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Sunday Night Art

Russia Today: “NYC judge lets through anti-Palestinian ‘killing Jews’ ad as ‘freedom of speech’

10

The message is getting out there – even in hostile publications like Russia Today (one step away from Al Jazeera):

“NYC judge lets through anti-Palestinian ‘killing Jews’ ad as ‘freedom of speech,’”  Russia Today,  April 22, 2015

AFDI president Pamela Geller holds the controversial placard (Photo: AFDI)

AFDI president Pamela Geller holds the controversial placard (Photo: AFDI)

Dozens of buses and trains emblazoned with anti-Hamas slogans will travel through New York City, after a judge overturned a ban from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

John G. Koeltl, of United States District Court, said the MTA “underestimate the tolerant quality of New Yorkers and overestimate the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements.”

“Moreover, there is no evidence that seeing one of these advertisements on the back of a bus would be sufficient to trigger a violent reaction. Therefore, these ads — offensive as they may be — are still entitled to First Amendment protection.”

The original campaign spoofed by AFDI (Photo: myjihad.org)

The original campaign spoofed by AFDI (Photo: myjihad.org)

The advertisement, which came before Judge Koeltl, is a spoof of an earlier campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which encouraged Twitter users to post messages with the hashtag #MyJihad, which literally translates as ‘struggle’ from Arabic. Instead of boasting about killing infidels, Muslims would talk about their peaceful and personal achievements.

In the advert commissioned by the pro-Israeli American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a masked man is portrayed, next to the caption “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah” attributed to “Hamas MTV.” The tagline below states, “That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?” At least 50 MTA buses are to be branded with the adverts, according to New York Daily News.

After similar campaigns in San Francisco and Chicago, the AFDI paid $100,000 in 2014 to run 100 adverts on the sides of public coaches. Five similar images were accepted, but the MTA rejected this one, over claims it incited violence.

Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman, said: “We are disappointed in the ruling and are reviewing our options. MTA now has 30 days to lodge an appeal.”

“This is a triumph for liberty and free speech,” tweeted Pamela Geller, the AFDI president, who said that her group would commission more ads than originally planned, and would seek for MTA to reimburse its legal costs.

New York’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the adverts, despite them being given the greenlight by the judge.

“These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city,” said a statement from a spokesman. “While those behind these ads only display their irresponsible intolerance, the rest of us who may be forced to view them can take comfort in the knowledge that we share a better, loftier and nobler view of humanity.”

Judge Koeltl’s decision marks the latest victory by the AFDI against MTA, and is at least the ninth lawsuit it has filed against metropolitan authorities for turning down its campaigns.

In fact, the MTA’s current rules concerning “inciting violence” were brought in after the AFDI won another lawsuit in 2012 after the municipal authority refused to run an advert calling Palestinians “savages” on the basis that it was offensive. Then, just as now, the AFDI’s campaign was upheld thanks to the First Amendment.

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