WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Advertisements with a controversial message against U.S. foreign policy toward Israel went up Monday at Metro-North train stations across Westchester County.
In bold letters, the ads say: “Americans Give Israel $3 Billion Per Year! End Apartheid Now! Stop U.S. Aid To Israel.”
American Muslims for Palestine, a grassroots advocacy organization, sponsors the ad. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority makes it clear in a disclaimer on the poster that it does not endorse the views expressed.
Monday’s launch was the start of a nationwide outdoor advertising campaign. The ads, which will appear at 25 stations along the Metro-North lines, will run for four weeks before moving to another metropolitan area elsewhere in the nation.
Commuters in White Plains responded to the appearance of the ads Tuesday.
“There’s a huge population here that’s pro-Israeli, and they might take offense to that and it could be divisive,” Bob Darwish said. “And there are people who believe that this country comes first, saying that this is America, not Israel. The economy is still really bad, and things, priorities, should be recalculated.”
Rasheda Oakman said she doesn’t think the messages foster negative sentiments or controversy.
“I feel like the side that decided to put the ad out seems to care about their opinion more than the other side,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it; I just think if there’s someone out there who supports an issue and has the means to publicize that, then that’s fine.”
In a statement on the website for American Muslims for Palestine, its Chairman Hatem Bazian said, “We timed the release of our ads with President [Barack] Obama’s visit to the Middle East to underscore his administration’s failure to address the true cause of conflict: Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and its racist apartheid policies, which subject Palestinians on a daily basis to humiliation, deprivation and a loss of their basic rights, including the freedom of movement.”
The poster also quotes Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu as saying: “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”
Scott Richman, regional director of AJC Westchester, a Jewish advocacy group, told The Journal News that the ads are "completely false."
“It’s an attempt to demonize Israel, linking it to the terrible apartheid regime that existed in South Africa,” he said. “It’s a ridiculous allegation. With apartheid in South Africa, blacks were not citizens and could not vote. In Israel, Palestinians constitute 20 percent of the population. They are full citizens.”
This is not the first time that advertisements at Metro-North stations have included potentially incendiary messages. Last August, a billboard that said, “19,250 Islamic Attacks since 9/11, It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism” stirred up controversy after it appeared at the Hastings train station.