Toronto transit bans “Disappearing Palestine” ad claiming risk of anti-Jewish violence

“Disappearing Palestine” ad banned by Toronto Transit Commission.


The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has rejected a group’s bus ad showing Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian land over time, claiming the ad could incite anti-Jewish discrimination and violence.

The ad, sponsored by Canadians for a Just Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), is similar to others that have appeared in cities all over North America – including Vancouver.

CJPME has said it is ready to appeal the censorship of the ad all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court.

The centerpiece is a series of four maps that show the loss of control of Palestinian land to the Zionist movement and Israel between 1946 and the present.

The ad also states: “This is unfair. It is also illegal under international law.”

It includes an image of a Palestinian schoolgirl standing amid rubble resulting from an Israeli air attack in Gaza.

The copy of the ad shown above was provided to The Electronic Intifada by CJPME.

“Could advocate for violence.”

But TTC spokesman Brad Ross said that the transit body did not accept that Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land was either “unfair” or “illegal.”

“Making that statement may cause some … to then target Israelis and/or Jewish people. Some may view it as discriminatory, [and] could advocate for violence or hatred against Israel or the Jewish people,” Ross told The Toronto Star.

“There is no finding in our legal opinion of illegality around loss of land under international law … no court, no tribunal has ruled on loss of land being illegal,” Ross added.

Censors rejoice

B’Nai Brith, one of Canada’s most prominent anti-Palestinian organizations, issued a statement “congratulating” TTC for banning the ad.

Echoing the language used by the TTC itself, B’Nai Brith claimed that the ad was “misleading and inaccurate and could lead to hatred or violence against supporters of Israel and the Jewish community in particular.”

By conflating criticism of Israel and its policies with criticism of Jews, TTC seems perhaps unwittingly to be promoting anti-Semitic canards that Jews are collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.

B’Nai Brith has a history of censorship and supporting intolerance.

Last summer, Canada’s leading LGBTQ publication Daily Xtra revealed that B’Nai Brith had teamed up with Charles McVety, one of Canada’s most outspoken anti-LGBTQ campaigners, in an effort to persuade the city to defund Toronto Pride.

B’Nai Brith was incensed that Toronto Pride had not banned Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from marching in the parade.

CJPME responds

CJPME has issued an action alert saying that the group “is ready to appeal this decision to the highest levels – including the Supreme Court.”

It urged the public to contact the TTC and send a message protesting the ban of the “Disappearing Palestine” ad:

The ads are both fair and accurate. Israel’s building of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories indeed does clearly violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1980). All of these laws forbid occupying powers, such as Israel, to transfer their civilians to the territories that they militarily occupy. Why are TTC staff denying that this is the case?

Ads “lost”

CJPME also alleged that it has faced obstruction and discrmination in trying to place the ads.

According to its website, it sent proposed designs of the ads to two transit authorities in June.

“Sadly, through various strategies over the summer, the transit companies and ad agencies have tried to prevent the ads from being posted. Designs were ‘lost,’ employees told to ‘drop the ads,’ emails and calls ignored.” 

CJPME said that in September its lawyer “sent a letter to the TTC demanding that the transit authority respect CJPME’s constitutional rights to post the ads,” but instead it was notified on 21 October that the ad was rejected.

Illegal and ongoing land confiscation

TTC’s extraordinary finding runs wholly against international law, and even the nominal policies of Canada’s extremely pro-Israel Conservative government.

It also seems to go far beyond the organization’s remit of providing public transport to Toronto.

Numerous UN Security Council Resolutions, including, for example, Resolution 465, state clearly that Israel’s annexation and colonization of Palestinian land occupied since 1967 is illegal.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice in the Hague found that the wall Israel has built in the occupied West Bank and its associated regime of land confiscation, is illegal and must be removed.

Moreover, when Israel was established in 1948, it conquered about twice the amount of land allocated to a putative Jewish state under UN resolution 181, a resolution which was never lawfully implemented.

The property rights and right of return of Palestinian refugees who were expelled or fled in 1948, and their descendants, have been reaffirmed by overwhelming majorities in the UN General Assembly annually.

The Canadian government states that “Canada does not recognize Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem.”

The government also reaffirms its support for Resolution 465, among others, confirming the illegality of Israeli colonization and settlement.

Forced displacement

Recently, more than ninety Canadian writers took a public position against Israel’s ongoing evictions of Bedouins from their lands in the south of present-day Israel.

In August, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to halt the forced displacement of Bedouins which is carried out “based on discriminatory laws and rules, and without respect for the Bedouins’ dignity or the country’s human rights obligations.”

Some 40,000 more Bedouins, nominally citizens of Israel, currently face expulsion under Israel’s Prawer Plan to ethnically cleanse and “Judaize” their traditional lands.

These are facts, but they are ones Toronto’s transit authorities do not want riders to know.




Dear Sir, Madam,

I herewith strongly protest against your refusal to accept the ad of CJPME about the loss of Palestinian lands to the zionist state which calls itself israel.
By doing this, you support numerous violations of international law ( Geneva Convention art 49 ) which forbids an occupying power to tranfer it's own people into occupied territory, the ordeal of the International Court of Justice in 2004 which forbids the transfer of citizens of the occupying power into occupied territory and numerous UN Security Counsel resolutions under which resolution 465.
Beside you also make clear that you violate the law on the freedom of expression which is part of Canadian legislation.
You are not asked to agree on the contend of the ad, but not agreeing with the contend doesn't give you the right to reject the ad.

Your behaviour is a clear sign that you support violations of international law. In doing so, you may expose yourself to criminal prosecution, Is it not now, then at some point in the future.

For me it is clear in any case that there are Canadian companies and institutions who are not afraid to break the law and are sympathetic to colonial enterprises.
A reason for me to call to boycott these institutions.

With best regards




The number to file a complaint with the TTC is 1-416-393-3030. Anyone who feels these adds should have a chance to run can call and verbalize their thoughts and feelings.


Dear Sir/ Madam
I herewith strongly protest against your refusal to accept the ad of CJPME about the loss of Palestinian lands to Israel. By doing this, you support numerous violations of international law ( Geneva Convention art 49 ) which forbids an occupying power to transfer its own people into occupied territory, the ordeal of the International Court of Justice in 2004 which forbids the transfer of citizens of the occupying power into occupied territory and numerous UN Security Council resolutions under which resolution 465.
I am a white South African with family in Canada. I grew up under an Apartheid government and lived through the end of Apartheid here, and have seen for myself how it destroys the lives and futures of people who are just human beings like us. I assure you that Israel is a violent apartheid state, if anything worse than South Africa was. Northern Americans might be fooled by Israeli protestations of democracy; South Africans not as easily.
It is not anti-Semitic to demand that Israel treat Palestinian civilians fairly and in compliance with international law, and if Jewish organisations in Canada are complaining about these ads, then shame on them. My father fought Hitler – perhaps some of the members of your local B’nai Brith chapter are alive today because of him - and I am trying to imagine a world in which showing the horrors of the Holocaust would be banned because it might incite violence against Germans. That seems to be the kind of world you want; a world in which a picture of a little child whose home has been destroyed by one of the most well-armed rogue states in the world is banned because the people who destroyed her home and probably killed some of her family don’t want to be held to account for their actions. That’s what’s going on here – nothing else.
Allow the ads. They’re the truth.
With best regards
South Africa


It's simply not 'accurate' to pretend that the West Bank under Jordanian occupation and the Gaza Strip under Egyptian occupation were 'Palestinian land' in any meaningful sense. Nor is the Gaza Strip or any of the enclaves of the West Bank under meaningful 'Palestinian control' in the here and now. By insisting that these transparent distortions of readily verifiable facts are indeed accurate, CJPME are doing the hasbaristas a big favour by demonstrating that supporters of Palestinians are either unfamiliar with the facts, or willing to deceive, or both.


So you mean that a land has to be "under control" for having an identity? So, Poland according your logic, wasn't Poland anymore because it was not under "control" of the Polish people anymore, but in fact was Germany, because it "controlled " Poland during WW2. And so with France, Holland, Ukraine, parts of the USSR and so and so on. This is utterly nonsens because being Palestinian land doesn't need to fullfill the condition of "control". Being inhabitated by the Palestinians is simply enough to determine that the land is Palestinian and not jewish.


The graphic is quite explicitly about control, not 'identity'. The identity of the all land that was under the British Mandate as Palestine is not at issue.

The first panel shows ownership rather than sovereignty, as Palestine was entirely under British Mandatory control at the time. The second shows the outlines of the UN's bizarre partition plan, never effected, and the area that would have come under indigenous Palestinian sovereignty. The third shows the areas occupied by Jordan and Egypt as 'Palestinian land'. The last shows the areas under PA and Hamas administration, but actually still occupied by Israel, as 'Palestinian-controlled land'. In other words, each map purports to show a completely different kind of 'control', so they are not really comparable in the first place. But it is also dishonest not only in suggesting that they are comparable, but in the specific characterisation of the situation in each map.

In case you're interested, here's my analysis of a slightly differnt version of the same meme: http://bureauofcounterpropagan...


Your analysis is helpful. This map thing is a complex situation. What is your suggestion when it comes to expressing the recent collective and progressive disenfranchisement of Palestinians in a simple, eye catching, and artistic way? Remember, this is designed for English speakers, taking mass transportation, to/from work?


I'm glad you find it helpful. Your question is fair enough but I'm not the most obvious person to consult on matters of graphic design. That said, one of the issues is precisely the complexity – the existing meme attempts to map more than one thing – land ownership, aspects of sovereignty, UN General Assembly recommendations, Israeli incursions... So sticking to the map theme, you could omit the first map. The second could be labelled as the 'UN partition plan', showing that the 55% would go to the smaller population and the 45% to the larger, that there would be a large Palestinian minority in the Jewish partition, perhaps emphasising the Jaffa enclave, etc. The third, now second, could be labelled as the 'Oslo vision' or the like without suggesting that the occupied areas were in any sense under Palestinian control. The last map could show the shaded areas are what 'the parties' are now negotiating about. But that would really only serve as a critique of The Peace Process™.

Another approach might stick with the land ownership shown in the first map and display how the Absentee property law, the JNF/KKL, et al. took over more and more land over time; the concentration of the Israeli Arab population; then the erosion of Palestinian tenure in the West Bank.

Alternatively, maps or graphs could show the dispersal and fragmentation of the Palestinian population since the Nakba...


The main point is that we cannot afford to play fast and loose with known historical fact. The hasbara establishment includes the cyberwarfare divisions of the Israeli military and government, as well as the Zionist organisations and a large network of volunteers who monitor the internet looking for cracks in the pro Palestinian and anti racist narrative that they can exploit to undermine our credibility. It's not as if there's any need to distort history – the facts support the anti racist view. So it's really just a question of exercising more care in proofreading and fact checking before rushing out and posting things in subway cars, bus shelters, billboards and facebook pages.


I'll be explicit just in case you didn't catch the irony of an article decrying censorship and you censoring my comments... ultimately, the truth wins out. It may take time, and less intelligent and less educated people may never see the light of truth, but eventually, truth wins out.


Today I made a phonecall to TTC to make them clear that they further colonial enterprises and deny freedom of expression.
Their answer was: ( laugh) It is not the TTC which forbade the ad. It is a board ( what board isn't clear to me ) that forbade the ad because they considered it discriminatory. The lady on the Phone I told that it is not a board which has to decide if an ad is discriminiatory or not. If an ad is considered discriminatory by an individual or a group of people, then this individual or group has to file a complaint with the police and then a court will decide if this ad is discriminatory or not. Answer? No answer.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.