Column: A Billboard Badgers Jewish Neighborhood in Philly

Now they are getting in my face.

In my neighborhood in Philadelphia, in my haven away from obnoxious, law-breaking pro-Arab activists, a billboard sponsored by an Arab/Muslim group emerges ahead for motorists traveling south on Bustleton Avenue that posts the words, in black print, “Don’t stop talking about…” followed below in blood-red larger print: “PALESTINE.”

And below “Palestine,” in smaller green print: “End the Siege on Gaza.”

My imaginary billboard would proclaim: Please end the siege on me.

The people they purport to represent triggered the present conflict on Oct. 7 with the massacre of 1,200 Israelis and kidnapping of 240 more, and they are blaming Israel? Here, they level their accusations while blockading roads and bridges and accusing Jews of being nazis.

It is stomach-churning enough to follow events in Gaza and southern Israel, and it is nearly as difficult to learn of the highway blockades and harassment of Jewish college students taking place in my city. Moving the rhetoric to Northeast Philadelphia is kind of like rubbing my nose in the muck of this war.

What do I find wrong with this billboard? The three top reasons: Location! Location! Location! Northeast Philly has the largest Jewish population within city limits on the west side of the Northeast, as it is widely known. The billboard was set up at the most distinctive intersection along Bustleton where it converges with Castor Avenue (those familiar with the Northeast will recognize it). The intersection is a block from a mostly Jewish senior housing facility.

I live a few miles north by circumstance, but I enjoy the advantage of living in a tranquil if sleepy community since most political crosswinds blow downtown. Now these friends of the Palestinians must bring the most ugly crosswinds up my way.

While Palestinians have legitimate grievances, one would never know it from listening to their advocates in cities like Philly. This billboard’s messaging is consistent with their usual rhetoric: Threatening, confusing words that take an interpreter to explain.

What does it mean to “stop talking about Palestine?” What are they telling us? Why should we talk about Palestine at all?

The key word in this posting is “Palestine.” What is it? There is a “Palestine” in Illinois and another in Texas, but no sovereign entity by that name exists in the Middle East. “Palestine” is widely regarded as Arab land that would supplant Israel and its territories. That means all of Israel.

Neither does it explain the “Siege on Gaza.” Likely the “siege” takes a number of forms – certainly the current Israeli military response that Hamas claims has killed 25,000 Gazans. They probably also mean pre-Oct. 7 blockades and comprehensive inspections of goods going in and out of Gaza.

Israel needed to take such steps for security purposes. This is common knowledge. In addition, Hamas took advantage of admission of Gazans who spied for Hamas while working in southern Israel and returned to Gaza with intelligence that helped Hamas plan its invasion.

The billboard was first spotted by this writer the day after New Year’s Day, and it remains three weeks later when I passed it again on Monday. It was placed there by CAIR’s local chapter, according to the billboard’s fine print. CAIR stands for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Most conspicuous for its absence was any mention of the 100-plus hostages still in Gaza or any condemnation of the Oct. 7 attacks.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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