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How does one respond to a malicious campaign of anti-Israel advertising, which distorts the facts and slanders Israel? Should all anti-Israel criticism elicit a response? These questions can be answered with a question: When has it ever been good for Israel or its supporters to remain silent when faced with anti-Semitism?
Last month anti-Israel billboards appeared on platforms of the Metro-North commuter network in Westchester County, New York and Connecticut. The posters showed a shrinking Palestine, which falsely portrayed Israel as a nation built on someone else’s land. The goal of the campaign is to paint Israel as a state beyond the pale, a pariah nation that stole someone else’s land.
Is it anti-Semitic to call Israel’s founding illegitimate or work for its destruction? According to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (now Fundamental Rights Agency), “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” constitutes anti-Semitism.
Using words, images and campaigns to spread distortions and misinformation and brand Israel as illegitimate, is part of the coordinated strategy of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It seeks to characterize Israel as a nation that deserves to be punished through Boycotts, Divestments, and sanctioned by the world community.
The Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs has taken the lead and opposed anti-Israel advertising campaigns throughout the United States. It placed pro-Israel posters at the same Metro North commuter stations where the anti-Israel ads were displayed. The StandWithUs campaign promotes Israel’s image and positive contributions to the world, while also making the case of the 3000-year-old historical tie of the Jewish people to the land. Most importantly, the ads show that Israel has been actively and sincerely searching for peace. They depict a clear record of Arab and Palestinian rejectionism, which began on the day of Israel’s founding, and unfortunately still remains to this day.
One of the ads pictures two boys, one Israeli the other Palestinian with their arms wrapped around one another. The caption reads, “Israel needs a partner for peace. Urge the Palestinians to accept Israel as their Jewish neighbor.”
So why is it necessary to respond to anti-Israel advertising? Most Americans know very little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When presented with images and words that challenge the Jewish narrative and the very legitimacy of the Jewish State, many people do not have the knowledge to refute the negative allegations. According to a 2012 Gallop poll, most Americans sympathize with Israel. Yet 39 percent of Americans in the survey did not sympathize with Israel. Delegitimization of Israel through anti-Israel advertising can erode support for Israel, by widening the numbers of unsympathetic.
StandWithUs believes that a targeted campaign that presents the compelling case for Israel is an important way to educate people who may fall prey to misinformation. Our CEO, Roz Rothstein, said, “We cannot allow the public to be misled by the factual distortions in yet another anti-Israel campaign. We are committed to countering anti-Israel campaigns whenever they appear.”
I personally find that comforting because I too believe that sometimes, silence is not golden.
Eric R. Mandel is co-chair of StandWithUs/NY.