Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mideast conflict spills onto BART walls

Jewish Voice for Peace is a coalition member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

12 January, 2012
San Francisco Examiner

Thousands of miles removed from the political tinderbox of the Middle East, a controversy has broken out between Palestinian and Israeli advocacy groups over dueling advertising campaigns on BART.

Since 2010, a consortium of Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups has sponsored three BART train ad campaigns, each of which feature slogans asking for an end to United States military support for Israel.

For every one of those campaigns, Stand for Us, an Israeli education group, has countered with its own ads. The latest campaign, which starts Monday, features taglines urging Palestinians leaders to accept Israel as a peaceful neighbor.

Cindy Shamban, a member of Jewish Voices for Peace, one of the groups sponsoring the original ads, said their campaign was intended to spur people’s interest and provide information. She said BART was an ideal option for the campaign since so many people take public transit.

“When we first put these ads up, I really didn’t think they’d elicit any reaction,” Shamban said.

Roz Rothstein, president of Stand With Us, said the group felt compelled to counter the original ads because they were one-sided and placed blame exclusively on Israel. She said her organization would normally not advertise on public transit vehicles such as BART, but since the original campaigns were placed on the trains, they had little choice except to respond with their own ads nearby.

In reviewing Stand With Us’ proposed counterads, BART General Manager Grace Crunican acknowledged that they might provoke comments. However, she said the campaign complied with the agency’s advertising consent guidelines, and she offered her support for the ads in a memo to BART’s board of directors.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said once ads are approved by the agency, they are not taken down early, even if public complaints arise about their content.