In the face of an international outcry, King County executive Dow Constantine announced that Seattle buses would not place vitriolic political billboards on their buses this holiday season. The original billboards’ were clearly anti-Israel in nature, boldly stating “Israel War Crimes-Your Tax Dollars at Work” on a background of Gaza strip post-battle scenes of destroyed buildings and confused people. In response the pro-Israel camp proposed to sponsor billboards stating “Palestinian War Crimes” adjacent to an exploded Israeli bus in flames.
Explaining his decision to not run either of the billboard campaigns on Seattle buses Constantine stated that:
“The escalation of this issue from one of 12 local bus placards to a widespread and often vitriolic international debate introduces new and significant security concerns that compel reassessment.”
As a result of the turmoil, Seattle and King County officials have decided to temporarily stop all new non-commercial advertising on the county’s buses.
Jewish organizations from around the world expressed relief on Friday after staging a protest campaign via e-mails, letters and phone calls not to place the billboards.
Not so happy was the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign who had sponsored the anti-Israel billboards. In their view King County and its officials are not allowing free-speech on what they see as a legitimate foreign policy issue of the United States.
“The county gave in to bullying. Opponents, who want information about Israeli war crimes silenced, mounted a campaign to silence us. That seems outrageous to us,” said Edward Mast, a Seattle playwright and pro-Palestinian activist.