Updated to include comments from Ed Mast, spokesman for the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign.
Posters slated to appear on the outside of 12 Metro buses next week are so inflammatory against Israel that they could spur a rash of anti-Semitic violence in Seattle, claims King County Council member Peter von Reichbauer. He sent a letter today to County Executive Dow Constantine saying that Metro should consider censoring the $1,794 ad campaign, paid for by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, because it may incite a "breach of public safety, peace and order" akin to the infamous 2006 shooting spree at the Seattle Jewish Federation, which left one woman dead and another five injured.
Here's a low-resolution scan of the ad that appeared with the letter (click to enlarge):
On December 27, the buses are scheduled to being carrying the ad that says, "Israeli war crimes, your tax dollars at work" next to an image of a group of children staring at a demolished building. The ads are reportedly timed to appear on the two-year anniversary of Israeli attacks on Gaza, and will run for four weeks. "This is absolutely an education campaign," says Ed Mast, a spokesman for the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign. "We don’t think that criticizing the state of Israel is the same as criticizing Jewish people. We believe that the state of Israel should be held to the same standard as everyone else. If our sign read Free Tibet from China, would it be viewed as racist or inflammatory? We’d like the same standard to be applied to Israel."
In his letter, von Reichbauer argues that the ads violate Metro's guidelines for advertising. "I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and a strong believer of common sense. And I believe very strongly that dangerous language can create dangerous environments in a society," he writes. "I believe that this proposed bus advertising needs to be reviewed and reevaluated." He cites a Metro rule that prohibits any ad "reasonably foreseeable that it will result in harm to, disruption of, or interference with the transportation system."
Metro is expected to issue a statement; Constantine's office is refusing to provide comment; von Reichbauer's office has not yet returned phone calls but his full letter after the jump.
I received numerous expressions of concern over the weekend from many of King County residents over the proposed advertising on Metro buses referencing the state of Israel.
We do not have to reflect long in time to remember that on July 28, 2006 a mad man broke into the Seattle Jewish Federation building shooting six women, one fatally, and now I ask the question why a public transportation system would advertise polarizing political statements.
I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and a strong believer of common sense. And I believe very strongly that dangerous language can create dangerous environments in a society. I believe that this proposed bus advertising needs to be reviewed and reevaluated. For $1,800 on December 27, twelve buses will begin advertising material that can incite a "breach of public safety, peace and order." (See Agency rules on Restrictions on Advertising; section 6.4 D & E)
Please contact my office if you want to discuss this further.
And here's the specific KC Metro restriction on advertising that von Reichbauer cites in his letter:
D. Any material that is so objectionable under contemporary community standards as to be reasonably foreseeable that it will result in harm to, disruption of, or interference with the transportation system.