Jewish groups fear bus-ad backlash
Leaders of four Jewish organizations asked senior King County officials Wednesday to reconsider plans to put an ad on Metro buses alleging...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Leaders of four Jewish organizations asked senior King County officials Wednesday to reconsider plans to put an ad on Metro buses alleging "Israeli war crimes," saying local Jews have good reason to fear it could lead to crimes against them.
During the "open and candid and respectful conversation," the Jewish leaders said they feel the ads "are inappropriate here in this community and actually pose a public-safety threat," said Hilary Bernstein, Pacific Northwest community director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Rob Jacobs, Northwest regional director of StandWithUs, said the executives of the Jewish organizations described how synagogues and schools have upgraded security in recent years after their buildings were defaced, a man frightened students as he screamed "Heil Hitler!" on the Seattle Hebrew Academy campus and another man shot six women, one fatally, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
Frank Abe, spokesman for County Executive Dow Constantine, said the county officials didn't change their early finding that the anti-Israel ad is consistent with Metro Transit advertising policies.
But, he said, "We're continually evaluating information as it comes in."
Metro policies ban ads "so insulting, degrading or offensive" they can be expected to lead to an illegal "breach of public safety, peace and order."
Abe said the county officials, who included Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, Metro Transit Director Kevin Desmond and Assistant Deputy County Executive Rhonda Berry, appreciated the Jewish leaders' "thoughtful approach to the question."
Leaders of the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federation also attended the afternoon meeting at Two Union Square.
Metro as of Tuesday had received more than 2,000 e-mail comments about the ad, which is scheduled to run for a month on the sides of 12 Metro buses starting Monday.
The ad, which ties alleged war crimes to U.S. military aid, was purchased by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign.
StandWithUs said Wednesday it plans to buy its own ad if the "Israeli war crimes" ad appears on buses. On Tuesday, the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Stop Islamization of America both said they plan to run ads to counter the ad that touched off the controversy.
Amin Odeh, a co-founder of Voices of Palestine, said that group supports the "Israeli war crimes" ad.
"The intention was not to create any division in the community," he said. "The intent was to educate and open people's eyes about where the tax money goes."
Odeh said the ad isn't aimed at a particular religion or people. But "when you run a strong message," he said, "you risk losing people — having people misunderstand it."
Staff reporter Janet I. Tu contributed to this report. Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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