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Dueling BART ads on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the rhetorical side of the conflict, at least – is visible in the Bay Area again as organizations for and against Israeli policy have bought dueling ads in several BART stations.

cov_bart-BeOnOurSide_SF_Poster_011411Jewish Voice for Peace – an Oakland-based group that “seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East” – co-produced an ad launched Dec. 5, urging commuters passing through the Downtown Berkeley, Oakland-12th Street and San Francisco Civic Center BART stations to “End U.S. military aid to Israel.”

“Our ads are not about repeating the same old paradigms, where one side (Israelis or Palestinians) is good and the other (Palestinians or Israelis) is bad. Our ads are about the common ground that we have,” Sydney Levy, Jewish Voice for Peace’s campaigns director, said today via e-mail. “It is about asking Americans to stand together with Israelis and Palestinians on the same side, not opposite one another.”

Poster-10[1]StandWithUs, a Los Angeles-based international pro-Israel group, this week launched ads of its own in the same BART stations plus three more – Embarcadero and Balboa Park in San Francisco, and Oakland’s MacArthur – depicting both the “rage-filled eyes of a terrorist” as well as Palestinian and Israeli children playing soccer together, directing readers to a web site that blames Palestinians for obstructing the peace process.

“The anti-Israel ad confuses and deceives the public. It declares it represents the side of ‘peace and justice’ and shows happy pictures of an Israeli father and a Palestinian father with their little sons. These images and words appeal to all people of good will. But the real message is that Israel is the obstacle to peace and that the U.S. should stop all financial assistance to Israel,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said in a news release. “The ad tries to hide the real obstacles—Hamas, Palestinian terrorism, and decades of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish hate education. We cannot let this message, with its deceptive, velvet-gloved rhetoric, influence unsuspecting commuters who may not know the facts. Our ads will provide the needed facts.”

Levy, of course, disagrees. “Sadly, the Stand With Us ads are simply about demonizing and delegitimizing Palestinians. They say that Israel has no partner for peace. They ignore all the Palestinian nonviolent anti-occupation activists languishing in Israeli jails, including Abdallah Abu Rahmah, an Amnesty International Palestinian prisoner of conscience.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.