Footer Pages

Zionist Attacks on Billboards Degenerate into Smear Tactics, Censorship Calls

In the last 75 years, radio, television, and now the Internet, have radically altered the ways people are able to get their messages out to the public. Ironically, however, in America it seems to be the old fashioned billboard on the side of the road, highway, or railroad track that is most arousing Zionist jitters these days.

Over the past few years, billboard advertising campaigns have been launched in a number of cities calling for an end to US aid to Israel. Reaction from Zionists has varied from city to city. In 2010 Zionists in Seattle waged a successful campaign to halt ads timed to coincide with the second anniversary of Operation Cast Lead and which were contracted to appear on the sides of city busses. The ads bore the words “Israeli war crimes,” but were effectively killed before they even saw the light of day.

However, by spring of this year, things seemed to have changed somewhat. A series of billboards in Denver launched by The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel was met not with demands for removal, but by a counter campaign from the local chapter of Stand With Us, a pro-Israel organization. One SWU member, Dr. Shaul Gabbay, likened the “dueling billboards” in Denver to a somewhat spirited dinner conversation.

“Both perspectives are legitimate in terms of trying to influence the discourse here in the United States,” he said. “When you have just one voice, we make mistakes. When we have different and sometimes heated positions, then we can make better decisions.”

Fascinating! Israel supporters had progressed, so it appeared—from outright calls for censorship, such as was seen in Seattle, to at least putting on an appearance of being fair-minded and respectful of free speech, as portrayed in Denver.

And indeed, to Coalition members it seemed like a definite change in the wind had arrived, for they had fought long, hard battles with Israel supporters in an effort to get their ads accepted by billboard companies—battles going all the way back to 2009 when the Coalition put up its first billboards in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That campaign—featuring a picture of a young Palestinian girl and the words “Stop Killing Children: No More Military Aid to Israel”—got axed a mere three weeks into what had initially been a two month contract period.

Now, however, SWU seems, once again, to have done an about-face on the issue, and it isn’t only them. Recently the ADL criticized a New York-area billboard campaign showing dispossession of Palestinians from their land through a series of maps, and a New York Assembly member has called for the ads to be taken down. This controversy comes on the heels of the squelching of the Coalition’s recent Los Angeles campaign, a campaign featuring ads identical to the ones in Denver but which, as it turned out, met a far different fate.

The L.A. ads were contracted with CBS Outdoor Advertising, a subsidiary of CBS, and went up June 11 at 23 billboard locations throughout the city. Their removal just a week later was cheered by SWU:

“People and companies should avoid getting entangled with these anti-Israel activists,” said SWU CEO Roz Rothstein. “They distort facts, exploit the good name of organizations and companies, and harass those who disagree with them. We certainly hope that well-meaning people who want peace in the Middle East are not duped by their manipulations.”

What distortion of facts? What manipulations? The ads read simply, “Tell Congress: Spend Our Money at Home, Not on the Israeli Military”—with the American flag as a backdrop. More importantly, in calling for “people and companies” to “avoid getting entangled with these anti-Israel activists,” is Rothstein not issuing what in effect amounts to a call for censorship?

“Yes, Stand With Us appears to be calling for censorship,” said Armen Chakerian and Susan Schuurman, of the Coalition to Stop 30 Billion, who recently discussed the matter in an email exchange with this writer. “Contrast their position with our position, which invites everyone with a fact-based perspective on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and American support for that treatment to debate these issues in the sunshine-filled open, not behind closed doors of members of Congress’s offices.”

They add: “We are confident that a rational debate will educate the American people who are too busy putting food on the table and paying their mortgages to wade through the myths in the AIPAC-scripted rhetoric we hear coming out of too many politicians’ mouths.”

But an open debate in the marketplace of ideas appears to be what Zionists cannot tolerate. At its website, SWU, in rather exultant tones, announced the removal of the ads in two separate articles (here and here ), lambasting the Coalition for “distorting the facts,” and labeling the group “a fringe, extremist movement that seeks to harm the U.S. and one of our most valuable allies, Israel.”

The “before” and “after” graphic you see at the top of this post accompanied one of the SWU articles, appearing underneath the headline “Anti-Israel Billboard Campaign Removed in Los Angeles,” while the other article, headlined “Anti-Israel Billboards Are Taken Down,” featured just the photo of the censored billboard by itself.

SWU got one thing right. The billboards were indeed taken down. But what facts did the Coalition distort? It is here SWU engages in some fact distortion of its own, as it accuses the group of implying “through its literature and fundraising appeals that CBS Outdoor actually supported its anti-Israel cause.”

Did the Coalition really claim that CBS agreed with its call for an end to US military aid to Israel? Well, Stand With Us says they did—and to bolster this allegation they point to a) an online petition the Coalition set up calling on people to thank CBS for accepting the ads; and b) an article that appeared at Mondoweiss under the headline “Billboard campaign to end US aid to Israel hits LA—thanks to CBS.”

Taking these in order: the online petition praises CBS for “posting billboards in Los Angeles that call for an end to American military aid to Israel” and lauds the company for “demonstrating its support for the basic American tradition of free speech.” Nowhere in the four sentences of the petition can there be found any assertion that CBS agrees with the Coalition’s political views on Israel.

The article at Mondoweiss, announcing the “exciting news” that the billboards had appeared in L.A., was posted on June 13—two days after the ads went up. In it, reporter Annie Robbins points out that “this is the largest advertising campaign launched by Stop 30 Billion thus far,” and that “millions of Americans will be exposed to these billboards every day as commuters in the country’s second largest metropolitan area are stuck in traffic on some of the most congested roads in the world.” But as in the case with the petition, nowhere in Robbins’ story is there any assertion that CBS agreed with the message on the billboards.

Nonetheless Rothstein insists that “factual distortions” occurred, and alleges that such distortions “characterize the anti-Israel campaigners.” She also faults the Coalition for failing to “let the public know how much U.S. aid to Israel benefits America and the American economy because 75 percent of it must be spent in this county” and comments additionally, “They also mislead the public about who supports their movement, as they did with CBS Outdoor.”

“People and companies should avoid getting entangled with these anti-Israel activists. They distort facts, exploit the good name of organizations and companies, and harass those who disagree with them. We certainly hope that well-meaning people who want peace in the Middle East are not duped by their manipulations,” she concludes.

“We would never have been so naïve as to assume or claim that CBS shared our point of view regarding U.S. foreign policy,” counter Susan and Armen. “There’s a big difference between supporting free speech and endorsing our specific position. Our petition thanked CBS for giving us the same opportunity to put up our message as any other advertiser without discrimination or censorship.”

They also point to the fact that both articles at the SWU site are filed under the tag “Anti-Semitism,” which in their view “says a lot.”

“Activists working on Palestine solidarity work can only hear that charge so many times before that label becomes nearly meaningless. Many of our members are Jewish and we reject the notion that they are ‘self-hating’ Jews.”

Ads critical of Israel are also under fire in Westchester County, New York, although they apparently have not, at least as of yet, been taken down. Some locals, however, are endeavoring mightily to achieve that. One is New York State Assembly member Robert Castelli, who on July 13 wrote a letter to the president of MTA Metro-North calling for the ads to be expunged. Somewhat like a child trying to have his cake and eat it too, Castelli in his letter presents himself as a supporter of the First Amendment—while at the same time advocating censorship:

I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment right of free speech in the Constitution, and certainly a proponent that the people of Israel and Palestine should live in harmony together.

However, the subliminal message that this particular billboard carries is an anti-Israeli message that I believe has just the opposite effect of creating peace and harmony between the Israeli and Palestinian people. I therefore believe that it would be in the best interest of our communities to remove the billboard, for the sake of peace and harmony in our community.

New York State Assembly member Robert Castelli called for the removal of these billboards in Westchester County, NY.

Appearing mainly in train stations, the ads were placed by the Committee for Peace in Israel/Palestine, or COPIP, and depict a series of four maps that are familiar to most Palestine solidarity activists. There is nothing offensive or “anti-Semitic” about the text or imagery. Nonetheless Castelli seems to feel local Jews are in danger of being traumatized by the message:

I submit to you that by its very nature, it is inflammatory and directs a negative message towards the State of Israel and her people…

Therefore, I respectfully request that you consider, out of respect for the many Jewish members of our community, and people of Israeli origin living in our community, the prudence of removing this, post-haste.

The ads have also come under fire from the ADL, which views COPIP as “virulently anti-Israel,” a label that seems more than a tad bit overblown. If you go to the COPIP blogsite you’ll find an article by Uri Avnery, as well as links to Jewish Voice for Peace, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, and other relatively moderate organizations. The blog roll even includes a link to the liberal Zionist J Street—but none of this seems to be taken into account by ADL.

“These billboards are deliberately misleading and biased and come with an agenda that is fundamentally anti-Israel,” said Ron Meier, ADL’s New York regional director, in a press release on the organization’s website. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex and cannot be summarized in a series of four maps.”

Is the Palestine-Israeli conflict really that “complex”? How hard is it for a layperson to fathom the idea that construction of illegal settlements on unlawfully occupied land might be a hindrance to peace? The ADL press release stops short of calling for the ads to be cancelled, yet it voices no opposition to Castelli’s call for the same.

“This ad campaign completely ignores the facts, including the history of land ownership prior to 1948, Israel’s repeated efforts to exchange land for peace, and the commitment of successive Israeli governments to achieving a two-state solution with the Palestinians,” Meier says.

The issue of the illegal settlements goes unmentioned, both in Meier’s statement and in the ADL press release.

The question arises as to how closely Castelli and the ADL may be working together. In calling for the ads to be cancelled, did Castelli allow the Jewish organization to avoid being sullied by having to issue such a censorship call itself? Perhaps the lawmaker’s letter gives us a clue:

I have forwarded, along with a photograph of the billboard, a background letter from the Anti-Defamation League, which I believe you should read thoroughly when considering what your options are in this case.

You have always been very receptive in the past. I hope this matter can be resolved quickly. Should you wish to discuss the matter with me further, I am, as always, at your disposal.

So far as I know, the contents of the ADL letter mentioned by Castelli have not been made public.

Castelli isn’t the only politician joining the attack against the End Aid To Israel billboard movement. On June 21, California Congressman Howard Berman sent a letter to The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion upbraiding the group for its L.A. billboard campaign.

As a member of the Los Angeles Congressional delegation, and the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I have heard from many of my constituents in the San Fernando Valley concerned about the numerous billboard advertisements your organization has placed throughout the LA area. As a strong supporter of the Constitution, I do not question your right to publicly air your views — even if I must drive past them every morning. However, as a Member of Congress who represents a community that overwhelmingly values the strong bond between Washington and Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent and allow your anti-Israel message to go unanswered.

As the “Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs,” Berman obviously hopes to convey his firm grasp on how “complex” the Palestine-Israeli conflict truly is, and he goes on to assure Coalition members that “you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship.” He also alludes to “threats to wipe Israel off the map,” though surprisingly makes no mention of Iran.

An excerpt from Berman’s letter to the Coalition—publicly released and posted on the congressman’s website—is also quoted at the SWU site…specifically the following passage boasting of America’s presumed leadership of the ubiquitous but undefinable “international community”:

We are the leading voice in the international community, and have the world’s most powerful military, yet your organization would have us abandon our closest ally in the Middle East and allow its deterrent capability to wither on the vine. That is not the way to demonstrate international leadership.

But Armen and Susan say it all kind of depends on how you look at it.

“We may be the leading voice in the international community, but at the UN only three nations in the world regularly agree with the U.S. government on issues involving Israel: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, with a combined population smaller than Modesto, California, and all economically dependent on the U.S. Government,” they said.

“With 200 nuclear weapons deliverable by land-based missiles and by submarine-launched cruise missiles, Israel’s deterrent capability is in no danger of withering,” they added. “Israel may be our closest ally in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean this alliance is in our national interest. Our support has little to do with rational considerations of strategic advantage and much to do with American domestic politics.”

CBS did not return phone calls requesting clarification on why it cancelled the ads. Susan and Armen say they were informed in a curt email that the decision was made because “your organization has used the ‘CBS Outdoor’ name without permission”—apparently in its online petition.

“Our belief is that CBS manufactured an excuse to pull down our billboards because of their controversial nature,” they said. “We’ve been thrilled with the response we’ve gotten to our campaign to call CBS and ask for our billboards to go back up. Whether or not the billboards go back up in this community using this company, we are confident that this message continues to resonate with a growing number of Americans every day. In fact, another major city is already planning its own billboard campaign inspired in part by our continued success.”

 

**************

 

Billboard Wars: Do the Same Rules Apply to Both Sides?

By Richard Edmondson

The word most in vogue with Zionists these days is “incitement.” Anytime a billboard criticizing Israel pops up, incitement is the charge that seems to get leveled. One becomes guilty either of inciting against Israel, or against the Jewish people as a whole.

The word incitement is used five times in a 2011 press release put out by the pro-Israel American Freedom Defense Initiative attacking this Seattle billboard—an ad that remained up only a few days before being censored:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More recently, following the cancellation of this series of ads in Los Angeles…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

two articles—triumphantly announcing the ad campaign’s demise—appeared at the Stand With Us website (see here and here ), both filed under the tag “incitement.”

The word is also featured prominently at numerous pro-Israel web sites ( for example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, to name but a few), and even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who in the past has been accused of chronic submissiveness toward Israel and the US, now finds himself branded a vicious inciter of hatred against the Jewish state. If Abbas can be so judged, what hope is there for the rest of us?

But it isn’t only the hive-mentality adoption of certain words that we are witnessing in the electro-magnetic hasbara waves sweeping America currently. Consider: politicians have clout with the business community. That’s the way things work. The business of America is business, and when powerful politicians start calling on billboard companies to remove advertisements they dislike, the ad’s chances of remaining up are not especially good.

On July 13, Robert Castelli, a member of the New York State Assembly, wrote a letter to Howard R. Permut, president of the MTA Metro-North Railroad, calling for removal of billboards that had recently begun appearing at train stations in Westchester County, New York. The ads show the loss of Palestinian lands over a 64-year period through a series of four maps. The Metro-North Railroad is a subsidiary of New York’s state Metropolitan Transportation Authority. How long will such ads stay up with that kind of pressure coming down from a state Assembly member?

“While this billboard has been placed by an organization calling itself the ‘Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine’ (COPIP), and there is no offensive language on the message, I submit to you that by its very nature, it is inflammatory and directs a negative message towards the State of Israel and her people,” Castelli states in his letter to Perlmut.

“You have always been very receptive in the past,” the state assemblyman goes on to remark. “I hope this matter can be resolved quickly. Should you wish to discuss this matter with me further, I am, as always, at your disposal.”

Meanwhile, out on the west coast, California Congressman Howard Berman has joined in a series of attacks upon the billboard campaign of the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel and their ads featuring an American flag as a backdrop with the words “Tell Congress: Spend Our Money at Home, Not on the Israeli Military.”

In a June 21 letter—sent to the Coalition and also posted on his website—Berman describes Israel as “a small nation surrounded by countries and terrorist groups that are committed to its destruction” and lets it be known he cares little for the signs.

As a member of the Los Angeles Congressional delegation, and the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I have heard from many of my constituents in the San Fernando Valley concerned about the numerous billboard advertisements your organization has placed throughout the LA area. As a strong supporter of the Constitution, I do not question your right to publicly air your views — even if I must drive past them every morning. However, as a Member of Congress who represents a community that overwhelmingly values the strong bond between Washington and Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent and allow your anti-Israel message to go unanswered.

Rep. Howard Berman would prefer not to have to drive past this billboard every morning. He doesn’t any more. The ads were canceled by CBS Outdoor.

In a press release accompanying the letter, put out by his congressional staff, Berman additionally remarks:

My constituents sent me to Washington in large part to fight for a stronger U.S.-Israel relationship. This has been, and will continue to be one my (sic) top legislative priorities in Congress. I am not going to stand by and remain silent as some outside group comes into our community with these outrageous billboards calling for an end to our security partnership with Israel. I believe in a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and so do my constituents.

The same press release goes on to quote Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean with the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center thanks Congressman Berman for his timely, focus (sic) and informed rebuke of the group whose anti-Israel campaign is based on a lie. At a time when thousands of innocent men, women and children are butchered by the regime in Syria, when Christian Copts are targeted for terrorism violence and threats in Egypt, it is telling that this group continues to pursue its extreme anti-Israel propaganda campaign, something that won’t help a single Palestinian.

Berman has been in Congress for 29 years. How closely will billboard companies sit up and take notice when a Congress member with this much seniority voices displeasure at something? The answer to this perhaps remains unclear, although well worth noting is that the ads were cancelled.

Presumably in an effort to offer “balance” to the debate, the pro-Israel side has joined the fight with billboards of its own. The above-mentioned American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), headed by Pamela Geller of the Atlas Shrugs blog, sought in September of last year to place ads on the sides of New York City busses depicting Israel and its supporters as “civilized” and opponents of the Jewish state conversely as “savages.” Specifically, the content would read: “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” At a cost of approximately $25,000, the ads were to have run on some 318 New York City busses for a total of four weeks.

Judge Paul Engelmayer believes this ad from the AFDI represents “core political speech” that must be “afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment.”

The ads were expressly represented as a response to this ad which had been put up in the same area by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the AFDI’s ad was rejected by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on the grounds that it violated its policies prohibiting “images or information that demean an individual or group of individuals on account of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation.” Does a public transit authority have the legal right to refuse ads that might promote racism? One would reasonably assume they might.

However, AFDI took the case to court, claiming the MTA had violated its free speech rights, and on July 20, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled that the transit agency must allow the ads:

As a threshold matter, the Court notes that the AFDI Ad is not only protected speech—it is core political speech. The Ad expresses AFDI’s pro-Israel perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, and implicitly calls for a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy with regard to that conflict. The AFDI Ad is, further, a form of response to political ads on the same subject that have appeared in the same space. As such, the AFDI Ad is afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment.

Other than upholding the “free speech” rights of corporations to purchase elections, it is relatively rare these days to find a US court issuing a ruling validating the first amendment. As the Occupy protests have shown, the right to publicly assemble and engage in free speech has been all but abrogated for many average Americans. Engelmayer’s entire 35-page opinion may be accessed here.

Another question, of course, is would this same judge—or any other judge in America for that matter—have issued a ruling requiring a transit authority or billboard company to accept ads depicting Jews as “savages”? In the climate that exists in the United States today—where people have paid heavy prices for voicing criticism of Israel or Zionism—it is hard to imagine such a ruling being handed down.

The irony of all this is certainly not lost on members of the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion, which made a deliberate decision back in 2009 to soften and tone down its message in order to increase chances of getting its ads accepted by billboard companies. The Coalition’s very first billboard went up in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 8, 2009. It is important to remember—this was three months after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which resulted in the deaths of some 1,400 Gazans, approximately 300 of whom were children. The ads read: “Stop Killing Children: No More Military Aid to Israel.”

Immediately howls of protest erupted. Local media covered the controversy, and Sean Hannity led off one of his daily radio shows by blasting the signs. It was apparently all too much for Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which took down the ads three weeks into what had initially been a two-month contract period. Lamar’s local manager in Albuquerque commented that “the advertising was removed due to numerous complaints questioning the facts.”

Coalition members Armen Chakerian and Susan Schuurman say a decision was made at this time to tone down the message—to “Spend Our Money at Home, Not on the Israeli Military”—and it seemed to work. They were able to put up two full-sized billboards at two locations for several months each.

But the road ever since has been filled with ups and downs. Ads identical to the ones that were censored in L.A., were accepted in Denver earlier this year. But that was in April. Now the campaign being waged by the pro-Israel Stand With Us organization is (see story above) is beginning to grow rather virulent.

“People and companies should avoid getting entangled with these anti-Israel activists,” says SWU CEO Roz Rothstein. “They distort facts, exploit the good name of organizations and companies, and harass those who disagree with them. We certainly hope that well-meaning people who want peace in the Middle East are not duped by their manipulations.”

Statements like this could be viewed as a sign of paranoia in Zionist ranks over Israel’s deteriorating public image and its crumbling legitimacy—and indeed that seems to be how Chakerian and Schuurman look at it.

“It’s really beyond the realm of credulity to think we’d be so green to think CBS was explicitly endorsing our position. Then again, maybe we are setting the bar too low. Perhaps we should start expecting large media corporations to see what the rest of the world is beginning more and more to see, namely that the Israeli government has gone too far and that the tired, old clichés about anti-Semitism in response to justified criticism of Israeli policy just aren’t cutting it anymore.”

Share Button

, , ,

2 Responses to Zionist Attacks on Billboards Degenerate into Smear Tactics, Censorship Calls

  1. Blake July 28, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    I applaud you folks for bringing the truth to those unaware of what is going on. Ultimately the truth will always prevail and that is what worries these soulless monsters. The tide has shifted.

  2. who_me July 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    jewish zionism is probably the worst plague ever to have attacked humanity.

Leave a Reply