Thousands of miles removed from the political tinderbox of the Middle East, a controversy has broken out between Palestinian and Israeli advocacy groups over dueling advertising campaigns on BART.
Since 2010, a consortium of Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups has sponsored three BART train ad campaigns, each of which feature slogans asking for an end to United States military support for Israel.
Click on the photo to the right to see both of the ads.
For every one of those campaigns, StandWithUs, an Israeli education group, has countered with its own ads. The latest campaign, which starts Monday, features taglines urging Palestinians leaders to accept Israel as a peaceful neighbor.
Cindy Shamban, a member of Jewish Voices for Peace, one of the groups sponsoring the original ads, said their campaign was intended to spur people’s interest and provide information. She said BART was an ideal option for the campaign since so many people take public transit.
“When we first put these ads up, I really didn’t think they’d elicit any reaction,” Shamban said.
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, said the group felt compelled to counter the original ads because they were one-sided and placed blame exclusively on Israel. She said her organization would normally not advertise on public transit vehicles such as BART, but since the original campaigns were placed on the trains, they had little choice except to respond with their own ads nearby.
In reviewing StandWithUs’ proposed counterads, BART General Manager Grace Crunican acknowledged that they might provoke comments. However, she said the campaign complied with the agency’s advertising consent guidelines, and she offered her support for the ads in a memo to BART’s board of directors.
BART spokesman Jim Allison said once ads are approved by the agency, they are not taken down early, even if public complaints arise about their content.
BART’s board of directors establishes the guidelines, and its staff members determine whether advertising campaigns comply with those standards. Here are the criteria for ads:
- Maintain a secure and orderly operating environment.
- Maintain a safe and welcoming environment for all BART passengers, including minors who travel on or come in contact with the BART system.
- Maximize advertising and fare revenue. In no event shall any advertising be installed without payment of the prevailing commercial rate.
- Avoid identifying or associating BART, its employees, board members, or its contractors with the advertisements or the viewpoints of advertisers.