Hate speech against Jews and Israel on the buses of Seattle? Before I get into this issue it is important to clarify a few points about criticizing Israel. I don’t have a problem with vigorous debate on Israel and the Palestinians. Of course there is plenty of room today in the media outlets for people passionate about these issues to fight it out. There are bloggers like myself and countless forums found on line to debate the issues. But for the Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign to buy adds on the buses of Seattle that will say “Israel War Crimes: Your taxes at work,” departs from the realm of legitimate public debate and enters the domain of hate speech. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Association the other side, American Freedom Defense Initiative, is purchasing the same kind of advertisement which says, “One billion dollars to Hamas: Your tax dollars at work.” Where does this get us? How do these placards on buses educate and give persuasive arguments to educate the American public?
The fact is that these kinds of strategies gain public attention and probably are effective at creating sound bite political saturation. Strangely enough the metropolitan transit authority condones this kind of transaction which makes me question why municipal government steps into the mix of a foreign policy issue and apparently take sides. What is going on Seattle, Washington?
This kind of torch throwing attack upon the average bus rider and passerby on the streets of Seattle spreads toxic rhetoric and not thoughtful dialogue. How can we ever find a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians when people are slugging it out on billboards or public buses? It reminds me when I am driving along the nation’s interstate and I will see on a gigantic billboard a picture of an embryonic infant and the message of how abortion is a form of murder. All that kind of advertising does is to inflame people. Have we not seen enough of this hatred on the reproductive rights issues? Are we now going to see this kind of escalation of the debate on peace in the Middle East thrown up onto the billboards across the cities and highways or the taxi cabs and public buses of America? Is that the way to carry on the debate in a civil way?
Obviously there is a constituency which thinks that is exactly the way. I beg to differ. These strategies of mass advertising on foreign policy issues has the effect of demonizing two entire peoples, Palestinians and Israelis alike, at the cost of out of control flame throwing advocates for a specific position. Second, these kinds of organizations simplify complex issues to the point where no one learns the history and the background of these issues which is critical before coming to an intelligent position of these volatile issues.
I hope all of us will speak out against this kind of divisive action against Israel not just because it is hate speech when it appears on the buses of Seattle but it is also the wrong message to teach Americans that this is the appropriate way to work through controversial issues. Truly, we have enough problems teaching ourselves how to debate domestic issues without distorting and condemning entire peoples, races and ethnic groups.
Here is the link to the Jewish Telegraphic Association article on the subject. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/12/22/2742289/counter-ads-for-seattle-buses-submitted
Here is the link to the article in the Seattle newspaper for further information. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013725651_israelad21m.html
If you feel so inclined to speak out on this issue, please note the link below.
“Write your comments opposing the ad to the metro operating authority:
Please contact Linda Thielke, Transit Spokesperson for the King County Metro
in Seattle, Washington. Her e-mail address is email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org
If you prefer to call her, the direct number is 206-684-1151. Please leave
her a voice mail directly at that number or send her an e-mail to voice your
Finally, this issue is not about thwarting freedom of speech. This is an issue about responsible speech and whether or not municipal government should get involved in foreign policy debates. It is about finding a constructive way to dialogue and achieve mutual understanding on the issues of our day.