“Israeli war crimes. Your tax dollars at work.” That’s what an enormous advertisement plastered on 12 Seattle metro buses will read starting December 27, the two-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead. Next to the text is an image of a group of children: One little boy stares out at the viewer while the others gawk at a demolished building.
The advertisements are funded by a group called the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign whose mission is “to increase public awareness of U.S. taxpayer complicity in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights.” The group has paid nearly $1,800 to put its message on the moving billboards for one month.
The ads have caused a political firestorm. Local Councilman Peter von Reichbauer said his office has received numerous complaint calls since the news broke. “It is an example of an attack on the state of Israel, using a picture that is designed to inflame people’s feelings toward the state of Israel and by nature, against Jewish Americans,” he said.
And while Metro Transit spokesperson Linda Thielke maintains that it’s a freedom of speech issue and that Metro “can’t object these campaigns simply because they offend some people,” reports out late yesterday note that Metro is considering changing its policy after the transit agency received 600 e-mails protesting the ad between Friday, when the news broke, and noon Monday.
Just five days before their scheduled appearance, the advertisements’ fate remains uncertain. What is certain, however, is that the ads provide only one side of the story: that Israel attacked Gaza last year. Purposefully not mentioning that Gaza militants fire hundreds of rockets into Israel each year is irresponsible and clearly meant to incite the public.