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Israeli apartheid challenged by ad campaign, ads abruptly pulled

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Created and paid for by a local non-profit organisation, these ads in Boston’s subway system revealed the extent of Israeli human rights violations in Palestine. Their sudden removal by the transit authority raises accusations of double standards. By Sya Taha.

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Imagine walking into the subway station one morning, still bleary-eyed since you haven’t had your coffee, and seeing posters with a single prominent word:

“Homeless”

“Stolen”

“Violence”

If you work long hours and don’t have the time to read lengthy articles in the news – let alone filter out the facts from propaganda – these ads are a jarringly quick way to learn about the nature of Israeli occupation in Palestine.

Ads Against Apartheid (AAA), a Boston non-profit organisation, has been running several poster campaigns that illustrate “atrocities against the Palestinian people everywhere”, especially Israeli human rights violations. Each ad consists of a stark image and a quote or statistic taken from an organisation widely perceived as reputable, such as the United Nations, US State Department and major Israeli newspapers. In addition to one Boston subway station, the ads are also run on billboards and in newspapers in the US. AAA believes that their campaigns will create a “more accurate understanding” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the US, leading eventually to a shift in US policy.

So far, there have been four poster campaigns: a comparison of the situation in occupied Palestinian territories with South Africa under apartheid (‘Israeli Apartheid vs S African Apartheid’), a series of quotes from Nelson Mandela, and two series that challenge Israel’s rhetoric of peace and democracy by showing its contradictory acts of land-grabbing (‘Peace or Land’) and imprisonment of Palestinian children (‘Palestinian children’).

These ads have made headlines of their own in Palestine and Israel. Chadi Salamoun, the president of AAA, stated that “If the ads are shocking, that’s because the reality on the ground is shocking.”

The ads didn’t last long, however, before they were suddenly taken down by the Massachusetts Transport Bay Authority (MTBA). According to AAA, no explanation was given by MTBA, nor was any notice given. The contractor in charge of advertising for MTBA later informed AAA that the ads were pulled because they were deemed “demeaning or disparaging”.

“There is certainly a double standard here,” said Mr Salamoun. “Our ads present facts cited by respectable institutions. The MBTA has allowed anti-Palestinian groups to display opinionated messages that border on hate-speech.”

Richard Colbath-Hess, co-founder of AAA, questioned the decision. “If an ad can be removed for being ‘demeaning’ and ‘subjective,’ then why weren’t these ads removed? Aren’t they demeaning to Palestinians?”

“I’m Jewish, and I don’t support Israeli apartheid.”

AAA is now working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Boston to challenge the MTBA’s decision.

Ads Against Apartheid is only able to bring their work to the public through paid advertising. To help fund another season of ads, donate to the campaign

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