Photo Credit:
Pamela Geller

Pamela Geller, conservative commentator and blogger provocateur, is the executive director of the American Freeedom Defense Initiative.  AFDI created and paid for an ad campaign to run in several urban transit systems, in response to anti-Israel ads that ran in the same spaces.

The AFDI ads contain a paraphrase from the philosopher Ayn Rand: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.”  It concludes with: “Support Israel.  Defeat Jihad.”

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The ads are already running on the sides of San Francisco buses, they began running today, September 24th, in New York City, and they were scheduled to begin appearing in the Washington, D.C. metro system.  However, the DC system balked, citing the violent rioting by Muslims allegedly inflamed by a YouTube video which presents an unflattering view of Mohammad, so Geller initiated an emergency court action at the end of last week to enforce her First Amendment rights.

Because there is so much misinformation both about Geller and her ad, The Jewish Press asked her to explain what her ad means, why it is scheduled to run this week, what the responses to it have been and, most importantly, why she continues to express her views so publicly, when she is repeatedly condemned by virtually the entire spectrum of mainstream media and even by other Jewish and pro-Israel groups.

First, let’s get the chronology and the geography straight.

2010, Seattle

In late 2010, in Seattle, Washington, anti-Israel groups sought to run advertisements on the side of municipal buses reading: “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work. Stop30billion-Seattle.org.”  Just before the anti-Israel ads were about to go up, the county executive crafted a new policy banning all non-commercial advertisements.  The new policy enabled the municipality to reject not only the anti-Israel ad, but also two counter-ads that had been submitted, one of which was one proposed by Geller, the other one offered by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

September, 2011, New York

Last September, another series of anti-Israel ads went up in various transit systems including the one in New York City.  This ad shows two smiling dads – one Israeli, one “Palestinian,” with their young daughters.  The ad copy: “Be on our side.  We’re on the side of peace and Justice.  End U.S. military aid to Israel.” In other words, American tax dollars is being used to support Israeli militancy and injustice.  These ads ran in 18 NYC subway stops for a month, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

That same month, Geller’s organization, AFDI, submitted the anti-Jihad ad.  The MTA refused to run it, claiming the ad violated its advertising standards because it “demeans[s] an individual or group of individuals.”  AFDI claimed that rejection violated the U.S. Constitution. On September 227, 2011, AFDI, Pamela Geller, and AFDI’s  associate director, Robert Spencer, filed suit against the MTA claiming that the transit agency’s no-demeaning standard constitutes “viewpoint discrimination” and is unconstitutional and therefore the MTA’s rejection of AFDI’s ad unlawfully restricted their free speech.

September 2012, New York

On July 20, 2012, Judge Englemayer, the federal district court judge in New York before whom the matter was heard, ruled that the MTA’s  prohibition on “demeaning” language is unconstitutional and the ad must run.  Significantly, the court ruled that

the AFDI Ad is not only protected speech—it is core political speech. The Ad expresses AFDI’s pro-Israel perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, and implicitly calls for a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy with regard to that conflict. The AFDI Ad is, further, a form of response to political ads on the same subject that have appeared in the same space.   As such, the AFDI Ad is afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment.

While AFDI was the victor in the case, Judge Engelmayer threw more than a few crumbs to the ad’s opponents.

For example, there was a fundamental disagreement over the use of the term “savage” – Geller claims it refers only to those committing acts of barbarism against innocent victims in the name of Islam.  Judge Englemayer, however, held that a reasonable person could conclude the term referred simply to Muslims.

What’s more, the judge practically wrote a recipe for the MTA to follow for rewriting its advertising policy so that a ban on an ad like AFDI’s could, in the future be upheld by a court.

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com

19 COMMENTS

  1. Charlie, to those who believe falsehood, truth is offensive. Geller speaks the truth. Our Jewish sage, apparently not yours, Rambam, spoke the truth about Muhammad centuries ago, 1172, that he is a false prophet and insane. How would you like to have this truth posted on buses and in subways throughout the world?

    “Time to wake up, smell the coffee and see the writing on the wall.”

  2. Pamela Geller on CNN: Erin Burnett cuts segment at Hamas-CAIR description, AUDIO secretly taped.
    This video is an interesting exercise in interviewing and response.

    A CNN interviewer , Erin Burnett, certainly has a prepared agenda and certainly she got more pushback than she bargained for.

    Pamela Geller on CNN: Erin Burnett cuts segment at Hamas-CAIR description, AUDIO secretly taped.

  3. Rambam literally saved the Sephardic Jews from great persecution by giving them advice which they followed…without an IDF. All Jews everywhere need to learn and follow his advice even today.

    Charlie, go study and learn before you open your mouth against Rambam.

  4. I agree that the wording of this ad could benefit from some professional Madison Av packaging. The wording is not strategically astute. It isn't too hard to make out a case against Islam and societies based upon the Islamic belief system because of their inherent deprivation of civil and human rights as such rights are ordinarily defined by western democratic values.

    In all societies which are based upon the Islamic belief system and sharia law, there is no freedom of speech or freedom of and from religion. Blasphemy and apostasy are serious, even capital, crimes. Misogyny and homophobia are endemic to all Islamic socieites together with female genital mutilation, child brides, honor killing and Koranic justification for wife beating. In Morocco, for example, the law allows a rapist to go scot free by offering to marry his victim.

    Islamic governance is repressive. Premarrital, homosexual and extramarital sex are serious, even capital, crimes. There is no separation of state because unelected clerics are given authority to trump the decisions of elected officials. Just a day or so ago Egyptain President Morsi, great secularist he, stated publicly that in his view neither a Christian nor a woman was fit to be president of Egypt, but that, ultimately, it was a matter for the religious authorities to decide.

    I support the work of those who struggle like PG and Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch.org to out the civil and human rights abuses of Islam and shria law, but, like the wording of this ad, their struggle is often undermined by unwise strategy. This is especially true when such blogsters expand their criticism of the Islamic belief system to a criticism of American domestic and foreign policy in general. They often shoot themselves in the foot by adopting some very questionable positions, positions that can be reasonably argued to be "rightwing." In the process they alienate liberals and progressives who would otherwise be much more supportive of them.

    They may win the legal battle to have this ad published, but I wonder how much good it will do to their cause in the long run.

  5. WHEN RIFQA BARY RAN AWAY FROM HOME TO SAVE HER LIFE, PAMELA GELLER STOOD UP FOR HER. SHE IS A WOMAN OF GREAT COMPASSION AND LOVE FOR "RIGHT", WHICH SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANS ANYMORE. PEOPLE WHO MURDER THEIR DAUGHTERS, PEOPLE WHO BEHEAD THEIR WIVES, PEOPLE WHO POUR ACID ON LITTLE GIRL'S FACES, PEOPLE WHO ATTACK THE INNOCENT AND MURDER ENTIRE FAMILIES, PEOPLE WHO THREATEN TO MURDER HALF OF THE WORLD POPULATION IF THEY DO NOT BOW DOWN TO THEIR "GOD", PEOPLE WHO THREATEN TO WIPE THE JEWS OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH—-THESE PEOPLE ARE SAVAGE, SAVAGE, SAVAGE, SERVANTS OF HELL AND NEED TO BE LABELED FOR WHAT THEY ARE. PEOPLE WHO CANNOT SEE THIS SAVAGERY FOR WHAT IT IS ARE MINDLESS HYPNOTIZED, PROGRAMMED ROBOTS WHO HAVE NO WORKING CONSCIENCE LEFT. HOORAY FOR PAMELA, THE IRON LADY WARRIOR FOR GOOD!!!

  6. " SHE IS A WOMAN OF GREAT COMPASSION "

    Her Randian ideology denigrates compassion!

    In addition to being an anti-Muslim bigot, Geller is also a nativist. Bary was an illegal immigrant and Geller would have had her rounded up and deported along with her family!

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