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Have You Heard about the Latest Ad Controversies?

by Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director
August 30th, 2012

Bring these Ads to Your City!

This summer, member groups of the US Campaign have taken out billboard and mass transit ads to raise awareness about the moral and economic costs of U.S. military aid to Israel, Israel’s ever-expanding encroachment on Palestinian land and other important issues. 

These ads have appeared in places such as Los Angeles, the suburbs of New York City, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, San Francisco and more, generating a lot of media attention, community discussion, controversy and even hateful and racist counter-ads.

Earlier this month, Chapel Hill became the ninth U.S. city to take part in the national “Be On Our Side” ad campaign, which features Palestinians and Israelis urging us to work for peace and justice by ending U.S. military aid to Israel.

The Church of Reconciliation, along with a coalition of cosponsoring organizations, paid for these ads to run for one full year in the interior of all 98 buses in Chapel Hill. Rev. Mark Davidson organized this campaign because “US military aid to Israel is a barrier to peace in the region…when we are facing shrinking budgets for social programs and enormous challenges in our own country, we need these precious resources to address problems here at home.”

The ads drew a handful of complaints and were temporarily taken down. However, the town manager has stated publicly that the ads can go back up once additional contact information is added to the ads. The church hopes to have the ads back up this weekend. Read more about the controversy here.  

This national ad campaign was initiated by US Campaign member group the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine and is now being managed by us. Contact us if you’d like to bring this ad to your city.

Another US Campaign member group, the Committee for Peace in Israel/Palestine put up 50 of these ads in commuter train stations outside of New York City in July. Henry Clifford, co-chair of the committee, told Mondoweiss: “I’ve been plowing this field for many years and I am absolutely astounded by the response I’ve received, and the news coverage. We’ve been begging for coverage for years. Now it’s pouring in.”

And, in June, we worked with another US Campaign member group, the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion on these Los Angeles billboards, which were pulled down after theAnti-Defamation League and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) complained about them.

However, the good news is that we just learned that a similar ad, sponsored by the Bay Area Stop $30 Billion Military Aid to Israel, is now appearing on San Francisco buses.

Whether or not Israel’s supporters succeed in censoring these ads, it is clear that these campaigns are having a huge impact by stimulating conversation and generating media coverage. Even when the ads do get censored, the ensuing controversy shows that Israel’s supporters have something to hide from the public: Israel’s brutal actions and policies toward Palestinians. 

These ads are also provoking Israel’s supporters to put up often hateful and racist counter-ads, an act which only further weakens support for their cause. The notorious hatemonger and Islamophobe Pamela Geller explicitly referred to our “Be On Our Side” ad campaign as a pretext for putting these outrageous ads on San Francisco buses.

However, her ads backfired badly, prompting the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to place an ad next to hers disclaiming and renouncing the ads. Other ads were stamped as “hate speech.” US Campaign member group American Muslims for Palestine led an effective counter-charge, organizing a coalition of 75 local and national groups calling on the agency to organize a public forum so that community members negatively affected by the ads could speak to the ads’ “traumatizing effect.”

Educating the public is an extremely important component of our work and taking out public ads is proving to be a very effective way of achieving that goal. Contact us if you’d like to bring the “Be On Our Side” ad campaign to your city or if you’d like us to put you in touch with member groups that have taken out other ads.


Josh Ruebner
National Advocacy Director

P.S.: Join us in St. Louis, September 21-23, for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference. There will be 15 member group-led workshops, including one how to on organize ad campaigns in your city.Learn more about the conference and register today!