Citizen Action Monitor

Canadian Palestine Awareness Coalition responds to angry Jewish groups over Vancouver transit’s Palestine ads

Coalition asks: Are ads of “Disappearing Palestine” maps anti-Semitic?

No 844 Posted by fw, September 4, 2013

“Jewish groups have declared strong opposition to the ads, which are displayed at a wall mural in a Vancouver SkyTrain station as well as on 15 buses, and have tried to have TransLink, a government agency, remove them. ‘We’re disappointed that TransLink decided to run them,’ Anita Bromberg, national director of legal affairs for B’nai Brith, said in an interview from Toronto. “It is contrary to their own rules and regulations,” she said, as advertisements ‘shouldn’t be derogatory of any one group, and the innuendo, the common understanding, would be to be very derogatory of Israel and its supporters.’” —Anita Bromberg, B’nai Brith

“Hani Faris, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, argued the ads simply show “statements of fact” and the groups are overreacting. . ‘Those who did the ads did not violate any political standards that would be common and acceptable to Canadians … They remain within the confines of the law concerning political expression and advertisements, and to say that they are against the Jewish people I think, personally, is with no grounds and I find it rather obnoxious,’ he said.” Hani Faris, UBC

The following post includes three reports published recently about the controversy caused by the public display in Vancouver of “Disappearing Palestine” ads. Angry Jewish groups claim the ads are “very derogatory of Israel and its supporters.” Charlotte Kates of the Palestine Awareness Coalition rebuts this allegation saying “it’s particularly important that people in Vancouver and other Canadian cities learn about what’s happening in Palestine now and what’s happened there historically.”

Here are the three stories —

Disappearing Palestine Ads On TransLink Anger Jewish Groups, By Kim Nursall, The Canadian Press, Posted August 28, 2013

VANCOUVER – A controversial ad campaign on Vancouver’s transit system showing the territory of Palestine shrinking into the state of Israel will run in other Canadian cities this fall, says the coalition behind the images.

“We do know that in other Canadian cities, for example in Toronto and in Calgary, there will be ads” running sometime this fall sponsored by advocates in those cities, said Charlotte Kates, a spokeswoman for seven Vancouver-based groups calling themselves the Palestine Awareness Coalition.

Kates said the images, which went up in Vancouver on Tuesday, show the steady occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel. The coalition got the idea for the “Disappearing Palestine” campaign from similar ads that have run in American cities like New York, Seattle and San Francisco.

“We wanted to draw attention to and shed light on the ongoing human rights violations … against Palestinians,” she said.

“The Canadian government has been such a strong voice in support of Israel … so we think it’s particularly important that people in Vancouver and other Canadian cities learn about what’s happening in Palestine now and what’s happened there historically.”

Jewish groups have declared strong opposition to the ads, which are displayed at a wall mural in a Vancouver SkyTrain station as well as on 15 buses, and have tried to have TransLink, a government agency, remove them.

“We’re disappointed that TransLink decided to run them,” Anita Bromberg, national director of legal affairs for B’nai Brith, said in an interview from Toronto.

“It is contrary to their own rules and regulations,” she said, as advertisements “shouldn’t be derogatory of any one group, and the innuendo, the common understanding, would be to be very derogatory of Israel and its supporters.”

“In this day and age, where such supporters could be the target of hate, of violence or other acts of mischief, we feel that that regulation of TransLink should be interpreted quite broadly, understanding what the circumstances are around a campaign like this.”

However, TransLink said in a statement posted to its website Tuesday that the ads will stay up because they comply with Canadian advertising standards and do not violate any human rights.

TransLink said it does not endorse nor advocate any positions put forward by outside advertisers.

The ads, which cost $15,000, will run for four weeks.

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down aspects of TransLink’s policies that prohibited political advertising after a court battle between the agency, the Canadian Federation of Students and the B.C. Teachers Federation.

“The Supreme Court was very clear, in nearly an identical case except for the content of the ads, that TransLink as a government agency has got to respect freedom of expression,” Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said Wednesday.

“They’ve made this advertising service available on the sides of their buses and inside their buses, and they can’t deny that to people just because the content of the message is political,” he said. “It’s pretty cut-and-dry from our perspective.”

Bromberg said Jewish groups are very concerned that the ads may be coming to other Canadian cities, and said they’re reaching out to those transit authorities.

“The focus has been on TransLink and why they’re allowing the ads, but I think that there’s a broader picture,” she said. The pro-Palestinian coalition is “saying Israel is wiping Palestine, as they term it, off the map, but the reality is this is part of a campaign to do the opposite, and that’s using different techniques to wipe Israel off the map.”

However, Hani Faris, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, argued the ads simply show “statements of fact” and the groups are overreacting.

“Those who did the ads did not violate any political standards that would be common and acceptable to Canadians … They remain within the confines of the law concerning political expression and advertisements, and to say that they are against the Jewish people I think, personally, is with no grounds and I find it rather obnoxious,” he said.

But Stephen Schachter, the co-chair for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, argued that if advertisements targeted non-Jewish groups, the situation would be taken more seriously.

“I can think of all sorts of other kinds of advertising by other communities, whether it’s sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-other-ethnic or religious groups that would be” prohibited, he said.

“We have members of the Jewish community who say they are not going to use transit and are very concerned about safety issues as a result of this kind of advertising.”

Schachter said the current focus is on public awareness and he declined comment on whether his group might launch legal action against TransLink.

Bromberg added that launching a counter ad campaign is not in the works at the moment, but that may change.

“The importance is to let people know what the propaganda campaign is and public awareness, we hope, will make the difference.”

*****

Are “Disappearing Palestine” ads anti-Semitic? Independent Jewish Voices, August 30, 2013

Disappearing Palestine 2

This ad shows Israel’s continued expropriation of Palestinian land — an undeniable truth.

The ad on your left, which has been placed on 15 buses and the city Skytrain station in Vancouver by the Palestine Awareness Coalition, has been labelled as anti-Semitic and hateful by conservative Jewish organizations in Canada. These organizations are trying to use their only weapon to deflect against criticism of Israel: CENSORSHIP.

B’nai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, and friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto have all attacked the display of these ads, and some are threatening TransLink– responsible for approving and displaying the educational images– with lawsuits.

If you believe that censorship is wrong, call TransLink now at 604-953-3040 and congratulate them for having the courage to allow free speech and debate on this important moral issue. I’m also asking you to vote now in an online poll to show your support for keeping the ads up. We cannot let the Israel lobby use their bullying tactics to silence Palestinians and their supporters in Canada.

This isn’t the first time a poster in Canada has been attacked with the false charge of anti-Semitism. The Israel lobby successfully pressured university administrations to ban a poster depicting Israel’s war crimes on Gaza– arguing again that it incites violence towards Jews. As a Jew, I feel unsafe by what Israel is doing in my name to Palestinians, not by the non-violent resistance of Palestinians to Israel’s crimes. Stand on the right side of history with me. Tell TransLink NOW that the ads must stay up by calling 604-953-3040. We refuse to be bullied into silence!

Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy new year. Shana Tova!

Tyler LevitanTyler Levitan
Campaigns Coordinator
Independent Jewish V

*****

Unpublished letters from IJV-Vancouver members responding to Israel lobby attacks on ‘Disappearing Palestine’ ads, Independent Jewish Voices, [August 29. 2013]

Joanne Naiman, member of Independent Jewish Voices — In the recent article about TransLink ads re Israel/Palestine (“Grave concern’ over transit ads”, August 28) Mitchell Gropper, chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, is quoted as saying “I don’t think I’ve ever seen ads on our TransLink system that attack a section of our society. If the transit system will be used to attack Israel and the Jewish people, who is next?” Sorry, but anyone looking at the ads can see that these are maps of a part of the world far from Canada, and therefore have nothing to do with “our society” at all. A criticism of, say, the policies of the current government of Iran—which our federal government does regularly—is obviously not an attack on Iranian-Canadians. The attempt to conflate legitimate criticism of policies and actions of the state of Israel with the evil of anti-Semitism is a sad attempt to shut down debate about the reality of what is happening in that region. Congratulations to TransLink for displaying these ads. —

Marty Roth, member of Independent Jewish Voices — As a member of the coalition that arranged for the transportation ads that show Palestinian territory disappearing over the years and as someone who thinks of himself as a good Jew, I would like to answer the rabid response by mainstream Jewish organizations like Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, The Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and B’nai Brith, as exemplified by the “opinion piece” by Farid Rohani published in yesterday’s Sun.

But how do I answer responses that say nothing about the ads themselves, and refuse to acknowledge that there might be any problem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories other than the security of the state of Israel? How do I respond to statements accusing well-meaning critics of Israeli policy of endangering the Jewish population of Vancouver or causing young boys in yarmulkes to shrink from riding the Skytrain. The letter from B’nai Brith looks at a graphic that shows the radical expropriation of Palestinian territory over the years and claims that the people who put it up desire to see the state of Israel erased from the world. What an hysterical reaction; it’s certainly an instance of an old Hebrew adage that says “The accuser accuses himself.”

The ads were placed by socially conscious Vancouverites–Muslim, Christian and Jewish–who dare, in the face of powerful, organized opposition, to point to a great injustice that has been enacted in the Middle East. Most of the world agrees; the United Nations agrees. Farid Rohani notwithstanding, these ads have nothing to say about or do with the Jewish population of Vancouver.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I claim no ownership of such materials. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

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This entry was posted on September 4, 2013 by in information counterpower, moral & ethical counterpower and tagged .
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