Guerrilla Ad Campaign Replaces Pacific Gas & Electric Billboards
Guerrilla Ads Link California Green Energy to Israeli Apartheid
A guerrilla ad campaign in Berkeley and San Francisco is drawing attention to links between Pacific Gas & Electric and the State of Israel, which many consider an apartheid state. Several of PG&E”s “Solar Power” bus shelter billboards have been modified to read “Making planets orbit and bagels toast … and fueling Israeli apartheid”
The revised ads include the text:
“PG&E has contracted with Solel, an Israeli solar energy company, to build to build the world’s largest solar plant in California’s Mojave Desert.
“This project will cause enormous environmental devastation in the Mojave.
“This project endangers the lives of over 3 million Palestinians by providing massive capital to the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state, as defined by the United Nations. Palestinian citizens do not have equal rights with Jewish citizens, only Jews have immigration rights, and 1.5 million Palestinians live under harsh military occupation. In addition, Israel refuses to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees to return home, as guaranteed by international law.”
The modified ads were rehung in bus shelters in downtown Berkeley and San Francisco”s Union Square, and stayed up for several weeks.
“Every person in California has a stake in what PG&E does, because we are all forced to buy power from them,” explained street artist K.R., one of the creators of the new ad campaign. “I don”t want to be funding apartheid every time I turn on a light, and I don”t think most of my neighbors do either.”
PG&E has a 25-year contract for power from the Mojave Solar Park. In addition to the contract with Solel, which was signed in 2007, PG&E signed a contract in May of 2009 to buy power from BrightSource Energy, a U.S.-Israeli company. The BrightSource project is being opposed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which says that its location will threaten the habitat of a rare desert tortoise.
“Our desire for new energy sources has always led us to partner with repressive regimes,” said K.R. “The demand for oil led to the Vietnam War and the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Nigerian activists. Uranium mining was one of the reasons for apartheid in South Africa and theft of Native American land in the last century. Our conversion to clean and renewable energy should not replicate the exploitative conditions under which earlier technologies were developed.”
The modified ads direct consumers to a website, www.bdsmovement.net, to learn more about boycotting Israeli apartheid.
Street artists have plans to continue the guerilla campaign in a number of different ways.
Guerrilla Ad Campaign Replaces Study In Israel Billboards
Students and community members near the UC Berkeley campus were surprised one weekend to see a series of bus shelter billboards asking, “What country uses live ammunition against unarmed children?” Below a photo of identically dressed schoolboys in front of a barbed wire fence is the answer: Israel.
The guerrilla ads replaced ads which also featured photos of groups of people, beneath the headline, “Study in Israel? You”d like it here.” The ad campaign was part of an intensive campaign to promote study in Israel at California universities. The University of California recently reinstated a study abroad program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, after years of strong lobbying from pro-Israel students and professionals. The program was suspended seven years ago based on concerns that the area was too dangerous.
“It”s ironic that the University of California has decided the area is less dangerous now than seven years ago, when 1,400 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israeli government in Gaza just four months ago,” said one of the creators of the alternative ad campaign, who prefers to remain anonymous. “2009 has already been the deadliest year for Palestinians since the Second Intifada began in September 2000.”
The replacement poster took a satirical tone, reading in part:
“For over eight years, Israel has been under siege. Unarmed Palestinian children have led the attack by crossing Israeli checkpoints, intimidating Israeli troops and provoking gunfire. Acting with extreme restraint, Israelis have killed no more than 1,100 children and seriously wounded only 4,000. Israeli troops have arrested over 6,000 children, but only 80% have been tortured….
“With your continued support we can do better. The U.S. government gave us $5 billion last year, but your additional contributions will help us arrest every Palestinian child, torture 100% of detainees, and rid ourselves of the menace of international human rights workers once and for all. In these tough economic times, think of Israel on April 15th and give generously.”
The poster made its first appearance on March 29, which is observed as Land Day by Palestinians all over the world. Land Day commemorates events of 33 years ago, when Israeli security forces shot and killed six young Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured many others. The young people were killed while protesting ongoing Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish-only settlements.
The Study in Israel billboards were carefully designed to appeal to the U.C. system”s multicultural student body. One featured a group of Southeast Asians and another a women in hijab (traditional Muslim headcovering). One of the artists behind the alternative campaign finds this portrayal of Israel as a society that is welcoming to people of all cultures particularly troubling. “Not only is Israel an apartheid state, where Palestinians – whether they wear hijab or not – do not have equal rights with Jewish citizens, but Muslims who attempt to travel there as tourists or students are very likely not even to be allowed into the country,” the artist observed.
The poster at the top of this post may be printed and used to replace such billboards as seen in the images below: