Tornadoes, terrorism and a myth of US aid to Israel

Oklahomans empathize with Israelis at the mercy of sirens and anti-Israel myths pervade.

Damaged house from mortar attack 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Damaged house from mortar attack 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Every Friday morning in Oklahoma City, a siren wails. The piercing shrieks that the siren emits are a test of the system that warns of an impending tornado that threatens the city. When Oklahoma residents hear this siren at any other time, they have between two and twenty minutes to find refuge in an underground shelter.
Tornadoes can form suddenly, with little or no warning. Even a mini-tornado can leave devastation and death in its wake. The immense power of these natural storms is documented in a May 2011 report on the tornado that swept through Joplin, Missouri, killing 122 people.
The tornado threat became apparent to me while I was lecturing at Oklahoma State University as part of Sderot Media Center’s 7th North America Campus tour, sponsored by The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America - CAMERA.
Oklahoma State University students who attended the November 2011 CAMERA event saw SMC’s films of Israelis running for cover from aerial attacks launched from Gaza and were able to identify with the people they saw running for their lives, with only seconds to get to shelter. Students mentioned that just hearing the weekly tornado warning test siren can be traumatizing in and of itself.
Oklahoma State University students’ descriptions of what it is like to live under the constant threat of destruction and possible death are similar to what we have heard and personally experienced in Sderot over the past decade.
The only difference is that tornadoes emanate from Mother Nature and cannot be stopped, while terror attacks come from human beings who violate the basic norms of human nature.
Indeed, aerial attacks from Gaza are monitored by modern technology that triggers an alert system. Israeli citizens who hear the Code Red alarm have between 15 and 45 seconds (not minutes) to reach shelter. Unlike tornadoes, terrorist attacks are planned and carried out by humans whose uncompromising war on Israel cannot be understood or accepted.
The Myth of US Aid to Israel
Many pro-Palestinian activists focus on ‘American Aid to Israel’. Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise Mitchell G. Bard summarizes one aspect of this myth that US aid exists at the expense of American industry.
While taking the subway on my way to college campuses in New York, I noticed a sign on one of the stations - ‘END US MILITARY AID TO ISRAEL’ - a political sign paid for by Jewish activists from the organization called ‘Two People One Future’. This group fails to mention US aid to the Palestinian Authority.
According to the US State Department, in 2010 the US gave $500 million to the PA, making the Palestinians among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid.
How about mentioning last year’s US–Saudi Arms deal of $60 billion in advanced aircraft?
They forget to mention the fact that 74 percent of American aid to Israel is spent in the United States in order to generate profits and jobs in more than 1,000 companies in 46 states.
Oklahoma is one of the states which receive many of these funds (Foreign Military Financing (FMF)) and provide hundreds of jobs for local residents in Oklahoma City.
These facts and truths don’t mater to Israel’s critics. In fact, during my lecture on OSU’s campus, there was an event in the next room organized by ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ who were reading ‘poems’ written by Palestinians who claim to have witnessed the shootings of children by “settlers” armed with guns provided by America.
Yet another myth with no basis in reality.
The writer is a photojournalist, lecturer and founder/director of Sderot Media Center ( He has conducted briefings and tours for government officials, diplomats, foreign press, and students from around the world.