“Thou shalt not utter a false report; put not thy hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” (Exodus 23:1)
A Vancouver public transport ad campaign has the local Jewish community up in arms. Entitled ‘Disappearing Palestine’, the campaign depicts a progressive series of maps, ostensibly showing the gradual takeover of an independent Palestinian entity by Israel. TransLink, the city’s transportation agency, maintains they are legally bound to run the campaign, but the head of Vancouver’s Jewish federation disagrees, according to The Times of Israel.
The group behind the ads, the Palestinian Awareness Coalition, announced the $15,000, 4-month-long campaign on Tuesday. In all, 15 bus posters and a large mural in a central Vancouver SkyTrain station show 4 maps, dated 1944 through 2012, illustrate the alleged “disappearance of Palestine due to Israeli occupation over the past 65 years.” The coalition plans to run similar ads in other Canadian cities in the coming months.
Marty Roth, 79, is a member of the coalition. As a Canadian Jew, he expressed his belief that Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people. He feels the campaign is an important part of spreading that message.
“This will be controversial with a number of traditional Jewish organizations that have tried to suppress the ads,” Roth claimed. “But TransLink has refused to agree with them, because these are educational ads that are well within national advertising guidelines and the Canadian Charter.”
One such group, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, charged that the ads are provocative and incite hatred towards the Jewish people and Israel. Mitchell Gropper, chair of the Federation, said, “This is of grave concern to our community at large, because the ads make the use of the buses unwelcome and unsafe.” Noting that Israeli buses are often targeted in terror attacks, he added, “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?”
TransLink prepared a statement, saying it had sought a “third-party legal opinion” who determined that the Supreme Court of Canada required them to allow the ad campaign. A policy of avoiding controversial ads had landed TransLink in legal hot water before. In 2006, TransLink lost its case in a B.C. Court of Appeals after refusing to run political ads by the B.C. Teachers Federation and the Canadian Federation of Students.
Gropper, however, who is himself a lawyer, disagrees. “TransLink has said the law required them to publish these ads,” he said, “but that is certainly not the case.”
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto issued a statement saying the group is “disturbed to learn about TransLink’s agreement to run historically distorted anti-Israel advertisements.”
“While Israel and the Palestinian Authority are currently engaged in peace negotiations to resolve their differences and reach a two-state solution, TransLink will be running ads that are provocative and incite hatred and contempt,” said group president Avi Benlolo.
The core of the controversy over the ads stems from its misrepresentation of history. While factually accurate, the ads are misleading. They depict British-controlled mandatory Palestine as an independent Palestinian-controlled entity, then imply that Israel overtook or conquered the land over 66 years. In reality, the 1917 Balfour declaration promised to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, which was partially fulfilled by the 1947 UN Partition Plan.
The Arabs rejected the partition plan and attacked the nascent state. The Armistice Lines of that war are what are commonly referred to today as “the 1967 borders.” Following another Arab-initiated attack on its territory, Israel took control of the Judea, Samaria and Gaza regions, as well as the Golan Heights, when it defeated its attackers. Despite repeated acts of Arab and Palestinian aggression, Israel has continually expressed its willingness to negotiate an agreement with the Palestinians. Currently, peace talks are on hold after three Palestinians were killed during a violent Palestinian protest following a recent Israeli arrest raid. It is not known when the talks, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, will resume.