The pro-Israel NGO StandWithUs has purchased and will erect a massive vertical billboard over the Ayalon Highway in protest to a campaign by the left-wing NGO Breaking the Silence, daring Eurovision visitors to “dream of peace, security and coexistence.”
Breaking the Silence put up a billboard on Sunday in Tel Aviv contrasting an image of Tel Aviv with the security barrier, and offering visitors the opportunity to take a tour of “occupied Hebron” and see “the reality of everyday life in the occupied territories.”
StandWithUs will offer counter-tours to Gush Etzion, the Gaza periphery and Haifa.
“As soon as we found out about this campaign, we acted,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein, who is currently visiting Israel. “Within an hour, we had plans to promote our own tours on a giant billboard. We have never, and we will never, leave the playing field to those who tell lies about Israel.”
On the Gush Etzion tour, visitors will meet with local Israelis and Palestinians, and participate in conversations about their efforts to “create a brighter future together,” according to StandWithUs. On the Gaza periphery, participants will get a glimpse at life on the border under constant threat of rockets. The Haifa tour will focus on coexistence through the eyes of the city’s diverse population.
Immigrants from the former Soviet Union make up 25% of Haifa’s population and Arabs 10%, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Breaking the Silence was established in 2004 by veterans of the IDF. The organization has come under fire for defaming the IDF. In July 2018, the government passed the “Breaking the Silence Law,” which bars organizations and activists who slander Israel and the IDF in international forums from entering school premises.
StandWithUs is headquartered in Los Angeles and is considered an Israel advocacy organization.
“Breaking the Silence is making a desperate and cynical attempt to divert from the positive celebration of Eurovision being hosted in Israel, in order to defame the Jewish state,” said StandWithUs Israel executive director Michael Dickson. “The truth is that there is no silence to break. While they may seek to present a one-sided, politicized viewpoint, we will show a forward-facing, open and honest view of how the future could look with peace and security for all.
“I am confident that tourists will enjoy themselves in Israel,” he continued, “and get a chance to see our open society and how Israel is a beacon of light to the world.”