Vancouver Sun: Disappearing Palestine ads on public transit: offensive to Jewish faith or freedom of expression?

Vancouver Sun Letters to the Editor

Re: TransLink won’t pull ads launched by Palestine coalition, Aug. 29

TransLink was misguided in its approval of the Disappearing Palestine ads. First and foremost, is the timing. The Jewish New Year occurs in the first week of September this year, and then there is Yom Kippur, which is their most sacred day of the year.

The choice to buy ad space this time of the year strongly suggests intent by the Palestine Awareness Coalition to be provocative and insults those of the Jewish faith, as well as the legitimacy of the existence of the state of Israel. The ads should not have been permitted to proceed on this basis.

Second, is the issue of the content. Yes, the borders of Israel have altered since the UN plan of division in 1947. This is the result of a succession of wars. Wars change national boundaries and ownership of land, as seen in the redrawn map of Europe after the Second World War.

We even had changes in boundaries in Canada that were negotiated with the Americans, which is why B.C. doesn’t extend to the mouth of the Columbia River at Portland, where there used to be Hudson’s Bay Company posts. The British government ceded the territories to the Americans essentially to avoid war.

Consider the situation of the First Nations’ people here, whose traditional territories were progressively taken over by European colonizers. Boundaries also changed, but I do not think anyone in Canada would readily acquiesce to having their personal home turned over to the ancestral owners of the property in 1840. We need to understand that not all past errors can be rectified, so the redrawing of political and territorial boundaries to heal such wounds is truly an imbroglio, as well as a Sisyphean task.

This ad campaign might be educational, but not in the manner the Palestine Awareness Coalition wishes. If you consider rationally these issues of national boundaries and territories, one would realize there is no way to go backwards.

I hope TransLink reconsiders this ad campaign, and determines more clearly whether TransLink’s policies for advertising are applied judiciously in this instance given the surrounding circumstances that I have described.


Re: TransLink should withdraw divisive ads, Opinion, Aug. 29

Farid Rohan, in condemning recently unveiled pro-Palestinian transit ads, says he can understand “why members of the local Jewish community are upset.”

As a member of said Jewish community, I feel compelled to inform Rohan and others that I am not upset. Nor do I feel that public transit is now any less “welcoming” or “secure” or “safe” for me.

Jews, like other people, are not slaves to our ethnic and religious affiliations. Many of us are perfectly happy to think critically about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and feel no need to be sheltered from supposedly offensive opinions.

The courts have established that since TransLink is a public body, it is prohibited by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms from censoring ads because they are controversial. As a Jew and a Canadian, I would not have it any other way.


Farid Rohani’s call for TransLink to censor the “Disappearing Palestine” ads is a poor construct of erroneous contentions and fear mongering.

The ads in question dispassionately present two unassailable facts: (1) Israel continues to occupy ever more of the Palestinians’ land, and (2) the United Nations has determined there are more than five million Palestinian refugees. No “malicious” argument or “inflammatory” illustrations (four maps?) are offered.

Mr. Rohani contends the ads “send the message to our Jewish neighbours that their documented history is a fabrication.” Well, no; they just present the evolving geographic truth of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Mr. Rohani continues, “They suggest that the Jewish state is illegitimate or — worse — a creeping illegal entity.” As both the United Nations and the government of Canada consider the expanding Israeli occupation of and settlements on Palestinian lands to be illegal, the identified suggestion is hardly remarkable — but it’s not present in the ads.

Finally, Mr. Rohani contends, “Freedom of speech means that one has the right to hold distasteful views.” Actually, that’s freedom of conscience; freedom of speech means one has the right to propagate distasteful views. That the chairman of the Laurier Institution — “a think-tank founded … to promote Canada’s cultural diversity” — cannot distinguish between the two is troubling.


I was shocked to see that TransLink would accept such a blatant anti-Israeli ad. I get that TransLink is cash-starved and I doubt that the TransLink Board is anti-Semitic, but surely there are other ways to raise money than by running propaganda campaigns. ’Fess up to having had poor judgment and take down these offensive signs.

RICK MAHLER, Vancouver

How do I respond to statements accusing well-meaning critics of Israeli policy of endangering the Jewish population of Vancouver or causing young boys in yarmulkes to shrink from riding the SkyTrain?

The B’nai B’rith look at a graphic that shows the radical expropriation of Palestinian territory over the years and claims the people who put it up desire to see the state of Israel erased from the world. What an absurd reaction; it’s certainly an instance of an old Hebrew adage that says “The accuser accuses himself.”

The ads were placed by socially conscious Vancouverites, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish, who dare, in the face of powerful, organized opposition, to point to a great injustice that has been enacted in the Middle East. Most of the world agrees; the United Nations agrees. Farid Rohani notwithstanding, these ads have nothing to say about or do with the Jewish population of Vancouver.

MARTY ROTH, Member of Independent Jewish Voices, a part of the Palestine Awareness Coalition that placed the Disappearing Palestine transit ads

Comments are closed.