Westchester Billboard Battle, Round Two


The billboards that line the Metro-North commuter railroad routes between New York City and Connecticut are again a battleground in the Middle East public relations war.

For the second time in two months, ads on the billboards are focusing on the respective positions of Israelis and the Palestinians.

This time it’s the Israelis’ turn.

StandWithUs, an 11-year-old, nonprofit pro-Israel advocacy group based in Los Angeles, last week began sponsoring billboards at 75 stations. The billboards will remain up for a month.

“The StandWithUs billboard campaign will highlight Israel’s history, its gifts to the world, and underscore the Palestinians’ refusal to say yes to peace,” the organization said in a statement. “When has it ever been good for Israel or its supporters to remain silent when faced with anti-Semitism?”

The campaign follows the appearance last month of anti-Israel billboards, paid for by retired Wall Street financier Henry Clifford of Essex, Conn., at several Metro-North stations. The Anti-Defamation League called those billboards, which featured shrinking Palestinian land in Israel since 1948, “deliberately misleading and biased.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, of which Metro-North is a part, said its advertising guidelines prohibit obscenity, illegality, discrimination and other portrayals of impropriety, but not controversy.

“The anti-Israel ads are a shocking distortion of history,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothsein said in a press release. “The message presumes there was once an Arab Palestine, when in fact no such country ever existed. 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 wherever they appear.”

Rothstein said the StandWithUs campaign “will focus on the real Israel — its vibrancy, creativity, and humanitarianism — and underscore that Israel is on the forefront, working alongside the U.S., of making the world a better place.”

The StandWithUs billboards include six different texts. One says ancient Israel was renamed “Palestine” by the occupying Roman army, but “by any name it has been the Jewish homeland” for more than three millennia. Another ad depicts an Israeli and Palestinian boy hugging.

Last year StandWithUs similarly countered anti-Israel messages by sponsoring its own pro-Israel billboards in the subway system here.

E-mail: steve@jewishweek.org