A paid advertisement displayed at the Chappaqua Metro-North train station, New York, July 10, 2012. The signs, which cost $25,000 to run at up to 10 Metro-North stations for 30 days, were paid for by an 84-year-old ex-Wall Street financier.
“If the facts are inflammatory then they are inflammatory,” said Henry Clifford, the chairman of a 10-member group called the Committee for Peace in Israel/Palestine. “All of the Middle East is infected with the virus of the Arab-Israeli conflict. People need to know the truth of the matter.”
The posters have been strategically placed as he was targeting “high IQ readers”. They have been seen in Westchester, Chappaqua, Mount Kisco, Scarsdale, Tarrytown and White Plains.
“My audience is people who have the intellectual curiosity to have an open mind, whether they agree with it or disagree with it,” said Clifford.
Photo credit: Seth Harrison
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“I have received nothing but positive responses with two exceptions [by email],” said Clifford, whose email address email@example.com, is on the ads. “This has produced an overwhelming response.”
Over the years Clifford and his group Committee for Peace and Palestine have run ads and written countless letters to newspapers with nothing like this impact, he said. It never got covered. Last year he put up billboards in New Haven and Old Saybrook, CT, asking Americans about the $30 billion in aid pledged to Israel over ten years, “Can we afford this?”
“The response was really pitiful,” he said.
The commuter platform ads seem to have struck a nerve, he said, because they are in the heart of New York’s media zone, viewed by movers and shakers, the affluent and the educated.
There have already been threats to take the ads down, he said. A Brooklyn religious Jewish group went to the MTA to demand that the ads be pulled. “To their everlasting credit, they said, These ads were brought to us by CBS Outdoor, a reputable company. They screened them, they approved them. It is not our job to censor them.”
But CBS Outdoor folded on less-provocative billboards put up around Los Angeles a month back, and tore them down. What’s to stop these ads from being ripped down?
“They can’t. I have a contract. The ads are there and have been paid for. I can take legal action if they fail to abide by the contract.”
I said the success of the ads indicates a shift in public opinion. Clifford said he wasn’t sure about that. “I really don’t see that the American people are any better informed than they were a year ago about this matter. There is a great amount of lack of knowledge, misinformation and even lack of interest. They think, ‘Oh it’s a mess over there,’ and then they yawn. We are trying to spread the word.”
Clifford’s Committee for Peace and Palestine has tried to stir a change in US policy for over ten years.
I asked him about the charge that the ads are anti-Semitic.
“My response is that maps are historically and geographically the truth. You cannot make a map anti-Semitic. Either it’s accurate or inaccurate. Those who disapprove of these ads, if they want to show they’re inaccurate, they should bring that proof forward.”