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(Update) MBTA removed pro-Palestinian ads due to 'non-compliance' with its guidelines

Ads Against Apartheid said they were not notified when the MBTA removed pro-Palestinian ads from its subway system.

Ads Against Israeli Apartheid were reportedly removed without notice. Photo: Ads Against Apartheid. Ads Against Israeli Apartheid were reportedly removed without notice. Photo: Ads Against Apartheid.

The MBTA has prematurely removed three pro-Palestinian ads that were posted at State Station and spoke out against alleged Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians because, according to the T, the posters violated its ad guidelines.

According to the non-profit Ads Against Apartheid, which sponsored the ad campaign, the ads were prematurely removed from the from the transit system due to pressure from pro-Israel groups, though the T said the ads didn't comply with its court-approved guidelines.

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"After undergoing additional scrutiny, the ad was deemed to be in non-compliance with the MBTA's court-approved advertising guidelines," MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email Thursday. "As a result, the three posters were removed less than four days before they were scheduled to come down anyway. It was the responsibility of Titan, the T's advertising contractor, to notify the ad buyer of the early removal."

Sarah Wunsch of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said in a release Thursday that the ACLU will support Ads Against Apartheid's efforts to get the advertisements back up.

According to the group, the MBTA did not notify its members that the ads had been removed on June 26.

"As of this writing, the MBTA has not offered an official explanation as to why the contract had been terminated early," the group said in a release Thursday.

An official working closely with the MBTA allegedly told Ads Against Apartheid by telephone that the ads were likely removed because they were found to be “demeaning to the state of Israel.”

Richard Colbath-Hess, Jewish co-founder of Ads Against Apartheid, emphasized that the ads criticize the behavior of the Israeli government, not any national group or individual.

“We’ve asked for an official reason why the ads were removed but have yet to be given one,” said the group's president and co-founder, Chadi Salamoun. “It’s been two weeks. You’d think we would have been told two weeks ago."

The MBTA had previously approved the advertisements after a review process, the group said. They were on display for more than half of a month before they were removed.

“There is certainly a double standard here. Our ads present facts cited by respectable institutions,” said Salamoun. “The MBTA has allowed anti-Palestinian groups to display opinionated messages that border on hate-speech."

A pro-Israel ad that the American Freedom Defense Initiative sponsored in early 2014 sought to draw a contrast between what it called “the civilized man” and “those engaged in savage acts,” a message that AAA believes implies that Palestinians comprise the latter.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
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