Seattle cancels anti-Israel bus advertising campaign

Following pressure from Jewish groups and submissions of response ads, county officials announce ban all non-commercial ads.

By MICHAEL OMER-MAN
December 24, 2010 19:01
2 minute read.
The Seattle skyline with the Space Needle

Seattle skyline space needle 311. (photo credit: AP)

A planned Seattle bus advertising campaign that accused Israel of committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip was rejected by King County Executive Dow Constantine on Thursday.

Constantine said that the escalation of the issue from an advertisement to "a widespread and often vitriolic international debate introduces new and significant security concerns that compel reassessment," in a statement.

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Saying that the proposed ads may have been a potential source of disruption to local public transit, the King County executive implemented an interim policy that bans the Seattle transit service from accepting any new advertising that is non-commercial.

On the same day, officials from Seattle Metro Transit rejected the anti-Israel ad from the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign as well as response ads from two other groups.

"Metro's existing policy restricts advertising that can be reasonably foreseen to result in harm to, disruption of, or interference with the transportation system," Constantine said. "Given the dramatic escalation of debate in the past few days over these proposed ads, and the submission of inflammatory response ads, there is now an unacceptable risk of harm to or disruption of service to our customers should these ads run," the statement added.

The county executive said that he had consulted with "federal and local law enforcement authorities who have expressed concern, in the context of this international debate, that our public transportation system could be vulnerable to disruption."

Addressing the possible free speech implications of such a move, Constantine said, "We cannot and would not favor one point of view over another, so the entire category of non-commercial advertising will be eliminated until a permanent policy can be completed." He added that in the coming weeks, the local government will attempt to "determine what constitutionally-valid policy is best" for the public, transportation system and the Seattle-area community at large.

The planned advertising campaign was to feature various images of destruction in the Gaza Strip headlined, "Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work."

The decision to cancel the anti-Israel campaign followed a meeting Wednesday between Seattle Jewish community leaders and officials from the King County Executive office, as well as widespread protest from US Jewish groups and communities.


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