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Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010

Billboard Calls Attention to Israel’s Occupation of Palestine

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Can one billboard on Milwaukee’s North Side bring peace to the Middle East?

Not likely, but that’s not the sponsors’ intention.

Sister Virgine Lawinger, a Racine Dominican nun and the chair of Friends of Palestine, said the group hopes that the billboard will raise awareness of the ongoing crisis in Palestine and its ripple effect on the Middle East.

The text reads: “End Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Stop $8 million in daily U.S. aid.” It directs viewers to bear-witness.net, which has links to position papers, articles about the Palestinian occupation and notices of meetings and events.

Lawinger said it’s hard to measure the impact of the billboard, but added that it is part of the group’s efforts to educate Americans about the occupation.

“The kind of response that we hope is happening,” Lawinger said, “is that people look at that billboard and perhaps never paid much attention to that issue before, but somewhere in their brain is deposited the thought, ‘Is that so? Why would our government give them all of that money? What’s in it for the U.S.? What’s our interest there?’”

Joyce Guinn, secretary of the Friends of Palestine, said the broader mission to bring about peace and justice in the Middle East is undercut by U.S. financial support for Israel.

“We are complicit in it because of the amount of money that we provide the government, the arms and money,” Guinn said.

The billboard is posted on 35th Street and Silver Spring, but will be taken down when its monthlong run ends.