Anti-Israel messages are once again about to hit the streets in the U.S., this time on buses in Seattle.
According to a report on Seattle’s KING5 TV which aired on Friday, a group calling itself the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign has paid Seattle’s King County $1,794 so that twelve buses will carry an ad reading “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work” with an image of a group of children next to it, showing one little boy staring out at the viewer while the others gawk at a demolished building.
The ad is expected to hit Seattle’s buses on December 27, a date not chosen by accident as it is the second anniversary of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF’s operation in Gaza which was aimed at stopping the daily rocket attacks by Gaza-based terrorists towards southern Israel.
Ed Mast, a spokesperson for the group, explained that the ad is not meant to be an anti-Israel message, but rather a message designed to generate discussion and awareness. “I wouldn't say it's an anti-Israel message any more than any complaint about a country is anti-that country,” he told KING5 TV. “We would like Israel to stop violating human rights. We would like Israel to give equal rights to its Palestinian citizens and its Palestinian subjects who live under occupation.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest office, however, did not buy Mast's explanation and expressed its dismay over the ad campaign, calling it “grotesquely one-sided.”
“We're dismayed,” Community Director Hilary Bernstein told KING5. “Citizens young and old will be seeing this sort of propaganda, this very one-sided distortion. It's unfortunate.”
According to the report, the campaign is legal since it does not violate any of King County’s specific guidelines. These guidelines include regulations about pornography, alcohol, tobacco, and ensuring that the images and material used do not interfere with public safety or insult specific groups to the point that a riot could be incited, vandalism could occur or public safety could be threatened.
As King County Metro Transit spokesperson Linda Thielke said, some people will indeed be offended by the campaign, but that is not enough to prevent the billboards from hitting the streets.
“As a government, we are mindful of the provisions in state and federal constitutions to protect freedom of speech,” Thielke was quoted by KING5 as saying. “So, we can't object these campaigns simply because they offend some people.”
The anti-Israel groups seem to be gaining momentum in the U.S. as another anti-Israel and pro-Arab incident took place several weeks ago in a suburb of St. Louis.
According to a report in the Riverfront Times, on December 4 the St. Louis Palestinian Solidarity Committee organized two flash mobs of people in protest of Motorola. Shoppers who were in the Best Buy and AT&T stores in Brentwood witnessed a group of individuals who broke into a song-and- dance routine condemning Motorola and calling for “justice now in Palestine!”
Colleen Kelly, outreach coordinator for the Instead of War Coalition (with which the St. Louis Palestinian Solidarity Committee is affiliated), said that the purpose of the protest was to raise awareness about Motorola’s involvement with Israel. Motorola provides surveillance equipment to the Israeli government and is facing pressure from pro-Arab groups to stop doing so.
Kelly explained that the true purpose of the song-and-dance was to produce a video and place it online in order to catch Motorola’s attention as well as the attention of its customers. The video was posted to YouTube and Kelly said that after only being online for two days it had more than 9,000 hits, with responses coming from as far away as Italy.
“Internationally, this is a major issue,” she told the Riverfront Times. “It's only in this country that we don't pay attention.”
One of the group’s activists was arrested at the AT&T outlet for trespassing, disturbing the peace and assaulting the store's manager, but Kelly said that “We're confident that the assault charges will get dropped,” nothing that there were plenty of witnesses that could prove that no assault took place.
These incidents are only two of several anti-Semitic incidents which have taken place across the United States recently. Click here for a recent op-ed on this subject.