Upon hearing that the Vancouver Transit Palestine Solidarity Ad Campaign made its first appearance today, I went down to the Vancouver Centre Canada Line Station at Granville and Georgia Streets this afternoon to see how and where the "shrinking map of Palestine" poster was displayed.
It is downstairs where one boards the train. The location is very prominent and when I was there, many passengers were keenly observing it, discussing it amongst themselves, and photographing it with their mobile phones.
One individual who was standing next to me, asked me in a somewhat irritated voice, what I thought about this?
I saw this as either an invitation for a potential confrontation or else as an opportunity to dialogue. I tell this story, as I think it is important for us to think through and strategize how to best interact with the ad and the people viewing it.
I told him it was a statement of fact and an important message which needs to be communicated. As such, I was pleased to see it.
He then launched into what might be construed as an attempt to deflect, invalidate and obfuscate. "There are so many other issues in the world, why do they always focus on Israel? What about Syria, Somalia, Iran?"
At this point I realized it was important to minimize the likelihood of him escalating.
To do this, I initially "joined" him by agreeing with the part of his message which was true. "You make an important and valid point". Immediately his disposition softened. Without skipping a beat, I then added: "You are right. Every injustice deserves a voice." He further relaxed his oppositional stance, and I could continue. "The existence of other atrocities and human rights violations in the world, however is no reason to remain silent in face of the systematic annihilation of Palestine".
He was silent. Thought about the message. Looked up again at the maps. And walked away.
This is not to suggest that my answer is the only answer. I was in fact caught off guard and not anticipating any conversation, as I too was busy taking a photo with my cell phone. There are many reasons why this social justice campaign is needed. The Canadian government's complicity in the gradual dispossession of Palestine makes the issue immediately relevant to all Canadians who oppose racist, violent human rights abuses.
The point I wish to share is that this little interaction alerted me to the fact that the message of the ad is indeed a powerful one that will surely elicit strong reactions in many viewers. It's good for us to make sure we maximize the impact by being prepared to shape the dialogue towards the social change message we want to convey.