The inflammatory ad campaign that hit New York’s Westchester County earlier this month is now on the frontline of the Israeli-Palestinian war over American public opinion.
Henry Clifford, chairman of the Committee For Peace In Israel and Palestine, paid $25,000 to the Metro-North Railroad – an agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority – to run his ad for 30 days. The ad, “Palestinian Loss of Land – 1946 to 2010,” features four maps, all of which intend to “bolster claims that Israel has systematically confiscated land from the Palestinians.”
Now, StandWithUs (SWU) – a non-profit organization dedicated to informing the public about Israel and combating anti-Semitism – has launched a campaign of its own to highlight “the real Israel – its vibrancy, creativity, and humanitarianism – and underscore that Israel is on the forefront, working alongside the US, of making the world a better place.”
But is this really an effective way to counter Henry Clifford’s false claims?
While SWU’s ads portray the State of Israel for what it truly is – a homeland for the Jewish people, a pioneer in technology, a light unto the nations – they do not challenge Clifford’s distorted portrayal of Israel as a land thief. The ads do not feature similar maps showing the real evolution of the land, which would depict Israel — not Palestine — diminishing in size; nor do they shed light on the fact that 4.7 million – the number of Palestinians the UN classifies as refugees, and a detail Clifford highlights in his ad – is a grossly exaggerated figure.
In spite of their good intentions, SWU’s decision to address Israel’s positive attributes, instead of countering Clifford’s false claims, negatively affects public perceptions of the Jewish State. To stand by without defending Israel against the hateful, false allegations of land theft makes it seem as if the American pro-Israel movement is not disagreeing with Clifford’s distortion of history, but instead, trying to showcase Israel’s positive contributions to the world as a way of diverting attention.
One SWU ad makes this very point. The ad shows that “Israel saves water through cutting-edge water conservation technology that is being exported around the world.” While it is important to educate the public on this gift of drip irrigation, in addition to Israel’s many other contributions, such information is irrelevant when attempting to combat Clifford’s distorted message. Without first disproving the content of the ad and asserting Israel’s right to exist today, this achievement makes it seem as if Israel is conserving water that it stole from the Palestinian Arabs anyway.
Of course, this is not the case. SWU is right to highlight all the good that Israel does for the world, but such efforts alone are not enough. The only way to truly combat Clifford’s virulently anti-Israel message is to publicly – via ad, pamphlet, or flyer – prove it wrong. Because history is on our side, nothing should stand in our way.
Clifford welcomes the challenge: “Anyone who challenges these maps and the content of these ads, it’s their obligation to show that they’re historically wrong. The ball is in their court.”
The time has come to fight back for American public opinion. Here’s what you can do:
- Print out numerous copies of StandWithUs’s historically accurate map (PDF) of the evolution of the Middle East. Consider labeling it, “What Henry Clifford’s Map Didn’t Tell You…”
- Distribute copies of this map to commuters at your local Metro-North station, particularly during peak hours, so you reach the most commuters.
- Speak with eager individuals at the station about Israel’s land concessions for peace, and how Israel – not Palestine – is shrinking.
- Mention that Israel gave up control of the Sinai, Gaza and Southern Lebanon, as well as much of the West Bank, over the years, all in pursuit of peace.
- Bring along relevant literature on the subject.