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Pro-Israel ads to counter BDS in Canada

The American NGO Israel advocacy group StandWithUs has launched an ad campaign on Canadian buses to counter an anti-Israel ad campaign by BDS.










A US Israel advocacy group has launched a month-long advertising campaign this week on Vancouver, Canada buses and light rail stations to counter anti-Israel ads. The group, StandWithUs, is a right-leaning Israel advocacy group and has supported the campaign to combat the ads put up by the Palestine Awareness Committee.

The Israel advocacy organisation has previously responded to ads it views as critical of Israel in other North American cities. While the Palestine Awareness Committee has announced plans to run its ads in other Canadian cities, Meryle Kates, executive director of StandWithUs-Canada, said StandWithUs has no plans to expand its campaign.

The StandWithUs ads will run from 14 October to 14 November.

The pro-Israel ads include one series of three maps purporting to show “Jewish Loss of Land” and are dated from 1000 BCE until “Today.” Another depicts smiling Israeli and Canadian children with the statement “Shared Values & Freedom.”

The anti-Israel ads depict “Disappearing Palestine” on a series of four maps dated 1946-2012 that illustrate “Palestine” shrinking over the years.

3-SWU Canada ad 

Right: StandWithUs’s counter ad showing a disappearing Israel

“The anti-Israel ads distort facts,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement. “They presume there once was an Arab country called ‘Palestine’ when in fact no such country ever existed.”

When the Palestine Awareness Committee ads went up recently and the Vancouver Jewish community threatened legal action and attempted, unsuccessfully, to have TransLink, the Vancouver transit agency, reject the ads.

In a tongue in cheek blog entitled “Does Vancouver’s transit system hold the key to peace in the Middle East?” Canadian writer Robyn Urback writes: “It has become clear that a battle for the hearts and minds of the Middle East is to be fought on the side of a Vancouver TransLink bus.

“In August, the city’s transit authority was at the centre of a controversy involving a series of ads that depicted Palestine ‘disappearing’ into the State of Israel,” she wrote.

Israel’s depicted as absorbing Palestine

The Palestine Awareness Coalition’s ads “showed Israel’s apparent absorption of Palestinian land between 1946 and 2012,” wrote Urback.

The original ads offered an extremely simplified version of six decades of complex Middle Eastern affairs, which was perhaps why some Jewish groups demanded they be taken down. Members of B’nai Brith Canada, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) in Toronto all called on TransLink to remove the ads, with FSWC president claiming that the ‘Disappearing Palestine’ signs incited ‘hatred and contempt.’

3-SWU Canada & Israel

LEFT: This SWU ad depicts smiling Israeli and Canadian children with the statement “Shared Values & Freedom”


TransLink did not concede, but its hands were tied. In 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada held that TransLink could not refuse to host politically charged ads.

The only way the transit authority could have legitimately removed the Disappearing Palestine ads would have been by asserting that they amount to “hate speech” — which they don’t.

The Disappearing Palestine posters, however, certainly apply ill-context and propagandising by, for example, failing to inform observers of the Arab insurgency following the 1947 Partition Plan as a basis for understanding the 1949 borders wrote Urback.

It also failed to explain the dubious way in which the UN defines its “five million” Palestinian refugees, though the number was still slapped on the bottom of many TransLink posters.

 3-SWU Palestine ad

RIGHT: Canadian PAC’s Martha Roth walks past an ad paid for by the movement


The StandWithUs ads, says Urback, “likewise use an irrelevant starting point to depict the loss of Jewish land, much in the same way that citing the Kingdom of Commagene would be fairly useless to any contemporary discourse about Armenian border disputes.”

While it’s fair to assert that the relationship between Canada and Israel is the strongest it has ever been, she says.

“The intricacies of Middle Eastern affairs do not easily fit on the side of a bus,” says Urback, “which is precisely the point.

“These ads, like most advertisements, are meant to cheaply win over a handful of observers by presenting a glossed-over version of fact.”


South African related events…


When BDS South Africa used the “Disappearing Palestine” maps on a very public billboard campaign last year, they went one step further in their deception, wrote website MyShtetl at the time in a story headlined:BDS-SA’s BIG LIE! “As if it wasn’t enough to use the text of the message to project a falsehood,” said MyShtetl, “BDS-SA was not happy to use series of maps used by Palestinian solidarity groups globally.
They simply removed one of the four maps – the key one – deciding in their wisdom to test SA’s laws on truthful advertising one bit further by presenting another falsehood.”

3-SWU - SA Billboard

RIGHT: BDS South Africa ran a billboard campaign using the Palestinian maps last year – but left out the crucial one

BDS-SA had removed the crucial 1947 UN-proposed partition plan map to ensure that the original US advertising campaign was deemed to be “factually inaccurate” by Ron Meier, a director of the independent and authoritative Anti-Defamation League, in part because they count Arab citizens of Israel among the “Palestinian refugees.”

StandWithUs were in the SA news this year

The group StandWithUs were also central to Rhodes University laying charges of Racism against students and staff who had put up pro-Israel posters on campus during Israel Apartheid week earlier this year.

The posters that the students had used were downloaded from the StandWithUs advocacy website. The MAIL & GUARDIAN ran a full page story in May this year after the university’s own Fairness Forum, to whom the matter had been referred, came back to the august institution’s management saying that while the posters were homophobic, they were in no way racist.

Rhodes still planned to charge the students and even threatened to disband the Fairness Forum, said the M&G, but no action has been taken to date.

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Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi



More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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UJW Sewing School graduates model creations



The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke



The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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