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Activists plaster London trains with 'Israeli apartheid week' posters

Israel complains to UK after more than 100 posters appeared overnight on underground network in support of Palestinian cause
An image on a London Tube criticises a security company for working with Israel (Twitter/Ibrahim Halawi)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Monday for British authorities to remove posters from London's tube network that described Israel as an “apartheid” state.

More than 100 posters denouncing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories were plastered on trains by pro-Palestine activists on Sunday night.

The stunt was done in preparation for “Israeli apartheid week”, a British initiative designed to compare Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to historical racial segregation in South Africa.

The posters criticised British arms sales to Israel, referencing the Israeli army’s military assault on Gaza in 2014 that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

Other posters criticised the BBC for perceived bias in its reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Activist group London Palestinian Action produced an image that quoted former BBC Middle East Correspondent Tim Llewellyn saying: “We have become used to the fact that, in a BBC newsroom, an Israeli life is worth the lives of an infinite number of Palestinians.”

The BBC has not responded to the poster, but it has in the past defended its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as being fair and balanced.

The “apartheid week” activism extended beyond London on Monday, with students in Cambridge setting up what they said was an Israeli-style checkpoint used in the occupied West Bank to manage the movements of Palestinians.

Palestinian activist groups at universities across the UK have planned events for the rest of the campaign.

The Israeli foreign ministry described the posters as “inciteful” and Netanyahu instructed Dore Gold, the ministry's director-general, to demand their immediate removal. Gold is currently in London for talks with the British government.

“The posters are currently being removed, following efforts begun last night, when the Israeli Embassy in London learned of them,” the Israeli ministry said in a statement.

A Transport for London spokesperson said: “These are not authorised adverts. It is fly-posting and therefore an act of vandalism which we take extremely seriously. Our staff and contractors are working to immediately remove any found on our network.”

The London Jewish Forum welcomed the posters being removed, describing them as an “act of vandalism seeking to undermine the UK’s relationship with Israel”.

The campaign is linked to the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to boycott Israel until it meets its requirements under international law, with respect to their treatment of Palestinians.

BDS critics say the movement is anti-Semitic due to its targeting of Israel, however supporters say it is focused on defending the human rights of Palestinians against violations by Israeli authorities.

Last week British authorities announced new laws making it illegal for publicly funded bodies and local authorities to boycott Israeli companies.

BDS campaigners responded to the ban by saying it violated their “democratic right” to freely choose “not to be complicit” in Israeli rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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