Publicity stunt or guerrilla warfare Palestinian seeks Israeli personals flood Village Voice

NEW YORK — A new weapon may have emerged in the Palestinians' battle with Israel — the "siren call."

In several ads this week in New York's Village Voice newspaper, Palestinians — or people posing as Palestinians — solicit romantically available Jews or Israelis to take them "home" to Israel.

"YOU STOLE THE LAND. MAY AS WELL TAKE THE WOMEN!" reads one ad. "Redhead Palestinian ready to be colonized by your army."

Another corporal call makes a similar point: "Shalom baby! Hot Palestinian Semite gal Hoping to find my perfect Israeli man. Let's stroll the beaches of Akka & live and love in Jerusalem. No Fatties."

Some Jewish leaders say the unusual barrage of ads — at least 18 in the Feb. 12 issue — is some kind of publicity stunt. Others fear a more serious ploy to infiltrate Israel and realize the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees to homes they fled in Israel.

Still others remember the incident last year when a Palestinian woman struck up a cyber romance with a teenaged Israeli boy to lure him to Ramallah, where he was murdered.

Kenneth Jacobson, associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that before Sept. 11 he might have dismissed the ads as a gimmick. Now he's a little more skeptical.

Referring to former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Tip O'Neil's axiom that "all politics is local," Jacobson said the terror attacks had given previously distant matters a greater personal relevance.

After Sept. 11, a convoluted plan to infiltrate Israel via personal ads in a counterculture New York paper may not seem as ridiculous as it once might have.

"It's as if some in the Palestinian world" may be looking for "ways to begin to inject more and more Palestinians into Israel proper," Jacobson said.

For its part, the Village Voice said it had received only one call about the ads — for this article. That call, however, prompted the advertising department to "review the ads in question," said the paper's public relations director, Jessica Bellucci.

"We feel they don't raise any red flags," she said, but "we're going to continue to monitor" them "and then take appropriate actions necessary."

That could mean pulling ads if they are fraudulent.

The Voice might have been selected for the ads not only because it takes personal ads and has a wide Jewish readership, Jacobson said, but because it might have been seen as less likely than Jewish or mainstream publications to reject such offbeat ads.

"In any case," the ads "clearly seem to be an orchestrated effort," he said.

Similar ads — though fewer — appeared in the Village Voice over the summer, Jacobson said, but the ADL's "antennae are up higher now."

The ADL hasn't received many calls on the ads, but after Sept. 11, "when we see something we might dismiss as ludicrous, today we have to give it some due attention, because we know crazy and dangerous things have happened and can happen again," he said.

Ido Aharoni, spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York, said the ads are a "kind of guerilla P.R. warfare that" reflects negatively on those who placed them.

Yet he doesn't think the ads warrant further concern.

"I don't think it's serious. I don't think it's for real," Aharoni said. "Here's a relatively inexpensive way to reach hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers."

In addition, he noted, such ads are protected under the First Amendment's free speech provisions.

Bellucci of the Village Voice said the paper sees "trends from time to time" in the personal ads that may highlight religion, for example, or sexual orientation.

The Palestinian ads are "in keeping" with the background and interests of the Voice's diverse readership, she said.