The central image of this disturbingly apocalyptic poster is a towering automaton made up of guns, gas mask canisters, armor, rifle barrels, ammunition magazines, and other military paraphernalia. The robot-soldier wears a Roman tunic and legionnaire’s breastplate while wielding a sword in one hand and dangling a cherub-like child in the other.
A mother is on her knees in the lower left hand corner, pleading with the robot-soldier to spare the life of her child. Her hand reaches out for the blade, recalling the traditional role of women as nurturers and peacemakers. Another child, in the lower right hand corner, is tethered to the automaton’s tunic as a sign that it, too, will be sacrificed to the mindless god of war.
The poster cannot be viewed as a call to “stop” conflict in general. Rather, Stop It! is a specific condemnation of the hyper-militarization of Israeli society. An Israeli himself, Kalderon is speaking here not only of the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), but also of the loss of his country’s soul. He is commenting on the fact that in the pursuit of security and empire, Israel has lost its way. Through the stark contrast of a futuristically armed fighting machine and naked, vulnerable infants, the artist is saying that the very strength of Israel’s military — and its willingness to use that strength against any enemy, real or imagined — reveals just how insecure Israel is and how deep are its doubts about its own founding myths.
When viewed as an integrated composition, the figures in the poster create a traditional family unit (a woman, a man, and two infants), one that is sacrificing its young and thereby threatening its very future. This brings to mind the infamous quote by former Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir: “We may forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we will never forgive them for making us kill their children.” The poster extends her quote: “We may never forgive ourselves for killing our own children.”
In a fascinating though obscure detail, a graphic fragment of the U.S. Capitol’s dome forms a tiara that is falling off her head, obscuring her vision. This perhaps is a reference to the role of Israel’s allies in the U.S. Congress and the hasbara (Hebrew: Israel advocacy, solidarity in the U. S.) movement that increasingly counts among its major supporters the conservative Christian movement. Their support for Israel has enabled its militarization and has blinded it to the inclusive, tolerant, and compassionate aspects of Jewish identity.
The pleading, desperate parent is also a metaphor for the vulnerability and weakness of the Israeli left in terms of influencing U.S.-Israel policy. The Israeli left includes a broad span of people: intellectuals, artists, students, members of the Knesset, professors, IDF veterans, rabbis, workers, and a vast galaxy of creative, courageous women’s groups such as Women in Black. Within its own country, the Israeli left is far more formidable and politically well organized than the American left is in the U.S.
However, the Israeli left has rarely if ever been able to connect with the American left or to develop a credible presence on Capitol Hill. In Washington, Israel’s security is seen as a sacrosanct, existential issue. The idea of inviting a critical perspective, even one emanating from Israeli veterans and women’s peace groups, is anathema to the American politicians who sit on Congressional foreign military and economic aid committees.
At a June 14, 2003 gathering of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Ralph Nader, a leading consumer and environmental advocate and an American of Lebanese descent, made his first-ever public remarks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He had this to say about the dearth of dialogue and dissent on this issue within the United States:
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Questions for A New
1) What is the total amount of U.S. military aid to Israel from 1967 to the present?
2) Where did Israel acquire its major weapons prior to its military agreements with the U.S.?
3) The U.S. supplies Israel with advance Apache attack helicopters, though Congress places strict limits placed on their use. What are these limits? If Israel is in technical and actual violation of these limits, as many claim, why has not Congress demanded their return?
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