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Sunday, October 4, 2015

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Pro-Israel transit ads appear in Vancouver

Tags: News Palestinians. Stand With Us transit Vancouver
A StandWithUs ad in Vancouver stressing Israeli-Canadian shared values. [StandWithUs photo]

VANCOUVER — The pro-Israel group StandWithUs Canada posted ads in Vancouver public transit stations Oct. 14 to counter anti-Israel ads that have been running since the summer.

Ten TransLink stations will display the pro-Israel posters for a month to counter the anti-Israel posters currently at these sites and on 15 Vancouver buses.

“We believe there are many people who will look at the anti-Israel signs and go away thinking that’s the truth about Israel, because prior to our poster campaign, there was nothing to refute the lies,” said Meryle Kates, executive director of StandWithUs Canada. “And if we’ve studied history, we know the propaganda campaign can change peoples’ minds.”

The StandWithUs ads consist of two different posters. The first depicts Jewish loss of land from Biblical times to the present by juxtaposing a map of the ancient Jewish kingdom circa 1,000 BCE, a map of the land designated as the Jewish homeland by the League of Nations in 1920 and a map of the much smaller Israel of today.

The second ad shows pictures of Israeli and Canadian children waving their national flags, celebrating the shared values and freedom both countries enjoy.

The controversial “Disappearing Palestine” ads, by contrast, sponsored by a coalition of anti-Israel groups led by the Canada-Palestine Support Network, show what the group says is the shrinking territory of “Palestine” since 1946. 

“The anti-Israel ads distort facts,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of the 12-year-old U.S.-based parent group StandWithUs International.

“They presume there once was an Arab country called ‘Palestine,’ when in fact no such country ever existed prior to the one being considered today. Conversely, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land of Israel for three millennia, and the League of Nations recognized the Jews’ historical connection to the land, which is why it carved out the Palestine Mandate as the Jewish homeland.”

StandWithUs has countered similar anti-Israel ad campaigns over the past six years in U.S. cities such as San Francisco, New York, Houston, Washington, D.C., Albuquerque, Chicago and Denver.

Rothstein said the anti-Israel posters in Vancouver are pretty similar.

According to StandWithUs officials, one of the ads was vandalized the evening of Oct. 16. The next day, the damaged ad was removed and replaced by the transit ad company.

“It’s the same junk, the same twisted information that omits important context and distorts the land issues,” she said.

“These anti-Semitic campaigns are showing up in books, movies and boycott campaigns, and the people behind them are relentless. They apply the same technique and ideology internationally. There has to be someone saying ‘This is not OK, it’s inaccurate and it will not lead to peace.’”

Rothstein said she first saw the “Disappearing Palestine” maps in New York and that she believes they were conceived by Alison Weir, the founder of If Americans Knew, a group that describes itself as “a non-profit dedicated to accurately informing Americans.”

“This distortion that accuses the Jewish people of having nothing and taking everything away from a Palestinian entity is just an absurdity,” Rothstein said. “But people don’t know that, so if you let it slide and stand as a lie, then guess what? It gets attention.”

Rothstein admits the situation in Israel isn’t perfect. “Everyone dreams of peace, but you cannot get to peace with distortion and lies. Nothing good will come of promoting hostility,” she said.

Countering the anti-Israel campaigns is expensive, and the coalitions behind the ads seem to have unlimited funds, she added. “Unfortunately, we don’t. I would guess they’re spending $100,000 a year on all these efforts.”

 While the anti-Israel posters have a four-month run in Translink stations, StandWithUs’ posters will only be displayed for one month due to funding limitations, Kates said.

“We’re looking for more funding to be able to keep the posters up longer, and I’d love to be contacted by donors,” she said. “If we believe the coalition behind these anti-Israel posters, this is a campaign going across the country. StandWithUs wants to find supporters to be able to put up our truth in each place.”

Rothstein also hopes Canadian donors will come forward. “StandWithUs International is paying for this effort in Canada, but Canadians who care should be supporting the Canadian office of StandWithUs if they want to increase education in the region and try to challenge these anti-Semitic campaigns,” she said.

Meanwhile, the “Disappearing Palestine” wall mural at the Vancouver City Centre SkyTrain station was stolen recently, and according to the Canada-Palestine Support Network, it will be replaced. “This disruption will not silence our ad campaign,” said coalition spokesperson Marty Roth.

Kates said StandWithUs posters have been defaced in some places in the past, and she wouldn’t be surprised if they were stolen, too. “We’ll just put new ones up,” she said.

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