Ads About Palestine Were Removed From MBTA Stations After ‘Numerous Complaints’ [Update]
The T’s advertising agency took them down in less than a week, but now they are going back up.
Update, 4:30 p.m. Friday: According to an MBTA spokesman: “The ads are going back up. Their removal was the result of a miscommunication between the MBTA and its contractor, Titan. There was a breakdown in our established procedures for handling complaints about specific ads.”
Earlier: After receiving multiple complaints about large signs depicting a shrinking Palestinian landscape, which were put up around the MBTA system, the T’s advertising partner, Titan, pulled them down.
The ads went up around the transit system on Monday, and were paid for by The Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine, a group that describes itself as “a diverse, community-based group dedicated to organizing activities and educational events that advance the cause of peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
But according to Henry Clifford, chairman of the committee, Titan told him that within hours of the signs being posted, which Clifford paid for, the T fielded “numerous complaints,” and they were “informed … to remove all of the posters from the system.”
Titan told Clifford they would reimburse him for the cost to run the advertisements.
Boston reached out to the group sponsoring the ads as well as the T’s ad agency, but did not receive an immediate response from either.
While the email from Titan to Clifford seems to indicate that it was the T that urged the ad agency to remove the posters because of the complaints, officials from the transit agency said it was ultimately Titan’s decision. “The MBTA informed Titan of the complaints, and Titan decided to remove the ad,” said MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo.
It’s not the first time that these particular advertisements have stirred controversy. In 2012, The Committee Peace in Israel and Palestine paid $25,000 to have the signs go up at 10 “Metro-North” stations for 30 days. The signs describe the loss of “Palestinian Land from 1946 to 2010.”
Last year, when complaints surfaced in New York and Washington, D.C., Clifford told Fox News that “Anyone who challenges these maps and the content of these ads, it’s they’re obligation to show that they’re historically wrong. The ball is in their court.”
Members of the Jewish community called for the removal of the ads in New York, but the transit agency there didn’t take them down.
In Boston, representatives from Jewish Voice for Peace said they are “glad to hear” that the MBTA ads showing maps of “Palestinian Loss of Land” are going back up. “These maps educate Boston T-riders on the effects of Israeli policies, like the expansion of illegal settlements, on Palestinian society. As Palestinians lose their land, they also lose their homes, villages, freedom of movement, and access to basic resources like farmland and water. We must acknowledge the reality in these maps in order to create justice, equality, and security for Palestinians and Israelis,” they said in a statement.
Feuds over “appropriate” advertisements on the MBTA’s platforms, stations, and vehicles have been an issue in the past with other companies and organizations as well.
In September, an anti-street harassment group lodged complaints with the MBTA over a cartoon of a female with the words “Tap Booty” written next to her. The advertisers chose to remove the ad after receiving complaints via social media.
In 2011, the MBTA banned anti-Scott Brown ads from being placed along the tracks, sponsored by 350.org, because they allegedly violated the T’s advertising guidelines. That same year, ads that said “Judgment Day,” and gave a date declaring the end of the world, were removed from MBTA buses.