Anti-Israel billboards draw lawmakers' ire

Greg Gross

Two billboards, which opponents called anti-Israeli, along Interstate 83 in northern York County prompted 14 Pennsylvania lawmakers to call for them to be taken down.

One billboard claims the United States sends $10 million in foreign aid to Israel each day while the second encourages motorists to learn more about Israel's unprovoked attack on a U.S. Navy vessel that killed 34 Americans in 1967.

"The roads of Pennsylvania are not the place for your ideological agenda to damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship," the 14 lawmakers wrote in a letter to Alison Weir, who heads the group If Americans Only Knew and is responsible for the billboards.

The lawmakers, in their letter, also called the billboards biased and noted Pennsylvania benefits from the aid in the form of nearly $4 billion in annual trade.

York County lawmakers who signed the letter, which is on letterhead from Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township,  are Reps. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township; Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township; Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg; Kate Klunk, R-Hanover; and Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, as well as Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township.

USS Liberty: In June 1967, Israeli aircraft and vessels launched a provoked attack on the lightly armed USS Liberty, an intelligence-gathering ship, as she steamed through international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 67 Americans and wounding 173.

The attack happened during the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, and Israeli officials claimed they mistook the American ship for an Egyptian vessel. Israel ended up compensating the United States, families of those who were killed and service members who were wounded.

In 2005, the USS Liberty Veterans Association submitted a report to the Department of Defense alleging Israel committed war crimes during the attack.

Lawmakers in their letter called the attack a low point in U.S.-Israeli relations and pointed to the strong bond the countries have since formed.

"Although your organization looks to incite anti-Israeli sentiment within our region, you have deliberately chosen to not tell the whole story of the conflict in the Middle East," the letter reads, noting Palestinian attacks that have claimed American lives.

Response: Weir issued her own letter in response to the one she received from the lawmakers.

She wrote that Israel receives 7,000 times as much U.S. aid per capita than any other country while also enjoying lower unemployment than is seen in the United States and free college tuition and health care. ​

"I am astonished that you found these billboards offensive, took time away from your legislative duties to craft your letter to us and am appalled by the rationales you provided for your objections," she wrote.

The billboard about foreign aid was taken down as scheduled in January, and the billboard about the Liberty is due to come down Tuesday.

— Reach Greg Gross at or on Twitter at @ggrossyd.