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NYC subway ads from pro-Palestinian group criticize U.S. financial ties to Israel

A Pro-Palestinian ad that will appear on subways.

A Pro-Palestinian ad that will appear on subways. Photo Credit: Palestine Advocacy Project

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to play out in New York subways, with the latest salvo coming from a group critical of the West Bank settlements.

Palestine Advocacy Project bought space for 141 posters in 44 subway stations that will be displayed through March, costing $30,000, according to the MTA and the group.

The ads feature the words "Stolen" and Homeless," while criticizing U.S. aid to Israel. They are part of a nationwide campaign across seven cities timed for the U.S. visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Basically, it's a way to reach a large mainstream audience," said Richard Colbath-Hess, a board member of the group. "We feel like the news in this country is pretty biased."

The group's ad passed muster under the MTA's guidelines and will contain the agency's new disclosure that the ad "does not imply MTA's endorsement of any views expressed," a spokesman said.

The City Council's Jewish Caucus in a statement called the ads a "gross distortion of the facts."

"The Caucus rejects the inflammatory and patently false language of calling Israel an apartheid state and call on our fellow New Yorkers to examine closely the real facts of this issue," the caucus' statement said.

The MTA has a history of wrestling with controversial ads, most recently when blogger Pamela Geller paid to run anti-Islam ads that warn of Islamic extremism. One ad that was voluntarily pulled contained an image of U.S. journalist James Foley with an Islamic State captor; the MTA blocked one, over security concerns, earning the agency a First Amendment lawsuit that is now pending. Geller's group successfully sued the MTA in 2012 after it blocked a pro-Israel ad that critics felt implied that Muslims were "savage."

Colbath-Hess said transit agencies have run his group's ads without problem, though Boston's MBTA pulled them last year.

For the riders who feel caught in the middle of an ad war: "It's part of a democracy that people have to see, maybe, ads that personally they may not like," he said. "But our ads are respectful."

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