The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has reportedly offended some commuters by allowing political adverts by the Palestine Advocacy Project, and may consider taking action. The adverts, which are displayed in seven cities including Boston, shows a small girl and states that Israel's military kills one Palestinian child every four days using US tax dollars.
"What we are trying to do is highlight to Americans a component of the story we think is missed," Palestine Advocacy Project's Jake Chase-Lubitz told WCVB. "That is the devastation Israel brings to the Palestinian community." The adverts claim that "since September, 2000 Israel's Military has killed one Palestinian child every 3 days, using US tax dollars." It provides statistics by age group: 490 (ages 0-8), 347 (ages 9-12), 531 (ages 13-15) and 534 (ages 16-17).
The advert was initially approved by the MBTA in June 2014, but was later removed for reportedly violating the transportation system's policy against language that demeans or disparages individuals or groups. That decision was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts, which argued that the adverts did not violate the MBTA's policies and were protected by the First Amendment.
The MBTA then reversed its decision to remove the adverts. "The MBTA's decision to accept Palestine Advocacy Project's ads for display is a gratifying affirmation that the MBTA remains a public space open to 1st amendment-protected speech," ACLU attorney Ben Wish said in a statement.
"In a free society, we understand that people may see things in public places with which they disagree. But the government should not be in the business of restricting the free flow of ideas in space that is set up for expression, like advertising space, simply to protect the sensibilities of those who can avert their eyes if they don't like what they see," added Sarah Wunsch, the Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts.
According to WCVB, the adverts are being called unfair by pro-Israel groups. "Spreading distortions and inaccuracies about a complex political situation will achieve no positive benefit in the search for a lasting end to the conflict in the region, a cause to which we and all reasonable people are committed," the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston said.
However, Chase-Lubitz argued, "This is frustrating information for them because it shows an unpleasant side of the occupation they would prefer to frame the entire thing on Israeli security." While the Jewish group said it respects the group's right to express their opinion, it appears the MBTA is now "considering whether to amend its advertising guidelines and in the future will not accept ads concerning political issues and matters of public debate."