Anti-Israel Billboard Campaign Removed in Los Angeles

June 25, 2012 (Los Angeles) – Once again, anti-Israel groups have exposed their lack of credibility, not just on facts about Israel but also on facts about their own alleged successes. This time, fortunately, their distortions were caught by CBS Outdoor, the billboard company.

A coalition of anti-Israel activists that calls for ending U.S. aid to Israel, Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, has run billboard campaigns in several American cities to spread its message. On June 11 it entered the Los Angeles area, setting up 23 billboards, which were scheduled to run for four weeks, with more billboards to follow. Instead of maintaining a strictly business relationship with CBS Outdoor, it implied through its literature and fundraising appeals that CBS Outdoor actually supported its anti-Israel cause. Its petition of thanks to CBS Outdoor read, in part, “By contracting with the grassroots, nonprofit Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, this billboard company is demonstrating its support for the basic American tradition of free speech.” A coalition member’s article celebrating the Los Angeles campaign was entitled “Billboard campaign to end U.S. aid to Israel hits LA – thanks to CBS.”

CBS responded almost immediately. In a curt e-mail note, it informed the coalition that the billboards would be taken down and the money refunded because “your organization has used the ‘CBS Outdoor’ name without permission” in e-mail messages and petitions. CBS Outdoor removed the billboards after they were up for only one week.

“These kinds of factual distortions characterize the anti-Israel campaigners. They misrepresent facts about Israel. For example, the $30 billion in U.S. aid is not a lump sum for one year, but rather is to be spread over the next 10 years. Nor do they let the public know how much U.S. aid to Israel benefits America and the American economy because 75 percent of it must be spent in this country. They also mislead the public about who supports their movement, as they did with CBS Outdoor. Why? Probably because they hope to persuade well-meaning people that their cause is respectable and mainstream, when in fact it is a fringe, extremist movement that seeks to harm the U.S. and one of our most valuable allies, Israel. They can’t make that case without distorting the facts,” explained Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs.

Anti-Israel campaigners have repeatedly tried to shore up their credibility by claiming nonexistent victories. This month (June), they claimed that pension fund giant TIAA-CREF had divested its shares of Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) because Israel allegedly misused CAT equipment. In fact, evidence indicates that CAT was dropped from only one of TIAA-CREF’s funds, and that was because of a labor dispute in Canada, not because of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In August 2010 anti-Israel activists claimed that Harvard University’s investment company had dropped all holdings in Israeli firms because of Israel’s unacceptable policies. In fact, just the reverse proved to be true. The Harvard Management Company had upgraded Israel’s status from an emerging to a developed market because it was doing so well economically. The Israeli holdings no longer qualified for Harvard’s emerging market fund, and many were transferred to other qualified Harvard funds. Similarly, in February 2009 boycott activists declared that Hampshire College had divested from a fund because several of its companies did business with Israel. In fact, the decision to divest from the fund had nothing to do with Israel, as Hampshire College officials repeatedly explained.

In the case of CBS Outdoor, the coalition claims the billboards were dropped because of pressure from pro-Israel groups, not because it crossed red lines by implying that CBS Outdoor supports its cause. The coalition is calling for its supporters to deluge CBS Outdoor with phone calls and e-mails demanding that the billboards go back up.

“People and companies should avoid getting entangled with these anti-Israel activists. They distort facts, exploit the good name of organizations and companies, and harass those who disagree with them. We certainly hope that well-meaning people who want peace in the Middle East are not duped by their manipulations,” said Rothstein.

StandWithUs has countered anti-Israel billboards placed by and its partner organizations since 2007. In 2007 and 2009, SWU ads appeared in Washington, DC, Albuquerque and Houston (with Bridge Houston), with the message, “Teach Peace, Not Hate.” In 2010, it was Chicago’s Metro system, and SWU allied with other groups to successfully persuade Seattle’s Metro to reject proposed ads with inflammatory, anti-Israel messaging. In September 2011 SWU countered 25 anti-Israel ads in New York’s subway system with 25 ads that informed the public that “Israel Needs a Partner for Peace.” In 2011-12 SWU countered four anti-Israel ads in San Francisco BART stations, some of which are up right now with messages highlighting Israel’s achievements in AIDS research and Water Conservation. In April 2012, we placed billboards in Denver with the message, “Baby Israela, delivered by Israeli Medics in Haiti. Israel Saves Lives.” StandWithUs will be placing billboards in Los Angeles in the coming months.
(Tags: Anti-Israelism, Billboards, Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, CBS)