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Students and community members near the UC Berkeley campus were surprised one weekend to see a series of bus shelter billboards asking, “What country uses live ammunition against unarmed children?” Below a photo of identically dressed schoolboys in front of a barbed wire fence is the answer: Israel.
The guerrilla ads replaced ads which also featured photos of groups of people, beneath the headline, “Study in Israel? You’d like it here.” The ad campaign was part of an intensive campaign to promote study in Israel at California universities. The University of California recently reinstated a study abroad program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, after years of strong lobbying from pro-Israel students and professionals. The program was suspended seven years ago based on concerns that the area was too dangerous.
“It’s ironic that the University of California has decided the area is less dangerous now than seven years ago, when 1,400 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israeli government in Gaza just four months ago,” said one of the creators of the alternative ad campaign, who prefers to remain anonymous. “2009 has already been the deadliest year for Palestinians since the Second Intifada began in September 2000.”
The replacement poster took a satirical tone, reading in part:
“For over eight years, Israel has been under siege. Unarmed Palestinian children have led the attack by crossing Israeli checkpoints, intimidating Israeli troops and provoking gunfire. Acting with extreme restraint, Israelis have killed no more than 1,100 children and seriously wounded only 4,000. Israeli troops have arrested over 6,000 children, but only 80% have been tortured. With your continued support we can do better. The U.S. government gave us $5 billion last year, but your additional contributions will help us arrest every Palestinian child, torture 100% of detainees, and rid ourselves of the menace of international human rights workers once and for all. In these tough economic times, think of Israel on April 15th and give generously.”
The poster made its first appearance on March 29, which is observed as Land Day by Palestinians all over the world. Land Day commemorates events of 33 years ago, when Israeli security forces shot and killed six young Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured many others. The young people were killed while protesting ongoing Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish-only settlements.
The Study in Israel billboards were carefully designed to appeal to the U.C. system’s multicultural student body. One featured a group of Southeast Asians and another a women in hijab (traditional Muslim headcovering). One of the artists behind the alternative campaign finds this portrayal of Israel as a society that is welcoming to people of all cultures particularly troubling. “Not only is Israel an apartheid state, where Palestinians – whether they wear hijab or not – do not have equal rights with Jewish citizens, but Muslims who attempt to travel there as tourists or students are very likely not even to be allowed into the country,” the artist observed.
While the guerrilla ads are not affiliated with any organization, www.stopthewall.org, www.bdsmovement.net and www.whoprofits.org are excellent sources of information.
|One of the billboards advertising study in Israel|
|Another of the billboards|
|The billboards were replaced with this graphic|