Dear Mr. President,
I wrote a few days ago about the upcoming ad campaign in protest of the Israeli occupation of Palestine on buses here in Seattle. Even as I expressed my trepidation at the prospect of seeing my opinion represented I was hesitant about, I was, in a small way, a bit thrilled to see the campaign taking up the tools of our opposition to spread awareness. Since then, however, several things have happened. First, the David Horowitz Freedom Center (the name likely offers all the necessary explanation as to the group's purpose, but for my readers unfamiliar with David Horowitz, he's the despicable mind behind such classics as "The 101 most dangerous academics in America" and other twists on the idea of freedom.) proposed matching the 12 pro-Palestine buses and raising it to 25 busses bearing signs that say "Palestinian War Crimes: your tax dollars at work." Then King County Metro decided maybe the whole thing was a terrible idea and banned all non-commercial ads.
Ok. I have to get my head around the fact that David Horowitz is a bigoted, racist scumbag. I need a minute. All right, I'm mostly over that. His disciples, in inverting the message of the original ad, have not only created something that doesn't make even a little sense, they've demonstrated exactly why I don't like this form of outreach. One of my coworkers put it quite well tonight, saying that the venue didn't allow for the nuanced discussion necessary to change any one's mind. Beyond that, while I'm disappointed to see the city caving to backlash, I understand why public transit might not be the best battleground for the Israel/Palestine debate in America.
My frustration is mainly with the feeling that support for the Palestinian cause, something that can't be found in the White House, the State Department, congress or on any ballot, that has been stigmatized to be tantamount to anti-semitism, terrorism, extremism, is so inflammatory it can't even be presented to the public without causing a controversy. The Israeli occupation is bolstered when we go shopping, when we pay our taxes when we cast our votes. Israel is the 16th wealthiest country on the planet, the largest recipient of US foreign aid (more than the rest of the world combined) protected by US veto power at the UN, and still a sign on the side of a bus (or 12) in Seattle is too much of a threat for the occupation's fiercest advocates to permit.
So the busses will keep selling us movies or clothes or hamburgers. The bulldozers will keep demolishing houses. The settlements will sprawl. Maybe an ad campaign can't change that, either, but I don't believe that silencing discussion and dissent is going to help solve a situation that cannot continue for long. As President, you probably don't care what's happening on local transit advertisement, but I think that this incident speaks to a larger, national fear of approaching this issue. So long as our White House continues to stifle frank conversations and to lead with the example of avoidance, impotence and spineless complicity in the human rights abuses carried out by our ally, I don't see how individuals or grass roots organizations will ever find the an appropriate forum to say what needs to be said.