A local businessperson has forked out more than R350 000 for the erection of 12 billboards across South Africa that graphically explain the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions South Africa campaign, which is handling the project with the Palestine Solidarity Alliance, told the Mail & Guardian that the businessperson – who wishes to remain anonymous – was inspired by a similar campaign in the United States.
Earlier this year American Henry Clifford backed a campaign with more than $25 000 to have adverts explaining the Israeli occupation put up in New York metro stations. The ads stirred huge controversy.
Ndlozi said three billboards had already been put up – one in Benoni and two in Pretoria – and another nine would be divided between Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
"Since the three have gone up, we have received several calls and emails from the public asking for more information [and from people] wanting to get involved," he said. "The campaign is turning out to be a huge success, so we may consider taking out more billboards."
Ndlozi said a lot of thought had been given to the placement of the boards and they would not be "preaching to the converted".
Land expropriation and dispossession
"The locations are high-density and diverse areas – for example, one has been placed outside the University of Pretoria, attracting students and academics, whereas two have been placed near Gautrain stations, appealing to young professionals and commuters," he said.
One version depicts a series of maps showing the shrinking Palestinian territory as Israeli occupation has increased over the years. The words "Palestinian loss of land 1946 – 2010" are printed under the maps in large letters. Next to the maps a message reads: "4.7-million Palestinians are classified by the United Nations as refugees."
Another version carries the wording "Israel's occupation of Palestine is illegal under international law".
"The billboards inform the ordinary person of the land expropriation and dispossession of the Palestinian people in a graphical way," said Ndlozi.
"The choice to use the series of maps showing how Palestinians have been confined by Israeli colonisation to ever smaller enclaves over time was deliberate. Firstly, using the maps is, or rather should be, the least controversial method of communicating our message as they speak for themselves."
But the South African Zionist Federation slammed the campaign, saying it showed that Boycott Divestment and Sanctions South Africa and its "allies" believed there was no place for Israel in this world."It is now clearly apparent from their message that their position is that they do not believe in a two-state solution. Their message is clearly aligned with the thinking of most anti-Israel regimes and countries around the world," said federation spokesperson Ben Swartz.
"It is critical that the public, who are no doubt the targets of this advertising campaign, are made aware that they are being subjected to a very radical and extreme view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Unfortunately, such radical messages and positions are only going to worsen the conflict by pushing the parties further apart as opposed to moving them closer together. Only by bringing the parties together can a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict be found."
But former South African minister for intelligence services Ronnie Kasrils, who is known for his critical views on Israel, welcomed the campaign. "This shows how serious we are about solidarity with the Palestinians. "It is a message that must be got across to our people. It is our sacred duty to project this sentiment."