Chico billboard triggers controversy

Aug 27, 2014 7:19 PM by Brian Johnson

Back here in the North State, a billboard located on the Esplanade in Chico is generating controversy with the local Jewish community.

The sign says "The United States supports Israel killing children," accompanied by an image of a young child, bloodied and injured.

"It's one sided, and it's distorted and taken out of context, and furthermore it's inflammatory and hurtful," said Rabbi Julie Danan, with Congregation Beth Israel.

Lucy Cooke, of Butte Valley, is the one who had the billboard put up after watching the news one late July morning.

"The US is supporting Israel in this, [the] killing of children," said Cooke. "You know the weapons come from us. So if I say nothing, I'm complicit."

But Danan isn't complicit with Cooke's message, which she said distorts reality.

"Israel is defending its citizens against rocket attacks from a vicious terrorist group Hamas that embeds itself among innocent civilians, including women and children," Danan said.

Danan also said it has created pain for some in her community.

That's surprising, she said, because Chico is such a warm and tolerant community.

"And to suddenly have a message like that on our streets has been very distressing," Danan said.

"I wanted to have impact," said Cooke. "What was going on was offensive. My billboard is mild compared to what Israel did to Gaza."

But Rabbi Danan said more than just having a negative impact, it sets us back.

"I've worked here in Chico for 11 years to seek greater understanding between Jews, Christians, and Muslims about the things that divide us," Danan said. "But a billboard like this just divides people further."

Both agree people will come together, and peace will be made, around the negotiating table.

Cooke said she plans to reach out to Danan.

"Israel is driving drunk," Cooke said. "Friends don't let friends drive drunk, they say something. My billboard is my saying something."

Danan said the dialogue between the two would have to be a two-way street.

"I just don't feel this sign is about Ms. Cooke and I agreeing or disagreeing. It's much larger than that," Danan said.

Cooke said this sign will only be up for a few more days, but she'll put up another similar sign next month.

Danan said she wants to do more than just respond to local provocateurs, but keep engaging in broad and open-hearted dialogue.


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