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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Ann Arbor TA Bars ‘Boycott Israel’ bus Ads

In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the AATA over the bus ad.
Ant-Israel Activist Blaine Coleman with the ad the bus company won't accept.

Ant-Israel Activist Blaine Coleman with the ad the bus company won't accept.
Photo Credit: The Arab American

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A federal judge has agreed that the Ann Arbor Transit Authority had the right to reject a bus ad campaign by an anti-Israel activist. The ad shows a spider crushing skulls, framed by the words: “Boycott Israel, Boycott Apartheid,” CBS News in Detroit reported.

ACLU Attorney Dan Korobkin said he was disappointed by Judge Mark Goldsmith’s decision, and Blaine Coleman, the anti-Israeli activist that Korobkin is representing—was also disappointed.

In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the AATA and its CEO Michael Ford on behalf of Coleman, over the agency’s refusal to accept Coleman’s advertisement calling for a boycott of Israel.

“His view is that Israel should be boycotted because it’s equivalent to apartheid, and, as the ACLU, we don’t take a position on the validity of that opinion,” Korobkin told WWJ Newsrasdio 950′s Sandra McNeil. ”But we feel very strongly that, no matter what someone’s opinion is, that speech should be heard.”

A key to the ACLU’s position, according to The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is a 1998 case involving a labor union that had proposed an advertisement on a regional transit authority’s vehicles, but had the ad rejected on the grounds that it was “too controversial and not aesthetically pleasing.” The case was argued and won by the union in the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit.

Part of the ACLU’s argument, explained the Chronicle, relies on the idea that the AATA has, in fact, through its past pattern of accepted ads, established a “public forum,” although the AATA’s ad policy explicitly states that the AATA “does not [with its ad program] intend to create a public forum.”

The AATA said the ad violated their advertising policy, reported CBS News’ Sandra McNeill.

“There is no doubt that some people find this ad to be offensive and maybe even personally hurtful or outrageous,” Korobkin argued. “But that kind of speech has always been protected by the First Amendment by our country, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be protected here.”

He stated: “It is not the government’s role to censor speech. Even when the speech is controversial, offensive or unpopular.”

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About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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20 Responses to “Ann Arbor TA Bars ‘Boycott Israel’ bus Ads”

  1. Finally a sensible response to the BDS BS!

  2. Joe Hooker says:

    Joe Hooker says “leave the Israelis alone! Boycott Islam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  3. Ingeborg Oppenheimer says:

    it's not surprising that the aclu supported the posting of this vicious anti-israel ad in public transportation. years ago the acllu also supported the right of neo-nazis to march through a skokie, illinois, neighborhood in which many of the residents were holocaust survivors. I wonder if the aclu would state that a pedophile has a right to post an ad endorsing sex with children, or that a killer has a right to post an ad endorsing the shooting of anyone who displeases him or her. in other words, are there any limits to the aclu's blanket endorsement of the right of expression in all situations, and if so, what do these limits consist of?

  4. Steven Oppenheimer says:

    Why not contact the ACLU directly and ask?

  5. Ingeborg Oppenheimer says:

    actually, that's a good idea…

  6. Chaiya Eitan says:

    Would the ACLU Nationwide support someone having the right to say that Jews use the blood of non-Jews to make matzos?

  7. Anonymous says:

    To World Jewry:

    I hope you will consider my plea as one of the few Rabbis in Americas who speaks out for Israel, fights anti-Semitism throughout the world and one who speaks out vehemently against extremist Muslims. In addition I fight on behalf of Holocaust survivors and have been vocal regarding the Holocaust Claims Conference missing funds. I was also president of Rabbis for Romney. You are welcome to look me up on the internet.

    We are living in pre Holocaust times. European Jewry is facing major anti-Semitism and parts of Europe are Judenrein. Israel is facing a possible Holocaust from Iran and surrounding enemies. I was just banned from the Huffington Post for expressing my displeasure with Muslims praying at Auschwitz over my family ashes. Extremist Muslims want Israel and all Jews annihilated. My plea to all Jews: Speak out. Tell your Rabbis not to remain silent. We are running out of time.

    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  8. Ingeborg Oppenheimer says:

    just sent a querie [query?] on the aclu website and got a boiler-plate response that they can't answer every post. let's see if they answer this one. stay tuned…

  9. l wonder what this so called intellect would think about real apartheid in the rest of islamic ME? you know where women , gays and non-Muslims are treated worse than 2nd class citizens! does he know how Christians in the ME are being slaughtered, in Egypt the Coptic Christians are being daily assaulted, raped , tortured and killed off? but oh its so easy for this slim to pick on the only really Democratic country in the ME! I

  10. I am absolutely pelased that both these fecal antisemitic Nazis (one of them is a Jewish one) failed. Well done Honourable Judge Mark Goldsmith!

  11. Of course, why not!!!

  12. Liz Wagner says:

    The ad certainly violates truth in advertising standards.

  13. Carol Hage says:

    6 June 2013 – A United Nations independent expert today drew attention to the human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory and stressed that attempts to distort the facts cannot mask the reality that Israel’s actions are endangering Palestinians’ lives every day.

    “Neither Israel nor its proxies can justify the facts on the ground in occupied Palestine,” Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, said, “so they distract, distort and defame to allow the violations to go on.”


  14. Nothing new for the State if Israel, the EU have always backed the P.A.
    so Israel should ignore them and build in Jerusalem Israel Capital as much as they need.

  15. why is this anti American organization with no values for what they stand for R still around?

  16. Hans Dutchie says:

    Don't hold your breath….

  17. Hans Dutchie says:

    The UCLA is right in defending freedom of speech….where they show their real faces is that they did not asked this person to remove the image…and the " appartheid " statement…..when you make such a statement/accusement you must back it up with facts , and their is the gap…..but asking for a boycott is within the freedom of speech borders….

  18. David Baden says:

    I often wonder what goes wrong in a persons formulative years to produce people with such sick , twisted minds, as Coleman and his kind.It's really sad that such people exist, and even sadder that anyone listens to him. A real brainwashed moron in the true sense of the word!

  19. Ingeborg Oppenheimer says:

    lol, hans! believe me, i'm not holding my breath.

  20. Ingeborg Oppenheimer says:

    aclu response and my response to aclu response <<<kitt, i appreciate your taking the time to respond, but your very articulate and informative response eludes the issue of speech that is extremely painful to certain groups and potentially dangerous [as in the case of the support given to the nazis marching though a neighborhood of holocaust survivors.]

    given your explanation, it would appear that "kill all jews" or "kill all ******s" or "kill all muslims" or "kill all hindis" would qualify as protected speech.

    your response has supported my reason for stopping my aclu mambership years ago.
    In a message dated 6/20/2013 12:20:00 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, kabad@aclu.org writes:
    Dear Ms. Oppenheimer,

    Thanks for getting back to me.

    The ACLU’s position is that we must be mindful that the Constitution protects speech that many of us might find offensive. Mild speech doesn’t need protection. It is when we are faced with controversial speech, speech that is intensely upsetting, that our adherence to the First Amendment is most important. A great virtue of the First Amendment is that it "does not protect only the articulate, the well-known, and the popular." That virtue vanishes if speech that is considered by some as rude, coarse, offensive or provocative is repressed. Dramatic language that may make some people nervous can have a communicative impact that cannot be equaled using tamer language.

    The fact that we cannot pick and choose whose free speech rights are protected, based on whether or not we approve of their viewpoints, is the very essence of the First Amendment.

    In the case you reference, against the Ann Arbor Transit Authority (AATA), the ACLU argued that once a public agency decides to allow some people to speak, it can’t pick and choose between the speech that it likes and the speech that it doesn’t. By allowing some messages, yet censoring our client, the AATA is doing exactly what the First Amendment is designed to prohibit. The lawsuit asked for a court order requiring AATA to treat Coleman’s ad the same way it treats all other ads. Restrictions on speech are impermissibly vague when they give public officials unbridled discretion to limit speech based on ambiguous and subjective reasons rather than clear and objective criteria.

    I am, unfortunately, unable to comment on your final questions because the ACLU prefers not to speculate about hypothetical situations, rather our work must be in response to a specific case of censorship. A detailed study of any case must be undertaken by the ACLU to assess the pertinent civil liberties issues raised by the particular censorship in question, and then to decide what action if any the ACLU might take.

    You can read more about the ACLU’s work on First Amendment protections of speech on our website at: http://www.aclu.org.

    Thank you again for getting in touch.


    Kitt E. Abad

    Associate Manager, Member Services

    American Civil Liberties Union

    125 Broad St., New York, NY 10004

    ■ 212-549-2545 ■ kabad@aclu.org

    http://www.aclu.org http://www.facebook.com/aclu.nationwide http://www.twitter.com/ACLU >>>

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