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Lamar Advertising censors ‘Boycott Israel’ billboard in Chicago


Less than a day after boasting about their commitment to free speech, Lamar Advertising Company chose to censor a billboard in Chicago by Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC).  The message on the billboard was BOYCOTT ISRAEL UNTIL PALESTINIANS HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS.

On Thursday afternoon Feb. 18, 2016, in response to complaints about SeaMAC’s billboard, Lamar posted a statement on their Facebook page saying:

Lamar has been in the billboard business for over 100 years and we have developed a strong commitment to supporting the First Amendment right of advertisers who wish to use our medium to promote legal products and services or to convey noncommercial messages such as the one in Chicago. We do not accept or reject copy based upon agreement or disagreement with the views presented. We think SEAMAC has a right to present their views and would also support the right of those who disagree with SEAMAC.

On Friday afternoon Feb. 19, 2016, Lamar posted that

[W]e have tried to contact SeaMAC to discuss these issues but have not received a reply to our telephone and email messages.  Therefore we have decided to remove the SeaMAC copy as soon as possible.

In fact it was Lamar that was not replying to SeaMAC.  “We spent all day Friday trying to reach Lamar both by phone and email.  Lamar did not respond, even to tell us they were taking down the billboard,” said Edward Mast, volunteer board member of SeaMAC. “We’re very disturbed at what appears to be a false and flimsy excuse for Lamar to violate its own standards of free speech.  As often happens on this issue, Lamar is listening to some voices while ignoring the damage their censorship will do to others in their community.”

By Saturday Feb. 20, 2016, the billboard had been taken down. As of Sunday night, Lamar still has not contacted SeaMAC.

“A boycott is a nonviolent response to a system of injustice.  All the arguments against the boycott of Israel were also made against the boycott of apartheid in South Africa,” said Carla Curio, another volunteer board member of SeaMAC.  “Our billboard calls for equal rights for Palestinians, and many of the complaints we’ve seen have been openly racist in denying that Palestinians or Arabs are deserving of equal human treatment.”

In 2015, SeaMAC ran the same message on public buses in Washington DC, San Francisco, Denver, and Portland OR.  The billboard and bus ads are funded by SeaMAC and by local activists and groups in each city.  In Chicago, SeaMAC worked with Palestinian Freedom Writers, a group that helps direct humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

The use of the term “apartheid” about Israel refers not only to the West Bank, where Israeli Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents are both under the jurisdiction of the Israeli government and live under two separate and unequal sets of laws, but also to the stark inequalities inside Israel itself, where 1.5 million Palestinians citizens are subject to over 50 laws that discriminate against them and in favor of Israeli Jews.   The call to boycott Israel is modeled on the boycott campaign against apartheid in old South Africa.

Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign

Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC) is an all-volunteer organization using direct education through public forums, church presentations, school presentations, and other face to face presentations to discuss how U.S. support for Israel enables Israel’s continued oppression and subjugation of the Palestinian people. SeaMAC is incorporated as a non-profit corporation in Washington State and as a 501(c)(3) organization under Federal tax code.

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27 Responses

  1. Emory Riddle on February 23, 2016, 1:49 pm

    How can this tiny group of deluded racists get their way on every little thing all the time?

    • zaid on February 23, 2016, 8:36 pm


      • Emory Riddle on February 24, 2016, 10:42 am

        It’s more than dollars.

        Bill Gates and Warren Buffett could not get away with doing the things that, for example, Strauss-Kahn, Jeff Epstein, and Spitzer have done and gotten away with.

        Why does nobody ever stand up to them and call them on their corruption?

        I think that they are afraid that Trump might just do that — hence the never-ending attacks on him in the “mainstream” media.

  2. John Smithson on February 23, 2016, 2:52 pm

    This is local to me – someone texted a photo of the billboard to me when it went up. I have a call into a friend with more legal knowledge – will follow this one along. It is still a free country right? We do still have freedom of speech right?

    I have the kids watch animal farm when we take long trips in the car – eerily similar ain’t it?

    • Steve Grover on February 23, 2016, 6:17 pm

      There are always community standards clauses in road sign contracts. As a Chicagoan, I am glad this type of billboard is against our community standards.

      • John Smithson on February 24, 2016, 9:43 am

        Wonder if CTA buses or ‘EL’ trains will allow these ads. Those are government run entities so first amendment would apply – no? Maybe WTTW ads? Or would ‘community standards’ also apply to government run/owned entities ad space?

      • ah on February 24, 2016, 12:50 pm

        Really? I am a Chicagoan and I want thousands of these billboards all over Chicago. I want people to be aware of what Isreal is, an Apartheid state. I’m sure as a defender of Isreal you love seeing all those intertwined Isreali/ US flag signs at all those temples around the Chicago area and the north shore. They make me want to throw-up. So i guess i understand a little about how you feel. BTW Chicago and the surrounding South suburbs are full of Palistianians and living with family members who still talk about what Israal’s most moral army did to their homes and property. In fact I just found my dad’s journal where he describes what my parents went through in 67. Our memories are long, we are more educated and we will fight the battle our ancestors were not prepared for. I don’t think you Isreali firsters are ready for us.

      • chocopie on February 27, 2016, 12:23 pm

        As a Chicagoan, I love seeing any billboard or sign about the situation in Palestine. Even a pro-Israel sign is welcome, and here’s why: any time this topic comes to the attention of the general U.S. public, Palestine benefits. As soon as a person starts learning the story of what happened to the Palestinians, that person’s support for Israel/Zionism starts wavering. Even among Jewish people raised as Zionists. It happens over and over again, and it’s pretty clear by now which direction public opinion is headed.

  3. John Smithson on February 23, 2016, 3:46 pm

    So what does the contract say? Can you guys sue or what? You need money for that? Just ask!

  4. Kay24 on February 23, 2016, 8:20 pm

    Lamar Advertising got that call. Lamar advertising knew that to stay in business they must heed that call. Lamar Advertising has forgotten all about free speech. Free speech is fine as long as it is not a negative word against a disliked apartheid nation in the ME.

    Lamar Advertising wants to stay in business, so like many others will obey the instructions and threats.

    Roger Waters: Pink Floyd star on why his fellow musicians are terrified to speak out against Israel:

    • Jon66 on February 23, 2016, 9:03 pm

      Does Mondo have an obligation to accept advertising from a Pro-Israel group? “As a mission-driven, nonprofit news organization, we accept advertising only from sponsors whose practices do not violate our values. Foremost among these is the principle of equality and full human rights for all who live in Israel/Palestine or who are refugees living in exile from their homes in historic Palestine. We reserve the right to reject advertising from any entity that, in our sole discretion, works against this principle; practices bigotry of any kind, destructive labor or environmental practices, or other systematic exploitation; may offend our readers; or promotes visually, verbally or by reputation ideas or information that is: patently false, libelous, exploitative, hateful, or would be detrimental to the social responsibilities of the organization. – See more at:

      Free speech in the U.S. Means that the government cannot unreasonably restrict your speech. Private businesses are not obligated to accept all advertising.

      • Kay24 on February 23, 2016, 9:43 pm

        If any advertising firm that boasts that they have” developed a strong commitment to supporting the First Amendment right of advertisers” , but cannot stick to their principles when someone threatens their business (which seems to be the case here) and they hastily take down a bill board, it means they are willing to compromise their principles and ethics, by negating on an already agreed to contract, it means there is something wrong in the land of freedom and free speech. When it comes to criticizing the land of zionists, it seems threats by certain agents of said land, works to silence that criticism before you can say “shekels”. Any advertising firm can turn down any advertising contract, but doing so afterwards, and taking down a billboard is telling.

      • Jon66 on February 23, 2016, 10:23 pm

        It’s a an ad firm. If the contract they have with the advertiser allows them to remove the ads then they haven’t violated anything. The principle of free speech does not apply. It’s a business decision.

        Conversely, if a musical act has a contract to play in Tel Aviv and then BDS pressures them to withdraw is the musician unprincipled and unethical for voiding the contract?

      • talknic on February 23, 2016, 10:41 pm

        @ Jon66

        “Does Mondo have an obligation to accept advertising from a Pro-Israel group?”

        What’s a pro-Israel group? Surely one that advocates Israel withdraw from all non-Israeli territories, institutes laws that ensures equality of all its citizens, upholds International Law, the UN Charter, writes a constitution in order that Israel be able to finally legally elect a government for the first time (under the promised constitution) and live peacefully among its neighbours showing “respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;” Something Israel has failed to do time and time again with all its vile wars in other folks territories

        ” Private businesses are not obligated to accept all advertising”

        They accepted the advertising. They are obliged to adhere to their contracts.

        What’s one to think? The Zionist Federation has had more than a century of honing its coercive skills, of placing its people and its money where is best suits the colonization of Palestine. If the business didn’t do what they were told, numerous clients would start dropping off their client list and they’d be labeled as Antisemitic. But if they did what they were told, their legal costs would be covered should there be a law suite

      • Kay24 on February 24, 2016, 2:29 am

        Jon66 I agree with Talknic

        “They accepted the advertising. They are obliged to adhere to their contracts. ”

        This is a (contracted) billboard in the land of the free. Not some gig to make money in apartheid land.

      • Jon66 on February 24, 2016, 7:59 am

        We both know what I mean by pro-Israel, for example American Friends of Magen David Adom.

        None of us know if the contract was broken. The contract may have allowed for the early termination of an ad solely at the discretion of the company.

        Is the principle that it is OK to break a contract if it involves Israel but not America?

      • Mooser on February 24, 2016, 11:42 am

        “Jon66” must be channeling poor Scalia. He is positing an alienable ‘right to discriminate’. Sorry “Jon66” this is America, it doesn’t work that way.

      • talknic on February 24, 2016, 6:20 pm

        Jon66 “We both know what I mean by pro-Israel”

        You might. I’ve never been able to read minds. Tho I can guess with almost 100% accuracy that anything a Zionist apologist has to say is very likely dripping with Ziopoop. For example …

        ” .. for example American Friends of Magen David Adom”

        Operating in occupied non-Israeli territories at locations that mirror the vile illegal Israeli Jews only settlements and illegally annexed East Jerusalem

        ” The contract may have allowed for the early termination of an ad solely at the discretion of the company”

        Oh my. A word of advice pal, never sign a contract by yourself

    • talknic on February 24, 2016, 6:19 pm

      Moved to appropriate area

  5. Qualtrough on February 24, 2016, 1:09 am

    Clearly any confusion Lamar may have had concerning which side their bread was buttered on was quickly put to rest with a phone call or two.

    • Emory Riddle on February 24, 2016, 10:45 am

      “If the contract they have with the advertiser allows them to remove the ads then they haven’t violated anything.”

      Did you just make this up?

      What kind of contract would that be?

      We agree to take your money and will place your ad — but if we get threatened by the Israel Firster crowd we reserve the right to remove it one day after we publicly supported your right to show this ad. Would that be it?

  6. Ossinev on February 24, 2016, 7:55 am

    “Roger Waters: Pink Floyd star on why his fellow musicians are terrified to speak out against Israel”

    Roger in his piece refers to:
    “American musicians who support boycotting Israel over the issue of Palestinian rights are terrified to speak out for fear their careers will be destroyed”

    I don`t really get this. Up and coming musicians who are trying to establish their careers I can understand but not have sympathy for. But established multi millionaire rockstars,pop stars ,rapstars etc. No I don`t buy that. I think it is more a question of being cowards or in the majority of cases simply that they couldn`t be arsed.

    Also as with the media and the film industry I guess that it is likely that the music industry in the US is thoroughly polluted by the Zionist Lobby and the real fear is not “loss of career” but more the fear of being scratched from the invitation lists to ZL orchestrated music shindigs and music celebrity parties.

    And we have of course the ex youthful champions of universal liberty such as Mr.Dylan who now when it comes to Israel would be urging “Senators and Congressmen to ignore the call”.

    • Qualtrough on February 24, 2016, 10:17 am

      @Ossinev – I don’t see what is so hard to understand. I can fully understand and sympathize with up and coming stars who don’t want to jeopardize any chance of success they might have by speaking out about Palestine. I wouldn’t even call that cowardly. There are a lot of causes in this world, and I can see why they might take a pass on this one if it means the difference between success or not. As for those already successful, I don’t think it is a coincidence that those who have spoken out are the ones who have already made their millions and have little to lose by doing so. By your lights they should have done so earlier, but if they had we probably would never have heard of them.

      • eljay on February 24, 2016, 11:24 am

        Condemn atrocities in countries in Africa: Well done.

        Speak out against oppression in and/or by China and North Korea: Good for you.

        Rally against human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt: You’re doing the right thing.

        Dare to criticize Israel’s on-going (war) crimes: Risk having your career destroyed, you Jew-hating anti-Semite!

        It’s interesting.

    • talknic on February 24, 2016, 6:44 pm

      @ Ossinev “I don`t really get this. Up and coming musicians who are trying to establish their careers I can understand but not have sympathy for. But established multi millionaire rockstars,pop stars ,rapstars etc. No I don`t buy that. I think it is more a question of being cowards or in the majority of cases simply that they couldn`t be arsed”

      The Zionist Federation has no conscience and has over a century’s experience at gathering the dirt, how and when to use it to best effect to suit its purposes. Some indiscretions end up with the established star in the slammer, or OD’d

  7. brent on February 24, 2016, 2:10 pm

    It’s hard not to come back to the realization that currently not a single member of the Congress would stand up and argue for holding back funds from Israel. So, from a practical perspective, calls for a boycott are well-intentioned but unlikely to produce the desired result. Acting from the heart, not the head.

    So long as Americans don’t understand the nuances and view Israel as the victims, as conveyed by Public Radio, Public TV, and mainstream media, public policy and politicians will be very difficult to influence.

    A billboard that emphasized that equality in the holy land would honor Judiasm, Christianity and Islam and would help preserve an open, free and prosperous America would be more powerful than trying to prevail upon a cultural mindset…. and would negate the victim narrative.

    Building upon the current campaign for equality is a more direct route to a more healthy mindset. When presented with the choice of equality or independence, more Israelis will take a stand. That campaign can isolate the extremists on all sides.

  8. amigo on February 25, 2016, 3:16 pm

    Speaking of BDS Israeli MK is now trying to get Omar Barghouti thrown out of Israel.

    “Boker wrote to Deri following Friedman’s article, saying “the BDS movement and Barghouti are the arrowhead in a campaign of hatred and anti-Semitism.”

    “A democratic state cannot tolerate a situation in which someone like this has permanent residence status and comes to Israel to preach to its citizens how to boycott it. He is a very dangerous man and he has no business in Israel,” Boker stated.

    Right-wing NGO Im Tirzu’s director-general Alon Schwarzer joined Boker’s call, calling Barghouti “the ideological and operative arm of the campaign to destroy and boycott the State of Israel.”

    “Israel should act like a sovereign state like all Western democracies do and not allow those who want to destroy it to enter its territory and preach against it here, too,” Schwarzer said.” J post

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