Toronto Star: TTC rejects controversial Middle East ad campaign

Jewish group B’nai Brith praises the TTC’s decision not to run ads showing shrinking Palestinian territory

By Tess Kalinowski Transportation reporter, Toronto Star, Oct. 21, 2013

A Montreal-based group plans to appeal the TTC’s refusal to run its advertising, which depicts shrinking Palestinian territory in the Middle East.

The TTC says the ad violates its policies because it contains statements that could incite discrimination, in this case against Jewish or Israeli people.

The ad, submitted by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, is similar to a campaign that ran on Vancouver transit by the Palestine Awareness Coalition.

Although the TTC ads look different, “the centrepiece” is similar, a series of maps showing how Palestinian territories have shrunk over time, said Thomas Woodley, president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, who would not release a copy of the ad on Monday.

As of midday, the organization had not been officially notified of the ad’s rejection, he said.

Woodley said the group will investigate the appeals process and wouldn’t rule out going to court if it is unsuccessful at the TTC.

While TTC staff have rejected the ad, the group can ask for a working committee of three transit commissioners to consider the case. TTC chair Karen Stintz, along with city councillors and transit commissioners John Parker and Maria Augimeri comprise the transit system’s Advertising Review Working Group.

“We do certainly believe the legal validity of our ads. We believe they certainly do accurately portray both historically and legally the situation in Israel and Palestine today,” said Woodley.

It’s not uncommon for these types of ads to be criticized so the group has done its historical and legal due diligence, he said.

“We feel we’re on solid ground in terms of the historical and legal position the ads take,” said Woodley. “We live in a democracy and there’s going to be controversy in a democracy.”

But the TTC and Jewish community group B’nai Brith, say the ads are “inaccurate” and “misleading.”

There’s a reference in the advertising copy to events in the Middle East being “unfair” and “illegal,” said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

“Making that statement may cause some . . . to then target Israelis and/or Jewish people. Some may view it as discriminatory, (and) could advocate for violence or hatred against Israel or the Jewish people,” said Ross.

“There is no finding in our legal opinion of illegality around loss of land under international law . . . no court, no tribunal has ruled on loss of land being illegal.”

B’nai Brith Canada praised the TTC’s rejection of the ads as “thoughtful” and “fair”.

Although she hadn’t seen the ads, they are similar to campaigns that have run in several American cities, said Anita Bromberg, B’nai Brith’s national director for legal affairs.

“They are incorrect, they distort the history, they’re misleading to the public, they’re not conducive to what we should all be hoping for, which is a peaceful resolution. . . . These are very counterproductive.”

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