee reported that international, national and local pro-Israel and Jewish groups contacted the college, calling Weir anti-Semitic and making other charges against her, which she denies. In response, the college withdrew its invitation to Weir.
However, GV Wire, a local independent media organization, agreed to host Weir and rented the college’s Forum Hall. GV Wire, too, was asked to cancel the event but refused. Darius Assemi of GV Wire defended its decision to host Weir. He stated that “GV Wire doesn’t ‘endorse’ speakers or their messages at our public forums. It will continue the Israeli-Palestinian discussion by inviting a speaker who will explain the deadly realities in this region from the Jewish perspective.”
Weir’s focus was on the American connection to the Israel/Palestine conflict. She said that “Americans receive a great deal of information about the conflict but what is significant is that a great deal is left out. We hear about the number of Israeli children killed—enormously tragic. But, we rarely hear about the number of Palestinian children killed during the same time period—also enormously tragic.”
She showed a chart comparing side by side the number of Israeli and Palestinian children killed during the same time period. She continued, “In the round of violence that began in 2000 you’ll notice that 91 Palestinian children were killed before a single Israeli child was killed. The media always tells us that Israelis are defending themselves.”
Weir later explained how she got involved on the Palestine/Israel issue.
“Many people ask how I became involved because I’m not Muslim or Jewish or Arab. My background is Christian. Like most Americans I thought I had no connection to this issue. It seemed far away and confusing. But in the fall of 2000 when the second Intifada, which means uprising, began, I grew curious about the issue. At that time, I was the editor of a small newspaper in Sausalito.
“As a journalist, I quickly noticed that I was getting information about the Israeli side of the issue. I wanted to hear the whole story so I decided to go on the Internet. I found excellent information daily from the region from many sources. I learned that Israeli soldiers were shooting and often killing unarmed civilians every day in large numbers.
“I also discovered that the U.S. government was giving massive amounts of money to the Israeli government and had for decades. Currently it’s over $10 million per day—about seven times more per capita than we give to any other country. I realized that this was the most covered up issue I’d seen. The cover-up had lasted longer and, with very few exceptions, was across the political spectrum from left to right and from the liberal media to the conservative media.
“I quit my job and went by myself as a freelance reporter to see what was happening in the West Bank and Gaza. I found a land that was under siege. Some neighborhoods were shelled nightly. Entire orchards were being destroyed by Israel, some belonging to farmers whose families had been on the land for many generations.
“I saw children who had been shot in their stomachs, teeth, backs, chests, legs and heads. I went to funerals. On my second visit, I saw the wall that is imprisoning Palestinians further and the Kafkaesque way that you get in and out of Bethlehem. I saw a land and a people that were being destroyed by my tax money. To me, that’s newsworthy.
“So when I came back from my first trip I started the nonprofit If Americans Knew. Some people criticize me because I tell every American that I possibly can the facts on this issue and I will continue to do that.
“In a democracy, the most powerful institution is the news media because that’s where we get the information that makes us think we know about things, especially internationally.
“One of the first things that If Americans Knew did was conduct a study of media coverage. We wanted a study that would be as immune to subjective bias as possible so we looked at the records of deaths among children from both populations. Using largely Israeli records, we tabulated the number of children killed the first year of the uprising, September 2000 to September 2001, and created charts reporting on children’s deaths during that period and major U.S. media coverage of those deaths.”
Weir followed this narrative with information from her book Against Our Better Judgment. A Q&A session and book signing followed the presentation. Weir brought more than two dozen free booklets, cards and informational flyers. One of the most widely circulated items is a postcard handout that shows the Palestinian loss of land from 1947 to the present.
Many in the audience expressed their interest on the issue.
Nick Anderson, a student at Clovis Community College, said, “I’m a history major and it was interesting to hear an opposing viewpoint from what I’ve read in most history books.”
Saul Dominquez, a Fresno resident, heard about the event from a friend, “The detailed history was great. It makes me want to talk with others about what I learned.”
David Jacobs, outreach director of We Hold These Truths, and a friend brought signs challenging Christian Zionism. Jacobs said, “I encourage people to go to our Web site.”
Reza Nekumanesh, executive director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, said, “What really surprised me was the visuals mapping the numbers of victims on a monthly basis, differentiating victims with different sized characters.”
“It was exciting to see how many people came to hear me for themselves,” said Weir, “instead of being scared away by the misinformation that was being spread about me. I was extremely pleased with the event.”
Camille Russell is Peace Fresno vice president for publicity and a member of the Community Alliance Nonprofit Board. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.