FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON THE DISAPPEARING PALESTINE TRANSIT ADS
Why were the maps put on public transit?
Public education. It is a format that reaches many people who would not normally have access to the Palestinian story. The maps show in a visual way the impact of Israel´s ongoing illegal settlement of Palestinian land.
Who sponsored the ads?
The Palestine Awareness Coalition, which consists of 7 different organizations supporting Palestinian human rights which have many different approaches to their work. The groups are the Boycott Israel Apartheid Campaign, Building Bridges Vancouver, Canada-Palestine Support Network, NECEF-Canadian Friends of Sabeel, Independent Jewish Voices, Seriously Free Speech Committee and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights – UBC.
Where did the money come from?
Funds were raised from individuals and the organizations listed above.
Were the ads deliberately timed to appear during Rosh Hashanah and in neighbourhoods with many Jews?
The timing and placement of the ads on the buses were entirely under the control of TransLink. We were expecting them at least two weeks later. The buses with the maps change routes frequently.
Are the ads anti-semitic because they are directed towards Israel?
The ads are directed towards the policies and practices of the government of Israel and not Jews as a group or as individuals. We do not believe that Israel is the “collective Jew” nor do we believe that individual Jews should be blamed for the policies of the government of Israel.
Do the ads not make incite hatred and contempt and make Jews feel unsafe on the public transit system?
Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city. Individuals with wide-ranging backgrounds and philosophies intermingle in the public transportation system every day. People do not feel uncomfortable because of a few ads criticizing the government of another country. Palestinian people live under siege or in refugee camps every day of their lives. Showing the reality of their shrinking land is hardly comparable.
Does the TransLink system not have a policy which holds that it must be a safe and welcoming environment for all racial, ethnic, religious and minority groups?
We agree that public transit must be a safe and welcoming environment for all groups. These ads in no way infringe upon the safety or welcoming nature of the transit systems and are in fact an anti-racist campaign. TransLink lost a 2009 Supreme Court decision regarding its policy of prohibiting advocacy ads. In her decision, Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps stated that ¨Citizens, including bus riders, are expected to put up with some controversy in a free and democratic society¨.
What is the land of Palestine depicted on the transit ad maps?
Palestine is universally understood as the name of a geographical region in southwest Asia on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, inhabited for centuries and without interruption, by a people known as the Palestinians who are of different faiths, Muslim, Christian and Jewish, and who assumed a predominantly Palestinian Arab culture in the 7th century. All of these elements, Palestinian land ownership, the indigenous people of the land and the indigenous culture, are disappearing as our four maps show.
Who are the Palestinian refugees?
As far as the line of text goes, it is not only true, it is an understatement. The number of Palestinian refugees far exceeds the 5 million people registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Over 7 million Palestinians are dispossessed and estranged from their national territory which is totally occupied by Israel at present.
What do the four maps show? Are the maps accurate? Some pro-Israel organizations say they are not.
The first map shows the dominant land ownership, culture and demography of the Palestinian Arabs under the British Mandate prior to the 1947 Partition Resolution. The boundaries of the country were endorsed by the League of Nations. Mandate Palestine became a geopolitical entity in June 1922. It was placed under a British administration with the express understanding that the Mandate would be of a transitional nature and lead to independence. The mandate system held until 1947.
The second map of 1947 Palestine depicts the division of the land under the Partition Plan of the General Assembly of the UN in 1947 (a division that was opposed by the country’s indigenous population, all Arab countries, Muslim countries and most of the third world members of the UN). Under this partition, 57% of the land was given to the Jewish settlers who represented by that time about one third of the population and owned some 5.66% of the land.
The third map of Palestine, 1949 to 1967, depicts the years following the partition and the war of 1948. As a consequence of the war, only 99 Palestinian Arab villages out of 674 remained intact. Several hundred of these were forcefully depopulated and destroyed (The Israeli historian Benny Morris counts 369, while the Palestinian Harvard scholar, Walid Khalidi, lists 418 ), or their population took refuge in safer regions. The process of destruction and expulsion was carried out according to the dictates of a pre-conceived plan known as Plan Dalet. This is why there are today millions of Palestinian refugees. The new state of Israel kept expanding into Arab areas and eventually occupied 78% of Mandate Palestine.
The fourth map, 2012 Palestine, shows that the only culturally independent Palestinian territory is Gaza and discontinuous portions of the West Bank in both of which Palestinians exercise only a limited measure of autonomy (both are under siege or the direct military control of Israel), interrupted by illegal Jewish-only Israeli “settlements” or colonies whose occupants presently number about 600,000. These colonies and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were declared illegal by the International Court of Justice on July 9th, 2004. The Court called on Israel to withdraw from lands ceased in 1967, and to compensate the Palestinians for the damage and harm it has caused them. All UN member countries were called on not to recognize the Israeli occupation and to take measures to force it to evacuate the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The process of erasing Palestine “from space and consciousness” has not yet come to a close. Only this year, to the horror of many, the Israeli Government decided to destroy the homes of more than 30,000 Palestinian Bedouins who live in the Negev who have roamed the area from times immemorial, and relocate them to confined areas against their will.
To summarize, the four maps that are contained in the advertisement provide an accurate account of the tragic fate of Palestine: its Palestinian Arab population, their lands and homes and the culture of the land. All three elements are disappearing. These are facts that are incontestable.