An Australia- based Jewish organisation is claiming victory after an advertisement calling for an end to violence against children in Israel and Palestine was “pulled” from screening at cinemas around the country.
But the NGO responsible for the clip says it ran for as long as was intended.
The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) issued a statement last week saying they were working to ensure an advertisement produced by Save the Children would no longer be screened as part of the pre-film commercials at Village Cinemas.
On Monday, the ADC claimed success in that endeavour.
“In response to concerns first raised by The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission about a one-sided and simplistic Save the Children ad shown as part of pre-film advertisements, Village Cinemas has decided to no longer screen the 30 second film,” a release claimed.
But when New Matilda called Save the Children to confirm, the NGO flatly rejected claims the advertisement had been pressured off air.
“The ad was planned to screen in cinemas for a week, which it did. It was not pulled,” a spokesperson said.
A Village Roadshow spokesperson confirmed the clip was no longer running in cinemas but declined to comment further.
The clip was part of a broader Save the Children campaign to halt violence against children occurring as a result the current round of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
It opens to white text on an otherwise black screen. “With no power and no lights, imagine what it’s like for a child at night,” the text reads.
What follows must have been a distressing experience for cinema audiences – while the screen remains blank, explosions are heard all around, and the sound of smashing glass rings out.
When the cacophony subsides, text returns.
“There’s no safe place for children in a conflict. Stop the use of explosive weapons in Gaza and Israel. End the blockade.”
It’s those final three words that appear to have most angered some Jewish organisations.
After seeing the campaign, the Executive Council of the Australian Jewry (ECAJ) wrote to Save the Children, complaining the video was “one sided” and “partisan”.
“We of course decry the death and injury of children in conflict, and do not take exception with your message ‘Stop the use of explosive weapons in Gaza and Israel’,” the letter said.
“However, in support of that statement, your advertisement calls for action from one side of the conflict only, and that is to ‘End the blockade’.
“One might have expected that a statement in aid of innocent children would have at least included the call ‘End the rockets’, or ‘End the use of human shields’.”
The petition accompanying the campaign explicitly calls for “all parties in the conflict” to stop using explosive weapons in populated areas.
A Save the Children spokesperson confirmed they had received a letter of complaint from ECAJ but was unaware of any correspondence on behalf of the ADC.
“As a humanitarian organisation with a proud history spanning nearly one hundred years helping the world’s most vulnerable children, Save the Children’s advertisement was run to draw attention to the plight of children in Gaza and Israel whose lives have been blighted by conflict,” the spokesperson said.
“Children in Gaza suffer under the blockade, which we note media outlets are reporting is to be eased through a ceasefire agreement between all parties involved.”
Israel and Gaza have now reached an indefinite cease-fire, apparently bringing to an end seven weeks of fighting which left 500 Gazan children and six Israeli civilians dead, including at least one child.
Save the Children said that wherever it works, it takes the side of children.
“A sustained solution involves the lifting of the blockade of Gaza, which is causing severe hardships and impacting on the wellbeing of children and their families,” the spokesperson said.
The dispute over the Save the Children advertisement follows a similar incident in Melbourne, which saw a pro-Palestinian billboard ad taken down after the company which owned the space received complaints.
The poster, which included a quote from Nelson Mandela, called for Palestine to be freed, and said: “Apartheid. Wrong in South Africa. Wrong in Palestine”.
Like ECAJ, the ADC’s Chairperson Dr Dvir Abramovich had his own suggestion as to how Save the Children’s clip could have been more nuanced.
“A more accurate 30 seconds ad to explain the situation would have been— terrorists bent on Israel's destruction fire rockets at Israel while causing unspeakable suffering among its own people and Israel defends itself,” he said in a press release.
Larry Stillman, an executive member of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society, said the advertisement’s call to end the blockade was one with which many people agreed.
“It was quite appropriate, it was taking a position but it was a position against violence overall,” Stillman said.
“They oppose bombs and rockets on both sides and violence against children.”
New Matilda contacted the ADC multiple times to clarify their claims the advertisement was “pulled” or simply finished its course of screening, but received no response.
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