Bay Area commuters might get a taste of controversy with their morning coffee this week, as new ads calling for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel are posted in prominent transit stations in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.
The ads, part of a year-old national campaign, depict two grandfathers — one Israeli and one Palestinian — each holding a grandchild. The text reads “Join with us. Build peace with justice and equality. End U.S. military aid to Israel,” along with a web address for the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine. The Chicago-based organization launched the original version of the initiative there in 2010; since then, local campaigns have placed ads on buses and billboards or in transit stations in Washington, D.C., Boston, Phoenix and Albuquerque, N.M.
The new ads were posted Aug. 23 in the 12th Street Oakland, Downtown Berkeley, and Civic Center BART stations, as well as on the Muni level of the Embarcadero station in San Francisco and on a Powell Street cable car. The Northern California Friends of Sabeel, the chief sponsor of the local campaign, said the same ad will be posted next week in the 16th Street/Mission BART station in San Francisco.
The ads are co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, and Bay Area Women in Black.
“Israel is one of the wealthiest countries in the world,” said Hassan Fouda, a NCFS member and one of the campaign’s organizers. “American aid encourages its violation of international law and moral conventions … Congress is planning deep cuts in Social Security, unemployment compensation, educational grants and other programs that help vulnerable Americans. Transferring billions of taxpayers’ money to Israel now is immoral.”
The group drew fire last December for a similar campaign that set off a heated debate about controversial ads on mass transit, when the pro-Israel group StandWithUs launched a series of counter-ads. BART eventually removed those ads on the grounds that they were offensive to Palestinians. StandWithUs replaced these with a different set of ads for the duration of their scheduled run.
A spokesman for StandWithUs
/S.F. Voice for Israel said the group will continue to speak out against “anti-Israel groups … trying to deceive the public through misleading ads.”
“Though their ads suggest they are in favor of ‘peace,’ their website explicitly calls for the elimination of the state of the Jewish people,” Dr. Mike Harris said on behalf of StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel. “They actually oppose peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine.”
“Their support of Palestinian extremists, who refuse to accept living in peace alongside a Jewish state, actually hinders the establishment of the first-ever state of the Palestinians,” he added. “Sadly, it will also encourage the enemies of peace to continue terror attacks which will claim both Israeli and Palestinian civilians as victims.”