METRO-NORTH FACES ISRAEL-PALESTINE AD CONFLICT
By James Arkin
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, DAILY POLITICS
July 26, 2012
StandWithUs, a non-profit Israel education organization, is paying for 75 pro-Israel billboards to go up on Metro-North platforms for a month starting next week.
The ads are a response to pro-Palestinian billboards put up by Henry Clifford, chairman of the Committee For Peace In Israel and Palestine.
StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said Clifford's billboards promote misinformation about Israel's history.
"This poor man who placed the billboards, Henry Clifford, needs an education," Rothstein said. "So we thought we would help people like Henry Clifford who think there was some magical place called 'Palestine' with some presidents or a King before Yasser Arafat."
Clifford's billboards display maps documenting the region's shifting borders since 1946. StandWithUs has six different designs, including one with a picture of a bible and the text: "According To This 3,000-Year-Old Best Seller, Israel Is The Jewish Homeland."
The billboards document Israeli peace offers, and Israel's role in water conservation and U.S. job creation.
"Israel constantly gives gifts to the world, including all these technical advances including water saving and other medical technology that literally creates magic around the world," Rothstein said. "Whether it's growing fish in the desert or helping people drip water into irrigation or helping California with water saving, people don't recognize, don't understand what Israel gives to the world."
Clifford's billboards stirred controversy, leading state Assemblymember Robert Castelli to write a letter calling them inflammatory and urging the MTA to remove them. Clifford said that would be censorship and a violation of his freedom of speech.
Rothstein said StandWithUs believes in free speech and does not think Clifford's advertisements should be removed, but insisted that somebody should have been responsible for checking their accuracy.
"Everybody has free speech, but we hope people will be inspired to take a look and learn more about Jewish roots in a very ancient place in the world," she said. "This is an opportunity for more free speech, so we're using our right to teach and hopefully inspire people to take a look at [the] Jewish connection to this land and how old it is."
Though Rothstein did not know if StandWithUs billboards would be on the same platforms as Clifford's, she said they will be nearby.
"The same people who had the misfortune of reading tall tales about Israel should have the benefit of reading some good information about Israel," she said.
Update: Henry Clifford sent the following statement in response to the StandWithUs billboards: "Our poster presents the historical and geographical facts without editorial comment. We don't tell people what to think, we give them hard facts and let them decide for themselves. Thousands of words would be required to respond to and refute [the StandWithUs billboards] but after all is said the bottom line is irrefutable: the Palestinians have lost most of their homeland."
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