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Bus ads hitting US aid for Israeli ‘war crimes’ roll in Portland (after ban in Seattle)

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The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC) is still plugging away, educating and informing the Pacific Northwest about Israel war crimes and apartheid. Currently, along with Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights and Jewish Voice for Peace – Portland, SeaMac’s running a new ad campaign on Portland’s TriMet buses with the slogan ISRAEL’S WAR CRIMES: YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK. 

The slogan of the current ad is almost identical to the SeaMac bus ad that King County Metro abruptly censored 2010. Readers may recall King County Metro reversed its decision to run the ads on Seattle buses just days before the campaign was to begin on December 27, 2010, the two-year anniversary of Israel’s 2008-2009 Gaza massacre. Metro officials initially examined, approved, and signed a contract before rejecting SeaMAC’s 2010 “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work” ad campaign. At the time, the ads were already in print.

This did not deter SeaMAC and since then they’ve funded and produced campaign after campaign after campaign.

In honor of 2014 being International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, SeaMac has been running a series of Nelson Mandela ads on buses in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula: “Our Freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”. Volunteer board member Edward Mast explained, “SeaMAC had moved on to the message of Equal Rights for Palestinians, but this recent escalation of Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians made our original message urgent once more.”

Like the previous ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work’ campaign, the purpose of the Portland campaign is to raise awareness and call attention toIsrael’s ongoing violations of human rights and international law, including Israel’s recent assault on the captive population of Gaza, during which Israel bombed schools, hospitals, UN-designated shelters, Gaza’s only power plant, and Gaza’s water purification system. ” The current ad also features SeaMAC’s alternate URL,  to draw attention to our tax dollars supporting apartheid.

While it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much of an impact these ads are having, along with similar ads and billboards running in municipalities all across the country, I thought about SeaMAC’s relentless awareness campaigns when I read the results of the recent Google Consumer Survey (interactive), fielded by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep), indicating that over 60% of Americans think we give Israel too much federal aid. I thought about the political and conscience climate of both urban and rural areas of the country, and wondered how much public opinion had shifted since King County Metro halted SeaMAC’s anniversary campaign almost 4 years ago and the impact of SeaMAC’s ad campaigns in the Pacific Northwest.

Behind the scenes, SeaMAC is waiting for an opinion to be handed down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that has been pending for 2 years now. SeaMAC is suing for the reinstatement of the ads, plus some minor restitution. The objective is to finally get those ads on King county metro buses.

SeaMAC's original Bus Ad  Censored by King County Metro

SeaMAC’s original bus ad
censored by King County Metro

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington is representing SeaMAC in the lawsuit against King County for breach of contract and for violating SeaMAC’s First Amendment right of free expression. A trial in the suit was scheduled to begin in federal district court in October 2011 until King County lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the suit and a federal judge granted King County’s motion. At the time, SeaMAC volunteer Carla Curio noted  “Ads about abortion, atheism and other contentious issues have appeared on Metro buses.  SeaMAC’s ad used language from Amnesty International and the United Nations.  Why should criticism of the State of Israel be singled out for exclusion from buses or any other public forum?”

The Court of Appeals will either direct a verdict or the lawsuit will go back to the trial court to be heard before a jury.

The Portland ads will run for four weeks. SeaMAC is fundraising (here) to put this ad in other cities as well. To view a fuller collection of SeaMAC’s past ad campaigns click here.

Graphic: Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC)

Graphic: Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC)

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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20 Responses

  1. Horizontal
    Horizontal on October 25, 2014, 2:09 pm

    Portland does it again!

    This is a great campaign, and a necessary one, in order to break through the droning pro-Israel background music that we’re all subjected to in the US. I think that the more people are made aware of Israel’s conduct and the amount of support that they keep getting from the US taxpayers, the more unjustified the entire set-up will become.

    Tell me, what was the reason given by the Seattle Transit Co or whatever they call themselves for backing out of displaying the ads?

    • annie
      annie on October 25, 2014, 2:59 pm

      unofficially, they got hounded by the lobby.

      in the second paragraph of the article above i embedded a link to Silenced in Seattle, SeaMAC presses on with ads against settlements, child imprisonment and collective punishment

      it contains a press release from Jan 2012, here’s a quote from it with the official response from king co metro:

      King County Metro then twice revised its advertising policy to prevent any “public issue advertising expressing or advocating an opinion, position or viewpoint on matters of public debate about economic, political, religious or social issues”. In spite of that policy, King County Metro has since accepted advertisements for the Mormon religion and a labor rally, as well as a recent ad that said “Buy American”.

      “It’s hard to see how King County has been unbiased or ‘viewpoint neutral’ when they have continued to run other political and religious advertisements while censoring ours,” said SeaMAC volunteer Edward Mast.

      • Horizontal
        Horizontal on October 25, 2014, 3:30 pm


        Those are some beautiful ads from the 2012 link. Sadly, they’re still necessary in 2014 and beyond . . .

        Boy, would I love to be on that jury if the case comes to that.

  2. Kay24
    Kay24 on October 25, 2014, 2:21 pm

    Folks in the West coast seem to be doing really great work. I also refer to those standing up to Israel and blocking the boats in CA, a wonderful effort I must say.
    This ad campaign is very welcome at this time, because the Gaza massacre is still fresh in our minds, and it is good to be reminded about what our tax dollars keeps supporting.

    I am wondering why some of these campaigns do not use that haunting picture of the Pope with the words “FREE PALESTINE” in some of these campaigns. No one can pretend to be offended by that one.

    • annie
      annie on October 25, 2014, 3:14 pm

      I am wondering why some of these campaigns do not use that haunting picture of the Pope with the words “FREE PALESTINE” in some of these campaigns.

      that’s a good idea for an ad kay.

      re block the boat, SeaMAC volunteers are literally everywhere and active on all fronts. who could forget their hounding of bill gates! a friend of mine works for the gates foundation and she called me from her office one day “they’re out there right now!!”

      here’s the video again, literally relentless activists!

  3. seafoid
    seafoid on October 25, 2014, 3:04 pm

    Segregated buses hits the spot nicely.

    Good old Jim Crow Judaism.

    • Horizontal
      Horizontal on October 25, 2014, 3:24 pm

      “Close the curtains so the segregation will come as a surprise!”

      • seafoid
        seafoid on October 25, 2014, 3:48 pm

        And the “we are Jews and we can damn well do what we want” logic runs into the ground when Israel is more backward than Alabama 1959.

  4. seafoid
    seafoid on October 25, 2014, 3:58 pm

    “A top Israeli minister said on Saturday there was a “crisis” in the country’s relations with the United States that must be fixed.

    Finance minister Yair Lapid’s comments came a day after US officials said the Obama administration refused Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon’s requests to meet several top national security aides.

    The White House and the State Department rejected Israeli proposals for meetings with vice-president Joe Biden, national security adviser Susan Rice and secretary of state John Kerry on his five-day trip to the US. The administration is still angered by negative comments Yaalon made about Kerry’s peace efforts in the middle east and nuclear negotiations with Iran”

  5. oldgeezer
    oldgeezer on October 25, 2014, 7:28 pm

    Great ad. If my friend bugs me enough one of these days I’ll make it to Richland. No trip would be complete without seeing Seattle.

    Best case… No ads and the situation has been resolved with justice.

    More hopeful case… I get to see some of the ads and they are having a huge impact.

    The latest lawn mowing exercise has turned more people than I would have thought possible. I just hope no more innocents need to die on either side before common sense prevails (ok… I’m stretching too far but it’s not bad to hope).

  6. bilal a
    bilal a on October 26, 2014, 6:20 am

    Can someone here lead a similar effort for New York City transit ? Mondoweiss leadership would enhance fund raising . Why not in NYC?

  7. jrochkind
    jrochkind on October 27, 2014, 8:20 am

    I contributed to this campaign and don’t regret it, but I have to say, I hate the “your tax dollars at work” message.

    I think it’s isolationist and plays into right-wing xenophobic ideology to possibly dangerous effect; it’s also intellectually dishonest, ‘tax dollars’ isn’t really the motivation of our movement, and I’d support wholeheartedly billions for Palestinian reconstruction in a state with equal rights for all; much of those ‘tax dollars’ to Israeli military aid actually go to purchases from U.S. defense contractors, it’s “American Jobs”.

    I realize organizers think it’s the “tax dollars” argument that will connect with ‘middle america’, but I think its a dishonest, inaccurate, and dangerous argument to make. Better to connect with people’s basic human decency and empathy, better to educate people on Israeli apartheid and occupation, then to try to connect with their worser concern for their wallets.

    • Horizontal
      Horizontal on October 29, 2014, 12:36 am

      I can’t agree with you, jrochkind ~

      I hardly cast myself as a right-winger, but I highly resent that my tax money goes to support these murdering thugs in Israel. I realize that this money also underwrites welfare for American defense contractors, but I’m against that, too. We produce way too many weapons as it is.

      This has nothing to do with isolationism. Every dollar we send to Israel is one less dollar we have here for schools, infrastructure or education. I resent that we instead flush this all down the Zionist toilet. I wouldn’t mind money going to improve roads, provide fresh drinking water or opening a collage in a foreign country, so I’m not against the idea of foreign aid; it’s supporting a brutal occupation that I can’t stand.

      Dishonest, inaccurate & dangerous? I don’t think so.

    • annie
      annie on October 29, 2014, 1:02 am

      there’s nothing dishonest or inaccurate about stating our tax dollars are funding this mayhem, because we are. our tax dollars, because of lobbiests, disproportionately fund war profiteers via fed grants is nothing to be proud of. it’s awful our economy depends of being a global supplier of ammo, weapons and weapons carriers.

      and as far as the “american jobs” you speak of, we don’t need them. if the fed budget is going to inadvertently create american jobs via funding israel’s brutal occupation we can easily cut out the middle man and just give the money to the american public as far as i am concerned. or we can fund another industry where the outcome (free stuff) goes to americans instead of israelis .

      ‘tax dollars’ isn’t really the motivation of our movement

      that’s irrelevant. if the motivation is freedom and equal rights and palestinian civil society asks us to BDS, we BDS. government funding matters. we should deprive israel of it and the occupation’s blood will be less on our hands.

      • jrochkind
        jrochkind on September 15, 2016, 11:21 pm

        From way back, but I’ve been thinking of this again, and hunted down this comment thread again. I still agree with what I said.

        It’s not at all _inadvertant_ that US foreign military aid funds so-called “US jobs” (meaning U.S. military industrial corporations) — it’s the reason that for _most_ U.S. foreign aid, the recipient is required to spend _all_ of it by purchasing from US military corporations. Nothing inadvertant about it, completely intentional. Israel is actually unique (I think unique, but maybe it has one or two peers in the same situation) in that we only make Israel spend like 50% or something (forget the exact figures) on buying from the U.S. In return “we” get like half the technology the NSA and local police departments use to mass surveil “us” (is the “we” and the “us” the same), developed by Israeli military contractors.

        I am not, and was not, anti-BDS, I am pro-BDS. But how you build the campaign matters because it effects things other than whether you win the campaign, it effects what movements gain strength and what those movements look like. If you build it on right-wing arguments, you (unintentionally but really) build and strenghten right-wing movements and currents. And I think the “don’t let ‘them’ have ‘our’ money” argument is fundamentally right-wing and does those things. “Our” money is built on centuries of explotation of enslaved labor, occupation of other people’s land (yeah, just like Israel, there are reasons they are such a close ally, and it’s not becauase Jews control the world which they obviously do not) and extraction of third world wealth via colonialism.

        The reason not to send it to Israel is indeed because of human rights and freedom and equal rights and dignity and democracy, not because it’s “our” money. The reason ‘we’ don’t spend enough money on quality education or health care is not because “we” send it to Israel — if aid to Israel stopped, we still wouldn’t have quality public education or health care. It’s because it requires a struggle here too, in the settler-colonial USA too.

        I think it’s a dangerous argument, playing on people’s beliefs about “us” and “them.” The Trump situation only makes me think it more so. I think it (unintentionally) plays into anti-semitic mis-theories about “the Jews” controlling the world or parasitically taking “our” money, along with racist and xenophobic ideologies about “our” money/country and “them”. When you start getting more specific comparing Israeli military aid budget to money for U.S. schools or healthcare (as many ads do), you implicitly confirm the idea that the reason ‘we’ don’t have ‘enough’ is because someone else is taking it. It’s mistaken, it detracts from the truth that the reason ‘we’ don’t have enough is because of capitalist white supremacy and settler-colonialiasm which must be resisted right here, it plays into historical anti-semitic theories about “the Jews” taking “our” money, and racist theories about what “we” are entitled to and who is “we”.

        And again, please don’t get me wrong, I am a pro-BDS anti-Zionist Jew who believes Israel is an apartheid state, I am not trying to argue against BDS or for supporting Israel in any way.

  8. michelle
    michelle on October 27, 2014, 2:31 pm

    Here’s some ads;

    ‘Is this what Israel was chosen for’
    of Israeli shame toward Palestine & people
    ‘would you like some Israeli equality/justice’
    of Israeli shame toward Palestine & people
    equal justice
    G-d Bless

  9. gamal
    gamal on October 28, 2014, 8:41 am

    Smadar Lavie’s new book : “Wapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture”

    “What is the relationship between social protest movements in the State of Israel, violence in Gaza, and the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran? Why did the mass social protests in the State of Israel of summer 2011 ultimately fail? Wrapped in the Flag of Israel discusses social protest movements from the 2003 Single Mothers’ March led by Mizrahi Vicky Knafo, to the “Tahrir is Here” Israeli mass protests of summer 2011. Equating bureaucratic entanglements with pain—what, arguably, can be seen as torture, Smadar Lavie explores the conundrum of loving and staying loyal to a state that repeatedly inflicts pain on its non-European Jewish women citizens through its bureaucratic system. The book presents a model of bureaucracy as divine cosmology and posits that Israeli State bureaucracy is based on a theological essence that fuses the categories of religion, gender, and race into the foundation of citizenship.”

    • talknic
      talknic on October 28, 2014, 8:06 pm

      Smadar Lavie (all Jewish folk) ought read the Declaration of the Establishment of the Zionist Movement‘s State of Israel very very carefully.

      Drafted by a tiny self promoted cabal, the majority of whom were not even from the region* it says;
      absolutely nothing about democracy!
      The so called ‘equalities’, ‘freedoms’ et al, are those envisaged by the prophets
      It promised a constitution that has never materialized in order to elect a government.
      (Israel has yet to have a legally elected Govt, under a constitution)
      The folk who wrote it would have us believe they didn’t know about the cleansing of non-Jews under Plan Dalet?
      The same cabal forbade the return of the Israeli citizens it begged to stay as they were being cleansed

      David Ben-Gurion – Płońsk, Poland
      Rabbi Kalman Kahana – Galicia (Ukraine)
      Aharon Zisling – Minsk, Belarus
      Yitzhak Ben-Zvi – Poltava (Ukraine)
      Saadia Kobashi – Yemen
      Daniel Auster – Knihinin (Ukraine)
      Rachel Cohen – Odesa
      David-Zvi Pinkas – Sopron, Austria/Hungary
      Mordechai Bentov = Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Poland
      Moshe Kol – Pinsk, Belarus
      Eliyahu Berlignee – Russia
      Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Levin – Góra Kalwaria, Russia
      Eliezer Kaplan – Minsk, Russia
      Peretz Bernstein – Meiningen, Germany
      Abraham Katznelson – Bobruisk, Belorussia
      Rabbi Wolf Gold – Stettin, Germany (Poland)
      Meir David Loewenstein – Copenhagen, Denmark
      Pinchas Rosen – Berlin, Germany
      Meir Grabovsky – Rîbniţa, Russia
      David Remez – Kopys, Belorussia
      Yitzhak Gruenbaum – Warsaw, Poland
      Zvi Luria (Lurie) – Lodz, Poland
      Berl Repetur – Ruzhyn, Ukraine
      Dr. Abraham Granovsky – Făleşti, Russia
      Golda Myerson – Kiev, Ukraine
      Mordekhai Shattner – Chernovitz ? ( Czernowitz ?), Ukraine ?
      Nachum Nir – Warsaw, Poland
      Ben-Zion Sternberg – Czernowitz, Austria/Hungary
      Eliyahu Dobkin – Babruysk, Russia
      Zvi Segal – Lithuania
      Bechor-Shalom Sheetrit – Tiberias, Ottoman Empire
      Meir Wilner-Kovner – Vilnius, Lithuania
      Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen Fishman – Mărculești, Russia
      Haim-Moshe Shapira – Grodno, Belarus
      Zerach Warhaftig – Volkovysk, Russia
      Moshe Shertok – Kherson, Ukraine
      Herzl Vardi – Kaunas, Russia

      • Horizontal
        Horizontal on October 29, 2014, 12:39 am

        More Europeans playing the Great Game.

  10. jayn0t
    jayn0t on November 4, 2014, 11:25 pm

    I just saw one of these posters on a Portland bus. It’s easy for Zionists to answer this argument. See the comments on Rod Such’s piece in The Oregonian:
    “Israel’s ongoing violations” implies that Israel merely needs to change its behavior, like South Africa did. But Israel doesn’t do ethnic cleansing. Israel is ethnic cleansing.

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