Seattle county does not have to run Israel ‘war crimes’ ad, judge rules


(JTA) — A federal judge in Seattle ruled that King County, Wash., did not violate the First Amendment rights of a pro-Palestinian group when it refused to run an Israel ‘War Crimes’ ad campaign.

Judge Richard Jones on Feb. 18 denied a request to force the Metro Transit system to run the ads.

"Because King County’s policy and practice indicates that it consistently applied content restrictions on advertising to further its purpose of using its property to provide orderly and safe public transportation, the forum at issue is a limited public forum," the judge wrote in his ruling.

Because it is a limited public forum, the acceptance of ads by the Metro Transit system is not subject to First Amendment protections, according to the ruling. 

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle in January charging that King County violated the campaign’s First Amendment rights. The suit asked the court to order the county to place the ad for four weeks on the sides of 12 buses, as the Metro Transit system and its ad agency originally agreed to do.

The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign had paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning last Dec. 27 — the second anniversary of the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading "Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work."

Three days before the ad was supposed to start running, King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered the Metro Transit system to reject the ad as well as any other new noncommercial advertising.

The acceptance of the ad had generated thousands of responses by phone, fax and e-mail, many from out of the county and state, according to reports.

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