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Boston transit authority pulls ‘apartheid’ ads– for ‘demeaning’ Israel

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Ads Against Apartheid "One Word" campaign

Ads Against Apartheid “One Word” campaign

Boston’s transit authority, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), have removed  “One Word” subway ads, the campaign by NGO Ads Against Apartheid (AAA) highlighting Israel’s crimes against Palestinians that have garnered international attention on social media.

MBTA removed the ads on June 23rd offering no explanation and without even notifying the NGO. After Ads Against Apartheid released this press release yesterday, a contractor who handles advertising for MBTA informed them in writing that all three ads in the Ads Against Apartheid’s One Word series campaign, after running for over three weeks, were  ”rejected pursuant to Section (b)(I) Demeaning or disparaging.”

This same transit authority ran Islamophobic anti-Muslim ads by Pam Geller’s group “American Freedom Defense Initiative”. AAA president and co-founder, Chadi Salamoun noted “There is certainly a double standard here. Our ads present facts cited by respectable institutions, the MBTA has allowed anti-Palestinian groups to display opinionated messages that border on hate-speech.”

What’s up with that? Read their full press release:

ads-against-israeli-apartheid-subway-imageBOSTON, MA, 10 July 2014 – Boston’s transit authority, the MBTA, has removed advertisements highlighting Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians from Boston’s subway transit system under pressure from pro-Israel groups and in an apparent violation of its own policies.

Boston-based non-profit Ads Against Apartheid (AAA), which sponsored the ad campaign, believes the MBTA’s action is a violation of it’s right to freedom of speech. Sarah Wunsch of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLU) said that the organization will support AAA’s efforts to get the advertisements back up.

AAA says the MBTA did not notify it that the ads had been removed. The removal took place on Thursday, June 23. As of this writing, the MBTA has not offered an official explanation as to why the contract had been terminated early.

An official working closely with the MBTA told AAA by telephone that the ads were likely removed because they were found to be “demeaning to the state of Israel.” Richard Colbath-Hess, Jewish co-founder of Ads Against Apartheid, emphasized that the ads criticize the behavior of the Israeli government, not any national group or individual.

“We’ve asked for an official reason why the ads were removed but have yet to be given one,” said AAA president and co-founder, Chadi Salamoun. “It’s been two weeks. You’d think we would have been told two weeks ago.

The MBTA had previously approved the advertisements after a lengthy review process, which presented facts – sourced primarily from United Nations reports – challenging the idea that Israel is committed to peace. They were on display for more than half of a month before they were removed without notice.

“There is certainly a double standard here. Our ads present facts cited by respectable institutions,” argues Salamoun. “The MBTA has allowed anti-Palestinian groups to display opinionated messages that border on hate-speech,” he said in reference to a pro-Israel ad that the American Freedom Defense Initiative sponsored in early 2014, which sought to draw a contrast between what it called “the civilized man” and “those engaged in savage acts,” clearly implying that Palestinians comprise the latter.

“If an ad can be removed for being ‘demeaning’ and ‘subjective,’ then why weren’t these ads removed?” wonders Colbath-Hess. “Aren’t they demeaning to Palestinians? The MBTA can’t use its position to give voice to the Israeli position while silencing ads that highlight human rights abuses that the Israeli government commits daily.”

“I’m Jewish,” he continues. “And, I don’t support Israeli apartheid.”

“We’re going to continue to publish ads that educate Americans on the impact of Israeli apartheid on Palestinian lives,” says Salamoun. “If the MBTA, a public institution, allows opinionated criticism of Palestinians but disallows factual ads critical of the Israeli government, then we see that as a fairly clear violation of our right to free speech, and we certainly plan to defend our Constitutional rights.”


If you have anything to say to MBTA, your feedback is very important to them.

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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12 Responses

  1. HarryLaw on July 11, 2014, 10:22 am

    Hopefully the AAA can get a twofer out of it, or a triple. Compensation for taking the adverts down early, the negative publicity over the blatant double standards and the Authority’s embarrassment if they are forced to put them up again.

  2. Kay24 on July 11, 2014, 10:32 am

    Obviously someone (AIPAC?) squeezed something hard enough, so that MBTA decided to bring these posters down. Double standards? Anything else would be a shock. Geller the hate yeller had her hate filled ones up there for ages. Now those were really racist rants. It seems the MBTA cannot differentiate between ads against religions, and against an apartheid nation.
    These ads should be plastered everywhere.

  3. Sumud on July 11, 2014, 11:03 am

    Demeaning Israel? Can they name any factual errors in the posters?

    There are few things worse than people offended by the truth.

    How about they spare a thought for the actual people that Israeli apartheid demeans, and subjugates, and tortures, and kills.

  4. notatall on July 11, 2014, 11:08 am

    Wouldn’t it be good if people in Boston put the ads up again in defiance of the MBTA’s unconstitutional act? Are there people willing to organize that action?

  5. Chu on July 11, 2014, 11:20 am

    So illustrating truth is demeaning? I don’t get it.

  6. Dan Crowther on July 11, 2014, 11:22 am

    Annie – look into Keolis, they bought the MBTA commuter rail for a few years, not sure if they might be behind this. They’re a french company

  7. mijj on July 11, 2014, 11:57 am

    ie. Israel’s behavior demeans Israel.

  8. Denis on July 11, 2014, 12:38 pm

    Looks primarily like a contract issue to me, but it will be the 1st Amend that is used to beat MTA over the head. Good.

    Richard Colbath-Hess, Jewish co-founder of Ads Against Apartheid:
    “I’m Jewish . . . [a]nd, I don’t support Israeli apartheid.”

    I absolutely love this guy. That line HAS to be the basis of his next ad campaign. When that thought becomes the mantra of the majority of American Jews, Congress will change its tune and Bibi will go the way of Pik Botha and his hateful politics of oppression.

    Folks on the Red Line, Blue Line, and Green Line had been passing these signs for three weeks and probably weren’t even noticing them anymore. Now — Bam!! — the whole issue grabs the blogosphere’s attention all around the world. AAA’s prayers have been answered by idiot AmerZionists who don’t understand the meaning of free speech in America even after they got good and spanked by the Olympia Food Coop.

    Even the NYT is stomping on the Zionists for gagging free speech in the press in Israel. And a purty good middle finger op-ed by Robt. Mackey it is, too.

    I forget what happened to Geller’s posters. Seems like there was some litigation or vandalism or something that brought that campaign to a premature end.

  9. James Canning on July 11, 2014, 1:46 pm

    Fascinating. Israel pursues an “eye for an eyelash” strategy, year in and year out.

  10. The JillyBeans on July 11, 2014, 2:12 pm

    The people who opposed Geller’s ads should sue MBTA, on the basis of this new rationale for removable of the AAA ads. I’m thinking damages.

  11. AlGhorear on July 11, 2014, 5:51 pm

    Thanks for reporting this Annie. Even though we’re all distracted by the news coming out of the West Bank and Gaza, I think this is newsworthy.

    I completed the MBTA complaint form here and copied the text so I could add it to the comments when Annie’s article was published, but then copied something else and lost what I wrote. Basically, I expressed my disappointment and asked how reporting on the criminal policies of a country (as opposed to an ethnic or religious group) violated the MBTA policy.

    I received, in part, the following response:

    “Type of Feedback: Complaint

    Topic : Advertisements

    The information you provided has been forwarded to the appropriate department to be addressed. If additional actions are required, a member from that department will follow up on your issue.

    Should you have additional questions or concerns regarding this issue, please contact the MBTA Customer Communications at 617-222-3200 or 800-392-6100, during normal hours of operation.

    Hours of Operation:
    Monday through Friday: 6:30 AM to 8:00 PM
    Saturday and Sunday: 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM”

    So if anyone else want to write or follow up, you have the contact information.

  12. lonely rico on July 11, 2014, 9:07 pm

    Demeaning or disparaging !?
    While Israel savages a virtually defenseless population – a nightmare of death and violence raining down from the sky.
    Courageous IDF – how many children this time ?

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