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'Disappearing Palestine' maps deemed a violation of free speech

January 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

Advertising on Canadian TransLink buses and on a wall mural in Vancouver’s City Centre depicting Israel’s expansionist agenda has been deemed a security threat by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (Pacific Region) and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. The advertising titled ‘Disappearing Palestine’ features the four well known maps of Palestinian territory dated 1946, 1947, 1967 and 2012, with the land disappearing at an alarming rate to be encompassed within the occupying state.

A press release by the Palestine Awareness Coalition states that the aim is “to make the Canadian public aware of Israel’s steady absorption of Palestinian territory from 1946 to the present day and the constant oppression that accompanies that occupation”. Seven groups form part of the coalition: Building Bridges Vancouver (BBV), Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at the University of British Columbia (SPHR-UBC), Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign (BIAC), Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Canada-Palestine Solidarity (CanPalNet), Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation (Necef Sabeel) and Seriously Free Speech.

Mitchell Gropper, head of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, demanded the company’s cooperation to remove the advertising, stating that “TransLink is allowing the use of its vehicles to create disharmony and disunity in our society, which is very disturbing…Free speech is not without limits. You cannot use free speech to libel and slander others, you cannot use free speech to endanger other groups”. In a statement on the Jewish Federation’s website, Mitchell alleged that the advertisements are in violation of the company’s policy of rendering the transport system safe for all, including minority groups. Furthermore, the federation is concerned about the advertising posing a ‘security risk’ to the Jewish community. However, TransLink is not removing the advertising, stating that these comply with Canada’s advertising standards and are not in violation of any human rights.

Far from instigating a disruption of societal norms, the advertising depicts the obvious reality of Palestinians, as well as the necessity to enhance awareness across society. It might be argued that while politics and diplomacy have served the illegal occupying power, it is activism which has diverted attention towards the countless instances of international law violations which Palestinians have suffered, primarily as a result of Israeli expropriation of land – an issue which various international leaders are reluctant to address in order to maintain the privilege of economic and military ties with Israel.

The targeting of activist practices portrays Zionist indignation at the effectiveness of pro-Palestinian campaigns which highlight the treachery of Israel’s intentional misrepresentation of Palestinians in order to justify illegal claims to the land. The tactics used by the Jewish Federation of Vancouver simply exhibit the denial and oblivion surrounding the theft of Palestine land, while echoing the Israeli government’s rhetoric of security concerns. What the federation has attempted to achieve is a projection of Palestinian resistance against the occupation portrayed as detrimental to Jews living in Canada due to activist groups raising an awareness which does not include the stereotypical propaganda of the victimised state. However, with TransLink’s acceptance of the advertising and plans to expand awareness across other Canadian cities, it seems as if Zionist claims of racism, security concerns and anti-Semitism are failing to garner the desired sympathy.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.