By Rob Nielsen
Alison Weir told an audience there’s more to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than most Americans know during an International forum at USD on Wednesday.
“We get a great deal of Israel-Palestine reporting in the media,” Weir said. “Sometimes we get more reporting on this issue than some local issues of significance. I feel less often we learn about the American connection.”
Weir, executive director of If Americans Knew and president of the Council for the National Interest, told the Plain Talk Wednesday that she has been no stranger to controversy as she’s travelled the country speaking on the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“There’s always been an effort by Israeli partisans to defame me,” Weir said. “To misrepresent who I am and what I do and to try and prevent people from having the chance. Usually once a talk is announced, they have not been able to get it cancelled, but it’s disappointing they almost succeeded in Brookings.”
Weir was referring to a forum to be held in Brookings Wednesday night in which the original sponsor of her lecture backed out.
“The World Affairs Council is claiming they couldn’t find a balancing speaker,” she said. “They never said that to us at the beginning. I gave them a number of pro-Israeli speakers that could’ve easily supplied speakers. They could’ve got a speaker at a moment’s notice so I don’t think that was really a truthful explanation.”
During her lecture at USD, Weir pointed out that over $8 million in U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel each day. Weir also gave basic background of the creation of Israel and recounted a trip she took to Palestine in 2000.
Weir said she first became involved in speaking out about Israel nearly 13 years ago.
“I got curious about it in fall of 2000 when the second Palestinian uprising began,” she said. “I began following the news coverage just to learn what Israel-Palestine was about. When I did that, I noticed the coverage seemed very one-sided and that we heard mostly from Israelis and very little from Palestinians. As I learned more, it seemed to me this was the most covered up issue I’d ever seen.”
As the uprising continued, Weir quit her job as a newspaper editor and visited the Palestinian territories. Following her visit she made it a point to make Americans aware of what she’d seen.
Former U.S. Sen. Jim Abourezk, who was also in attendance at Wednesday’s forum, said Weir’s message of what happens with tax dollars needs to be heard by more people.
“It’s our tax money that’s going to Israel that’s being used to beat up on the Palestinians,” Abourezk said. “Israel’s become the bully of the Middle East and we’re helping them with money and support.”
Weir said the issue has become so polarizing for Americans due to strong pro-Israeli lobbies and a lack of knowledge on the subject.
“There’s a group (of people) that are fanatically pro-Israel and work to do everything they can to prevent the whole information getting to the American public,” she said. “The rest of us don’t know much about it, don’t want to offend friends that might be very pro-Israel and so most of us don’t get involved and don’t really learn that we are involved in it.”