An anti-Israel group called The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC) has failed in a bid to run a billboard campaign promoting a website that accuses Israel of war crimes, "ethnic cleansing" and apartheid.
The communications firm that owns the billboards, Clear Channel Outdoor Seattle, decided to reject the advertisements after they had been on display for one week.
The advertisements showed an Arab boy behind a fence with a caption that reads, “Equal rights for Palestinians -- Stop funding the Israeli military.” They also contained the Internet address of a website that accuses Israel of "war crimes" against Arabs, of "ethnic cleansing" and of "apartheid." The website also claims the Jewish state is responsible for "Targeting, killing, and collectively punishing non-combatant men, women and children."
Olivia Lippens, president of Clear Channel Outdoor Seattle, a subsidiary of media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications, explained the decision. "All messages we post, and any websites they promote, adhere to community standards and are not offensive towards any business, group or individual," she said.
"Upon further review, it became evident that a campaign sponsored by stop30billion-seattle.org promoted a website that is not in keeping with those standards," she added, noting that her company had received complaints about the signs.
Rod Such, a volunteer with SeaMAC, used the ban to accuse pro-Israel groups of unjustly censoring an innocent ad. In a sympathetic press report, he was quoted as saying that “even a call for equal rights for Palestinians is a message that the Israel Lobby in this country cannot tolerate.”
He failed to mention the content of the website promoted by the billboards, which is much more strident than the text on the billboards.
Ed Mast, another SeaMAC volunteer said he was “very disturbed that those individuals and groups that oppose equal rights and human rights for Palestinians have such power over both public and private media organizations.”
The cancellation is the second letdown for SeaMAC in six months. In December, King County canceled a SeaMAC advertisement campaign that had been scheduled to run on a dozen Seattle metro buses. The ads said: "Israeli war crimes: Your tax dollars at work."
In response, SeaMac and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the county for allegedly violating their First Amendment rights. The suit was rejected February by a federal judge in Seattle, who ruled that the space for ads on buses is a “limited” public forum and therefore the First Amendment is irrelevant to it.