The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has asked the UK government to remove hundreds of flyposters on London Underground trains put up by pro-Palestinian activists which claim that his country’s policies amount to apartheid.
The posters, designed to look like genuine adverts, were pasted on tube trains by London Palestine Action as part of this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week. Political leaders in Jerusalem and Jewish organisations in the UK condemned the posters.
Netanyahu asked Israel’s foreign ministry director, Dore Gold, to raise the matter with British government officials while on a trip to London. “I asked him to demand from the British government that the posters be removed,” he told parliamentary colleagues, according to reports in the Israeli media.
Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party and a former finance minister, said London residents had “entered the underground and found a series of antisemitic, anti-Israel signs calling us an apartheid state, accusing us of torturing children, or murder, of terrible things”.
Lapid said he had telephoned the London mayor, Boris Johnson, to complain and tell him that “the state of Israel will not tolerate such things”.
Four poster designs have been displayed on trains: one accuses the British government of complicity in Israeli violations of international and humanitarian law through arms sales. Another says that more than 500 Palestinian children are arrested, detained and prosecuted by Israel every year with the assistance of the UK security firm G4S. A third highlights the demolition of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem by Israeli security forces, and a fourth accuses the BBC of bias in favour of Israel in its reporting.
A spokesperson for London Palestine Action said: “Israel and its supporters are used to having biased mainstream media uncritically repeat its point of view. Our actions aim to shine a spotlight on the support that Israel receives from the UK government and arms industry, and UK companies like G4S.
“At a time when the government is undermining local democracy in order to protect Israel and attack the idea of support for Palestinians, it was important to show that we’ll continue to take action in solidarity with Palestinian popular resistance.”
The London-based Zionist Federation wrote to Transport for London on Monday to complain about the posters and request their removal. It said that TfL was responsible for maintaining a safe environment for its passengers and the posters’ message could increase tensions.
“The materials in question promoted a one-sided approach to the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recognised as one of the most contentious political disputes in the world. Their grotesque, reductionist, and inaccurate portrayals of the issue – arguing, for example, that Israel is not only involved in massacres but also in effect controls the subsequent media coverage – would undoubtedly have resulted in an increase in community tensions,” said the letter signed by Paul Charney, ZF’s chairman.
The London Jewish Forum said the posters were an act of vandalism and “awful smears that do nothing to contribute to peace and dialogue, placing significant strains on inter-community relations across London”.
TfL said it was removing the posters. “These are not authorised adverts,” a spokesperson said. “It is flyposting, and therefore an act of vandalism, which we take extremely seriously.”