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Misleading the Public:

The Spread of Anti-Israel Ad Campaigns

INTRODUCTION

Campaigns seeking to garner attention and support for efforts to marginalize Israel take various public forms, such as demonstrations and social media initiatives. Perhaps the most conspicuous of these public campaigns, however, are advertisements placed on billboards, buses, subways and other outdoor spaces.

These campaigns, designed to grab the public’s attention and influence them to take action, portray Israel as illegitimate and belligerent. Like most recurring narratives within the anti-Israel movement, these campaigns attempt to drive a wedge between the American people and Israel by putting forth false allegations about Israel and employing inflammatory rhetoric designed to delegitimize Israel’s very existence.

While public ads that promote anti-Israel initiatives and narratives have been around for several years, since 2012 there have been more than 20 major campaigns in dozens of cities around the country. The variety of divisive messages in these campaigns not only distort historical facts, but include calls to end U.S. financial and military aid to Israel and suggest that Americans are complicit in alleged Israeli human rights violations.

While many established anti-Israel groups use public spaces to get their messages across, there are groups that have been formed for the sole purpose of bringing anti-Israel ad campaigns to as many U.S. cities as possible. These campaigns often receive additional funding and support from local anti-Israel groups that also work to promote the campaigns within their communities.

Some of the groups that sponsor anti-Israel ad campaigns in the U.S. actually oppose Israel’s existence directly or implicitly and have faced controversies as a result of those views. Alison Weir, for example, the director and founder of the group If Americans Knew (IAK), which is responsible for creating the “Stop the Blank Check” campaign, was blacklisted in June 2015 by several other anti-Israel groups because of her past appearances on anti-Semitic radio shows and anti-Semitic allegations that she has made.

Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOSNA), the U.S.-based affiliate of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, which has also sponsored anti-Israel ad campaigns around the country, has faced criticism over the years for similar reasons. The criticisms of FOSNA occurred because the group’s leader Naim Ateek claimed that the establishment of Israel is a “relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God” and the organization has also published materials which compared Israel to Nazis and accused Israel of committing a “Holocaust” against Palestinians.

While not all of the groups are as controversial as IAK and FOSNA, their ads, which are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, may serve to mislead and misinform the public and do nothing to advance a greater understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About the Report

This information was collected from 2012-present and will be updated regularly by ADL’s Research Center. Under each section we have provided the reader with specifics about each anti-Israel ad campaign, including, when each ad campaign was initiated, the groups responsible for sponsoring the ads, and when available, ADL’s official response to the inaccuracies that anti-Israel groups used as a means to influence the general public’s attitudes towards the state of Israel. While we did identify that these ad campaigns have reached over 65 cities since 2012, certain campaigns may have appeared in additional cities.

The following is a sampling of anti-Israel ad campaigns since 2012. The ad campaigns fall into four categories: Ads Calling for an End to U.S. aid to Israel, Ads Alleging Israeli Human Rights Violations, Ads Distorting Israeli History, and Miscellaneous:

Ads Calling for an End to U.S. Aid to Israel

The most common theme promoted by anti-Israel ad campaigns calls for an end to U.S. financial and military aid to Israel, claiming that such support has a negative impact on both foreign and domestic policy. Israel is depicted as using U.S. military aid to engage in human rights violations that provoke anger and resentment across the Middle East and U.S support to Israel’s military budget is also portrayed as undercutting U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations. From a domestic standpoint, the ad campaigns suggest that the money being sent to Israel is redirected from social programs that could benefit Americans and from critical infrastructure in cities throughout the country.

Name of Campaign: Stop the Blank Check

  • Initiated Date: November, 2012
  • Most Recent: Des Moines, Iowa - July, 2015; Orlando, Florida – August 2015
  • Creator: The Council for the National Interest (CNI) & If Americans Knew (IAK)
  • Cities*: Orlando Florida, Sacramento, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Missoula, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; Austin, Texas; Detroit, Michigan
  • Type: Billboards
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: US Gives Israel too much Aid

Des Moines, Iowa - July, 2015: This ad opposes U.S. financial and military aid to Israel on grounds that the money is "needed in America!"

Detroit, Michigan – February, 2015: This ad opposes U.S. financial and military aid to Israel on grounds that it "just doesn’t make sense."



Name of Campaign: "Stop US Aid to the Israeli Occupation"

  • Initiated Date: March, 2015
  • Most Recent: Chicago Metropolitan Area, Illinois - March, 2015
  • Creator: American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
  • Cities*: Chicago, Illinois
  • Type: Billboards
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: US-Israel Relationship is Harmful

Chicago Metropolitan Area, Illinois - March, 2015: This ad, which coincided with the April 15 deadline for Americans to file Federal tax returns, refers to Israel as a "dependent" and calls for an end to "US aid to the Israeli Occupation."



Name of Campaign: "Stop $30 Billion to Israel"

  • Initiated Date: December, 2009
  • Most Recent: Albuquerque, New Mexico – September, 2014
  • Creator: Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel
  • Cities*: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Spokane, Washington; Albany, New York; Los Angeles, California; Helena, Montana
  • Type: Billboards
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: US Gives Israel too much Aid
Stop $30 Billion to Israel

Los Angeles, California – June, 2012: This ad calls on Americans to "tell congress" to spend its money "at home" instead of in Israel.

Spokane, Washington – August, 2013: This ad suggests that the U.S. should spend tax money on domestic infrastructure instead of on Israel, referencing the Interstate 5 Bridge collapse, which occurred months earlier.

Albany, New York – April, 2013: This ad implies that aid to Israel negatively impacts America’s future.



Name of Campaign: "Stop US Aid to Israel’s Occupation"

  • Initiated Date: March, 2014
  • Most Recent: March, 2014
  • Creator: American Muslims for Palestine
  • Cities*: Washington, D.C.
  • Type: Bus ads
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: US-Israel Relationship is Harmful
Stop US Aid to Israel’s Occupation

Washington, D.C. – March, 2014: This ad shows Uncle Sam holding an Israeli flag and suggests that Americans are enduring financial burdens for Israelis



Name of Campaign: "END Apartheid NOW! Stop U.S. Aid to Israel"

  • Initiated Date: March, 2013
  • Most Recent: March, 2013
  • Creator: American Muslims for Palestine
  • Cities*: New York, New York
  • Type: Train ads
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: Israel is an Apartheid State

New York, New York – March, 2014: This ad features the silhouette of an Israeli soldier aiming a gun at a Palestinian child and calls for an end to U.S. aid to Israel, which it describes as an apartheid state.



Name of Campaign: "End $30 Billion of Military Aid to Israel"

  • Initiated Date: March, 2013
  • Most Recent: March, 2013
  • Creator: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Visualizing Palestine
  • Cities*: Washington, D.C.
  • Type: Subway ads, mobile truck billboards
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: US-Israel Relationship is Harmful
End $30 Billion of Military Aid to Israel

Washington, D.C. – March, 2013: This ad calls for an end of U.S. military aid to Israel because of alleged Palestinian home demolitions by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Washington, D.C. – March, 2013: This ad opposes U.S. aid to Israel and asserts that American taxpayers have been assisting Israel in killing unarmed Palestinians.



Name of Campaign: "Be on our Side"

  • Initiated Date: October, 2010
  • Most Recent: Chapel Hill, North Carolina - August, 2012
  • Creator: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
  • Cities*: Chicago, Illinois; San Francisco, California; Boston, Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; Chapel Hill, North Carolina;
  • Type: Train ads, subway ads, bus ads, billboards
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: US-Israel Relationship is Harmful

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – August, 2012: This ad suggests that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can be realized when U.S. military aid to Israel is cut off.



Ads Alleging Israeli Human Rights Violations

Ads alleging Israeli human rights violations are among the most inflammatory and misleading. Their primary objective appears to be to delegitimize the State of Israel by making false claims, including allegations that Israel is an apartheid state, that it is guilty of ethnic cleansing and that it is responsible for stealing Palestinian land, indiscriminately killing Palestinian children and destroying Palestinian homes without cause.

Name of Campaign: "Stop Funding Apartheid"

  • Initiated Date: May, 2015
  • Most Recent: May, 2015
  • Creator: The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC) and Free Palestine Movement (FPM)
  • Cities*: Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, California; Denver, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon
  • Type: Bus ads
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: Israel is an Apartheid State

Denver, Colorado - April, 2015: This ad alleged that U.S. military aid is being used by Israel to maintain an apartheid state and commit war crimes against Palestinians.



Name of Campaign: "National Campaign"

  • Initiated Date: February, 2015
  • Most Recent: Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, California; New York, New York; Los Angeles, California; Boston, Massachusetts; San Diego, California; San Antonio, Texas – March, 2015
  • Creator: The Palestine Advocacy Project (formerly known as Ads Against Apartheid)
  • Cities*: Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, California; New York, New York; Los Angeles, California; Boston, Massachusetts; San Diego, California; San Antonio, Texas
  • Type: Bus ads, subway ads, mobile billboard truck ads, billboards
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: Israel Is Not Interested in Compromise for Peace

Washington, D.C. – March, 2015: This series of ads suggest that Israel is not interested in achieving peace and that it is guilty of stealing land, indiscriminately destroying Palestinian homes and employing apartheid policies.



Name of Campaign: "Congress: Look what Israel is doing"

  • Initiated Date: February, 2015
  • Most Recent: February, 2015
  • Creator: Palestine Advocacy Project
  • Cities*: Washington, D.C.
  • Type: Subway ads, mobile truck billboard
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy:  US Gives Israel too much Aid

Washington, D.C. – March, 2015: This ad, which coincided with Israeli Prime Minster Netanyahu’s address to Congress, suggests Israel is abusing American aid.



Name of Campaign: "10,000 STUDENTS SILENCED"

Tampa, Florida – January, 2015: This ad calls for the University of South Florida to divest from "Israeli apartheid" and refers to a pro-BDS petition that was rejected by the USF Foundation.



Name of Campaign: "Want Peace? Stop ethnic cleansing in Palestine"

  • Initiated Date: October, 2013
  • Most Recent: Denver, Colorado – October, 2013
  • Creator: NoTaxDollarsToIsrael and Colorado BDS Campaign
  • Cities*: Denver, Colorado
  • Type: Bus ads, light rail ads
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy:  Israel Uses Excessive Force

Denver, Colorado – October, 2013: This ad claims that Israel is responsible for ethnically cleansing Palestinians.



Ads Distorting Israeli History

These ads attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Israel with misleading and at times conspiratorial messages that do not accurately reflect historical events.

Name of Campaign: "Honor USS Liberty Survivors Attacked by Israel"

  • Initiated Date: August, 2014
  • Most Recent: San Diego, California – March, 2015
  • Creator: Honor Liberty Veterans
  • Cities*: Charlotte, North Carolina; San Diego, California
  • Type: Billboards
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: The USS Liberty Attack

San Diego, California – March, 2015: This ad is part of an anti-Israel conspiracy that suggests Israel intentionally attacked the USS Liberty in 1967.



Name of Campaign: "Palestinian Loss of Land – 1946 to 2010"

  • Initiated Date: July, 2012
  • Most Recent: New York, New York - July, 2012
  • Creator: Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine (COPIP)
  • Cities*: New York, New York; Westchester County, New York
  • Type: Train ads
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: Israel Is Not Interested in Compromise for Peace

New York, New York - July, 2012: This ad suggests that all of Israel was ruled by Palestinians pre-1948 and boils down an extremely com¬plex con¬flict by placing the entire onus of respon¬si¬bil¬ity on the Jew¬ish state.



Miscellaneous

Name of Campaign: "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

  • Initiated Date: December, 2013
  • Most Recent: Charlotte, North Carolina; Sioux Falls, North Dakota; Nashville, Tennessee – December, 2014
  • Creator: If Americans Knew
  • Cities*: Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Sioux Falls, North Dakota; Nashville, Tennessee
  • Type: Billboards
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy:  West Bank Security Barrier

Atlanta, Georgia – December, 2014: This ad, which ran through Christmas, suggests that Bethlehem is inaccessible to visitors and provides a link to anti-Israel literature.



Name of Campaign: Nelson Mandela Ad Campaign

  • Initiated Date: February 2014
  • Most Recent: Denver, Colorado – February, 2014
  • Creator: NoTaxDollarsToIsrael and Sabeel
  • Cities*: Denver, Colorado
  • Type: Bus ads
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy: Israel is an Apartheid State

Denver, Colorado – February, 2014: These ads used a quote from former South African President Nelson Mandela, to equate Israel with Apartheid South Africa.



Name of Campaign: "Palestinian Refugees have the Right to Return"

  • Initiated Date: November, 2013
  • Most Recent: Kings County, Washington – November, 2013
  • Creator: Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC)
  • Cities*: Seattle, Washington
  • Type: Bus ads
  • Response To Common Inaccuracy:  Palestinians Have Right of Return

Kings County, Washington – November, 2013: These ads promote the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, which would essentially end Israel as the "Jewish State."



* This ad campaign may have appeared in additional cities.


APPENDIX

  1. Ads Against Apartheid – Ads Against Apartheid, which is now called “The Palestine Advocacy Project,” was founded in 2012, but did not become particularly active until 2013. The group worked to place anti-Israel ads in several U.S. cities, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
  2. Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR) - A member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which sponsored an anti-Israel billboard campaign in Portland in 2014 with ads that read “ISRAEL’S WAR CRIMES: YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.”
  3. Chapel Hill Church of Reconciliation – The Chapel Hill Church of Reconciliation worked with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to place anti-Israel ads on nearly 100 buses in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2012.
  4. Citizens for Justice in the Middle East (CJME) – CJME is a Kansas City-based group that works to educate the American public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and promotes an end of U.S. aid to Israel. The group sponsored a “Stop the Blank Check” billboard in Kansas City in February 2015.
  5. Coalition to stop $30 Billion to Israel – A group based from Albuquerque, New Mexico that sponsors billboard campaigns around the U.S. calling for an end of U.S. aid to Israel. The group has placed ads in several cities, including Denver, Albuquerque, Houston, Los Angeles, and Spokane.
  6. Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine (COPIP) – COPIP is a group that looks to educate the American public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through speakers and advertisements. In July 2012, they sponsored several misleading billboards in Metro-North trains in Westchester County, New York.
  7. Council for the National Interest (CNI) – A grassroots anti-Israel organization that opposes U.S. aid to Israel and started an ad campaign with If Americans Knew called “Stop the Blank Check,” which calls for an end of U.S. aid to Israel. The campaign has been brought to cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, and Kansas City.
  8. Free Palestine Movement (FPM) – A California-based anti-Israel group that provided funds for an anti-Israel billboard campaign sponsored by the Council for the National Interest and If Americans Knew in Sacramento.
  9. Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOSNA) – FOSNA serves as the “voice for Palestinian Christians” against Israel’s policies and has been a driving force behind various Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel. They have sponsored anti-Israel ad campaigns in Denver, San Francisco, and the East Bay.
  10. Honor Liberty Veterans – A group that works to promote a debunked conspiracy theory that Israel acted malevolently and attacked the USS Liberty ship knowing that it was an American ship. They have sponsored billboards in San Diego and Charlotte.
  11. If Americans Knew (IAK) – IAK produces and disseminates propaganda intended to lambast U.S. support for Israel and started an ad campaign with the Council on the National Interest called “Stop the Blank Check,” which calls for an end of U.S. aid to Israel. They have also sponsored other anti-Israel ad campaigns around the U.S.
  12. Jewish Voice for Peace – JVP, as the largest and most influential anti-Zionist group in the United States, has sponsored anti-Israel ads on several occasions. At times, their regional chapters have placed ads in cities such as Albuquerque and Portland. The national JVP umbrella also placed anti-AIPAC ads in Washington, D.C. in 2013.
  13. No Tax Dollars to Israel –No Tax Dollars to Israel was formed to call for an end of U.S. aid to Israel and the group’s campaigns have been featured in cities such as Denver, Portland, Sacramento and San Francisco.
  14. Palestine Advocacy Project – The Palestine Advocacy Project, which was formally called Ads Against Apartheid, works to place anti-Israel ads in as many U.S. cities as possible. The group was founded in 2015 and placed anti-Israel ads in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Boston.
  15. Seattle Middle East Awareness Committee (SeaMAC) – SeaMAC is a group based from Seattle, Washington that works to promote an end of U.S. support for Israel. They have started anti-Israel ad campaigns in several U.S. cities, including Portland, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Denver.
  16. Stop the Blank Check – A campaign started by the Council for the National Interest and If Americans Knew that promotes an end of U.S. aid to Israel. Their billboards, which read “$8 million a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense! STOP The Blank Check.org,” have been brought to many U.S. cities, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Austin, and Atlanta.
  17. Students for Justice in Palestine – The University of South Florida (USF) Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter placed a billboard up in Fall 2004 calling on USF to “end investments in Israeli apartheid” because of a pro-BDS petition that USF SJP had circulated.
  18. Two Peoples, One Future - A campaign initiated by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which promoted an end of U.S. military aid to Israel as a way to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The ads, which featured an Israeli and Palestinian man with their children, appeared in several U.S. cities, including New York City, Albuquerque, and San Francisco. They stated “Be on our side. We are the side of peace and justice. End U.S. military aid to Israel.”
  19. US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation – The US Campaign is a coalition made up of over 400 anti-Israel groups working to end U.S. support for Israel. Most groups involved with anti-Israel campaigns are members of the US Campaign and have sponsored and promoted anti-Israel billboard campaigns in many cities, including Washington, D.C., New York, Chapel Hill, and Los Angeles.
  20. Visualizing Palestine – A group focused on creating anti-Israel images to make an impact in changing public perception about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2013, the group co-sponsored an anti-Israel ad campaign in Washington, D.C. with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.