The Metro board voted yesterday to allow the display in the subway system of two advertisements concerning the recent Palestinian uprising in Israeli-occupied lands. Jewish groups call the posters misleading and inflammatory.
The ads, sponsored by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, contain a photograph of several women apparently cowering in fear before soldiers. A committee spokesman said the women are Palestinians and the soliders are Israelis.
The photo, distributed by Agence France-Presse, was taken last winter, during the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip, said committee spokesman Faris Bouhafa.
The caption on one version of the poster reads "Israel Putting Your Tax Dollars to Work . . . Only Congress Can Stop the Madness." The other poster lists three nations, the Soviet Union, South Africa and Israel, and contains a caption reading, "One Yardstick for Human Rights."
The committee bought the ads "to reduce the dissonance between public sentiment in support of Palestinian human rights and Congress' inaction," said Abdeen Jabara, president of the organization.
A joint statement released by the the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Washington and the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington said, "The ads in question are provocative and inflammatory. They are completely distorted and misleading and do not represent the facts in Israel . . . . We think it is inappropriate for a public authority to be the vehicle in which inflammatory and misleading ads of this sort are displayed."
The antidiscrimination committee paid $10,250 to place 296 ads in the Metro subway car fleet. The ads will remain for 30 days, starting today, Bouhafa said. The committee has not run other advertising on this subject elsewhere in the country, but is considering running the same ads in other transit systems, he said.
"One of the appealing aspects of Washington in August is that it is flooded with tourists from all over the country . . . so we reach a national constituency," Bouhafa said.
The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee was founded in 1980 by former senator James Abourezk (D-S.D.) to counter what it sees as discrimination and stereotyping of Arabs in the Middle East and Arab Americans in the United States.
Metro board member Richard J. Castaldi said yesterday that he had received 20 to 30 calls protesting the ads, and he proposed to the full Metro board that it ask the antidiscrimination committee to wait one week before running the ads. Castaldi said the delay would allow the board to discuss whether the transit system should stop accepting all political ads.
Metro General Manager Carmen E. Turner said there could be "legal consequences" to delaying the ads.
Four years ago, Metro lost in court when it tried to deny advertising space for an anti-Reagan poster, which Metro officials viewed as false and deceptive. The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that because Metro had a policy of accepting political ads, it would be unconstitutional to reject individual ads on the basis of subjective judgments as to their truth.
Metro Deputy General Counsel Robert L. Polk said the staff is "studying" whether the transit system could refuse all political ads. Other board members noted that Metro has run another ad by the antidiscrimination committee.
"The price we pay for the expression of views in this country is that sometimes the expression of views is distasteful to us," said Metro board member Mary Margaret Whipple, an Arlington County Board member.
In the end, Castaldi cast the only vote in favor of the delay. Voting against him were Chairman Hilda H.M. Mason of the District, Whipple, Joseph Alexander of Fairfax County, Matthew S. Watson of the District and Carlton R. Sickles of Montgomery County.
Advertising in the subway system generated revenue of $2.2 million last year, when the rail system's operating costs were $206.2 million.
Also yesterday, the board approved a one-year pilot program to allow vending machines in selected subway stations, in an effort to increase sales of bus tokens, passes and other products. Metro officials hope to install 12 machines in up to seven stations this fall.