Who is Behind Seattle's Anti-Israel Bus Campaign?
by FSM: ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH
December 21, 2010
A news report from King-5 reported that in King County, Seatle, a bus poster campaign will commence on December 27. This campaign will showcase the slogan: “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work.” The posters are the brainchild of a group called the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign.
The news report quoted from a man named Ed Mast, who is a spokesperson for the group. He also featured in the TV interview (below). Mast was asked if the posters were inflammatory. He sniffed and responded:
“The intention is not to inflame. The intention is to educate and raise awareness.”
Mast also said:
“I wouldn't say it's an anti-Israel message any more than any complaint about a country is anti-that country. We would like Israel to stop violating human rights. We would like Israel to give equal rights to its Palestinian citizens and its Palestinian subjects who live under occupation.”
According to Hilary Bernstein of the Pacific Northwest office of the Anti-Defamation League, the campaign is
“more in support of an agenda that is all about delegitimizing Israel and demonizing Israel.”
So who is Ed Mast, and what is the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign? Mast is originally from California, now resident in Seattle and he is a playwright. His plays include works for children such as “Jungalbook” and “The Hobbitt” (I am currently unable to find out if Mast has gained copyright permission from the Saul Zaentz Company which owns rights to Tolkein’s works). Mast has been a fan of Tolkein’s fantasies since the age of 12. His futuristic play “S2” was panned by the Seattle Times.
In 2002, Mast received the annual human rights award of the United Nations Association of Seattle.
“The racism and colonialism of the Zionist movement, with its quest for an ethnic supremacist state, remain the fundamental causes of the current conflict.”
Back in March 2003, Ed Mast and Susan Barclay both of the ISM and both residents of Seattle, were in “Palestine” when Rachel Corrie – also of Seattle - positioned herself in front of a bulldozer and got killed. Mast was a “volunteer coordinator” for ISM, and was responsible for planning activities of Western activists. At that time, Barclay had been previously deported from Israel. She had openly boasted to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that she knowingly worked in February 2003 with representatives of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hizbollah. Barclay said: “We are open to working with any political party as long as they are interested in non-violent resistance. It's almost irrelevant who is participating.”
Rachel Corrie burning a home-made American flag in Rafah, Gaza, February 15, 2003.
At that time, Hamas was engaged in a particularly bloody campaign of suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. Barclay, who had previously described herself as a “political prisoner of Israel,” had sat in the homes of suicide bombers in “solidarity.” Since 2007, Barclay has been employed by Seattle Central Community College as an “Educational and Anthropological Consultant”. For someone who asserted that Hamas was “interested in non-violent resistance,” one wonders what “anthropological” information she promotes. She apparently does bring her political opinions into her classes.
Mast, when he is not writing plays, writes articles. He also co-wrote a screenplay for a 1985 movie that received 3. 7 out of 10 in IMDB’s rating system. In May this year, he described the establishment of Israel as a Palestinian catastrophe, declaring “For Palestinians, this total destruction of a culture was a kind of holocaust.” Seattle’s answer to Shakespeare has even penned a poem dedicated to Rachel Corrie. I am not a critic, but it is easy for a reader to empathise with this line: “Did he retch, did he vomit, did he sob, did he shout?”
Ed Mast, by reason of his literary reputation and his historic association with the International Solidarity Campaign (which published a faked photo to “authenticate” the narrative of Corrie being “murdered” by evil Israeli oppressors) seems a politically appropriate figure to be a spokesperson for the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign. However, he is not the person who is officially behind this group. That honor must go to another figure.
Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign
Yesterday, a check on the website advertised in the proposed posters declared: “Saw a bus ad? Drove by a billboard? Yep, that was ours.”
signed a Memorandum of Understanding in August 2007 committing the U.S. to give Israel $30 billion in military aid over the next decade.
The site goes on to accuse Israel of war crimes, but makes no mention of the war crimes of Hamas or Hizbollah, groups which are funded by the rogue state of Iran. The website suggests lobbying of congressional representatives, suggests that donations should be made to the group, and offers links to resources, so that readers can “educate” themselves. The site claims Israel “has stolen Palestinian land for Jewish settlement and colonization” and states that:
The solution to this conflict is simple and has been clearly stated for decades, but the U.S. and Israeli governments have refused to accept its terms: Israel must end its military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza and remove ALL OF ITS its soldiers, settlements and settlers from Palestinian land to the 1967 borders, in addition to complying with International Law and all outstanding UN resolutions on this conflict. The only thing that has made this complicated has been Israeli/American attempts to get Palestinians to accept far less than a just solution.
One of its linked sites, “Friends of Sabeel” has a succession of maps which are recommended as “useful.. to accompany your readings.” The first of these shows “Palestine” in 1946. This is ridiculous. Palestine has never been an independent state. The region now comprising Israel and “Palestinian territories” was a territory of the Ottoman Empire until the time of World War I and went into the custody of the British – the Palestinian mandate. The virtually solid area of green is progressively replaced by areas of white which are labeled as “Israel” even in the 1947 map – a year before Israel was voted into existence at the United Nations. Palestinian apologists and facts do not mix easily, it seems.
The registrant for the web domain of the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign appears to be none other than Mark Eichinger-Wiese. As the Seattle Mideast Awareness Camp is claiming non-profit status, it appears in the business registry for Washington State, here and here. The registrant is Mark Eichinger-Wiese, and the company was registered in May 2010. His PO Box is PO BOX 17857, the same as the PO Box for Mark E-W.
Mark Eichinger-Wiese is described on various online links as a photographer and a website designer, and has a web group called Eichinger.biz. Eichinger is connected with St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Cathedral church for the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.
Currently he is listed as being in need of prayers (pdf) but more worryingly, Eichinger-Wiese is listed as holding a position in the church “leadership guide” (pdf). He is the co-head of the St Mark's Cathedral "Mideast Focus Group" with Brenda Bentz. Ms Bentz and the church feature prominently on the events schedule of Ed Mast’s “Palestine Information Project.”
On the Washington state-based website of the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, there are no links to groups that are overtly “Islamic.” This gives the impression that the group is campaigning from a position of “morality and justice,” rather than being manipulated by the same elements that influenced the International Solidarity Campaign shortly after it was founded in August 2001.
It is deeply worrying that a church – albeit an unusual church (its last archbishop was openly gay) – should be involving itself in campaigns which do seek to boycott Israel. Ed Mast’s Palestine Information Project is blatantly political, and makes no mention of Hamas or Hizbollah. This is more worrying, considering the manner in which the International Solidarity Campaign (ISM) when Ed Mast was a volunteer coordinator involved Western volunteers to mix with and support relatives of - and actual - terrorists of Hamas and Hizbollah. The statement of purpose of the Palestinian Information Project is entirely biased against Israel, and places no blame upon the Palestinian factions who continue to engage in terrorism. ISM was and is an organization that supported armed struggle against Israel.
Ed Mast’s site links to the Electronic Intifada, whose website is registered to Ali Abunimah, based in Chicago, Illinois. Ali Abunimah argued in 2007 that the Iranian-funded terrorist groups Hamas and Hizbollah were not really terrorist, and should be politically “engaged with.” He wrote:
Hamas and Hizballah emerged in the context of brutal Israeli invasions and military occupations. Their popular support and legitimacy have increased as they demonstrated their ability to present a credible veto on the unrestrained exercise of Israeli power where state actors, international bodies, the peace process industry and secular nationalist resistance movements notably failed.
As their influence has grown, both movements have steadily tempered their universalist Islamist rhetoric and adopted the language and imagery of classical national liberation struggles albeit with an Islamist identity. A political path that was pioneered by Hizballah of recasting its Islamist identity and goals within the constraints imposed by pluralist national politics is now being trodden by Hamas.
Contrary to the oft-repeated claim that Hamas inflexibly seeks the complete conquest of Palestine and the expulsion of all Jews (aka "the destruction of Israel"), the movement has moved over time to explicitly endorse a generation-long truce with Israel and unspecified future political arrangements that will be the outcome of negotiations.
When Hamas removes the clauses calling for the destruction of Israel and celebrating the killing of Jews by Muslims from its charter, Ali Abunimah’s words may have more credibility. When Gilad Shalit is freed by Hamas and Qassem rockets stop being fired at Sderot and other Israeli towns, Hamas may be considered to be on the road to “engagement” with the developed world.
The Hub of The Campaign
If the issue of the Seattle billboard campaigns and bus posters were to be viewed as a solely local affair confined to Washington state, it would be serious enough. The campaign demonizes Israel and could lead to attacks against Jewish American citizens. Its main representatives claim not to be anti-Semitic, but engage in a campaign whose aim is entirely anti-Israeli. It is shocking that a Cathedral leader should be involved in supporting such a campaign. The left are always keen to demonize “Islamophobia” but never so ready to condemn anti-Semitism.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign is just an offshoot of a larger group, that is based in New Mexico. This group is the “Coalition to Stop $30 billion to Israel.” It has been in existence since at least January 17, 2009, when it was still being developed (pdf). At that time, the group was trying to get the support of J-Street for its campaign. The two co-founders of this group were said to be Lori Rudolph and Rich Forer, though Forer appears to have subsequently left the organization.
On April 8, 2009 (pdf) around Albuquerque, the group set up ten billboards around Albuquerque. The billboards were put up under a two month contract with Lamar Outdoor Advertising. Unlike Ed Mast who denied the Seattle bus notices were provocative, the Albuquerque group was more open in its intentions. It stated in a document (pdf):
The message was deliberately provocative and was intended to elicit a strong reaction from the opposition, which we hoped would lead to the type of controversy that generates publicity in the local media. This approach is designed (1) to raise awareness of the issue with the general public, (2) to serve an educational function, and (3) to ultimately lead to the broad-based political pressure that is essential if any fundamental change is to occur in U.S. policy regarding Israel.
These billboards showed an Israeli tank and a Palestinian girl wearing a Muslim headscarf, and carried the slogan: “Tell Congress: STOP KILLING CHILDREN – No More Military Aid to Israel.”
On April 21, 2009 (pdf), “peace activist” Cindy Sheehan gave her blessing to the posters. The groups making up the coalition then are the same as they are today: Amnesty International chapter 101, Another Jewish Voice-Albuquerque (AJV-ABQ), Another Jewish Voice-Santa Fe (AJV-SF), Irish Freedom Committee, Middle East Peace & Justice Alliance (MEPJA),
Muslim Women Outreach, New Mexico People’s Weekly Forum, Stop the War Machine, Albuquerque Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Social Concerns Committee, United Nations Association, Albuquerque Chapter (UNA), Veterans for Peace-Albuquerque, Veterans for Peace-Santa Fe.
The billboards which mentioned “killing children” were removed by Lamar Outdoor Advertising after three weeks of the eight week contract, after it had received numerous complaints. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink offered help to the group.
However, in December 2009, a new series of billboards appeared in Albuquerque, with the same images, but a modified message. The revised slogan read: “Tell Congress: Spend Our $$ At HOME NOT ON THE ISRAELI MILITARY!’ These signs were erected with the assistance of Del Outdoor Advertising, a company based in Yuma, Arizona.
To celebrate the new billboards, a video was made by Susan Schuurman of the group, in which Albuquerque residents supported the human rights of all Palestinians and against the plan to send $30 billion to Israel over a decade. Schuurman belongs to the Coalition, and recently was a signatory to a new sanctions-busting Flotilla to Gaza. Her video is below:
Susan Schuurman gave her name and contact email at the foot of the document describing the erection of the New Mexico, offering assistance to others who wish to set up similar billboards. Two other names appear, offering help: Hebah Ahmed and Armen Chakerian. According to Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, Chakerian is a leading figure in the Albuquerque-based group “Middle East Peace and Justice Alliance,” which supports sanctions against Israel and displays Susan Schuurman’s video.
The website of the “Coalition to Stop $30 billion to Israel” again features as its poster child the image of the girl in Islamic headscarf, who was originally photographed in Old Jerusalem by Katya Medler-Boym. The child was with her mother when photographed, certainly not on the receiving end of tanks, and was not being “killed” by Israelis.
A quick search into the ownership of the website reveals that the registrant for the site is called Sarah Ahmed of the Stop 30 Billion Coalition, which is based in Edgewood, New Mexico. This woman Sarah Ahmed appears to be the same person featured in a New York Times article from June 2010 (pictured below). Sarah Ahmed is a sister of Hebah Ahmed, and both cover themselves entirely in Islamic robes, with their faces obscured by face-veils (niqabs). Sarah Ahmed prays at the Islamic Center of New Mexico, in Albuquerque.
The “Coalition to Stop $30 billion to Israel” has a Facebook page, with one New Mexico-based poster giving references to Ali Abunimah (Twitter ID: avinunu) and his lectures and his blogsite, where he expresses his contempt for “racist Zionist apartheid Israel.”
Originally I was investigating the story of the Seattle bus campaign, where I was alarmed to find a local Episcopalian Cathedral involved with blatantly anti-Israeli political campaigns. I am less surprised to find people like Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin supporting an anti-Israeli campaign, and finding two fully-covered Muslim women involved in an anti-Israeli campaign is also not surprising. Though he is praised and admired by representatives of this movement, I can find no direct link between Ali Abunimah and the billboard campaigns. However, he is the ideologue whose views inspire the movement.
Abunimah’s book One Country is recommended by people behind the “Coalition to Stop $30 billion to Israel” Facebook group. This tome suggests that Israel should be replaced by a secular state where Jews and Palestinians live in peace. This notion appeals to liberals and leftists, though by its nature it would mean the destruction of Israel. Abunimah’s description of Hamas and Hizbollah as being on the road to dialogue and compromise (quoted above) is a distortion of inconvenient facts to fit his theory.
In Seattle Ed Mast still links to the International Solidarity Movement, even though its representatives have historically liaised with terrorists. His website maintains that Israel has a right to exist. Mark Eichinger-Wiese similarly writes that he is not against Israel, but the effect of the billboards that will appear on December 27 in Seattle will be to publicly demonize Israel. Seattle and Olympia diocese, home of Rachel Corrie, have a history of pro-Palestinian activism, and former ISM activists still have influence in the region. But the activities of these people, and the politically correct St. Mark’s Cathedral seem mild compared to the activists of New Mexico.
One thing has remained elusive – the source of the funding for these anti-Zionist campaigns…