Henry Clifford’s advertisement at the Chappaqua Metro-North train station July 10, 2012.
(Photo: Seth Harrison / The Journal News )
Last night I talked to Henry Clifford, the 83-year-old Connecticut man who paid for the smashing ads on New York commuter train platforms that describe the dispossession of Palestinian lands over the last century.
“I’ve been plowing this field for many years and I am absolutely astounded by the response I’ve received, and the news coverage,” the former financier said. “We’ve been begging for coverage for years. Now it’s pouring in.”
He said he had been interviewed by CBS, Fox News, NBC and many radio stations, and the questions were fair ones.
“I have received nothing but positive responses with two exceptions [by email],” said Clifford, whose email address firstname.lastname@example.org, is on the ads. “This has produced an overwhelming response.”
Over the years Clifford and his group Committee for Peace and Palestine have run ads and written countless letters to newspapers with nothing like this impact, he said. It never got covered. Last year he put up billboards in New Haven and Old Saybrook, CT, asking Americans about the $30 billion in aid pledged to Israel over ten years, “Can we afford this?”
“The response was really pitiful,” he said.
The commuter platform ads seem to have struck a nerve, he said, because they are in the heart of New York’s media zone, viewed by movers and shakers, the affluent and the educated.
There have already been threats to take the ads down, he said. A Brooklyn religious Jewish group went to the MTA to demand that the ads be pulled. “To their everlasting credit, they said, These ads were brought to us by CBS Outdoor, a reputable company. They screened them, they approved them. It is not our job to censor them.”
But CBS Outdoor folded on less-provocative billboards put up around Los Angeles a month back, and tore them down. What’s to stop these ads from being ripped down?
“They can’t. I have a contract. The ads are there and have been paid for. I can take legal action if they fail to abide by the contract.”
I said the success of the ads indicates a shift in public opinion. Clifford said he wasn’t sure about that. “I really don’t see that the American people are any better informed than they were a year ago about this matter. There is a great amount of lack of knowledge, misinformation and even lack of interest. They think, ‘Oh it’s a mess over there,’ and then they yawn. We are trying to spread the word.”
Clifford’s Committee for Peace and Palestine has tried to stir a change in US policy for over ten years.
I asked him about the charge that the ads are anti-Semitic.
“My response is that maps are historically and geographically the truth. You cannot make a map anti-Semitic. Either it’s accurate or inaccurate. Those who disapprove of these ads, if they want to show they’re inaccurate, they should bring that proof forward.”