In New York, a federal judge rejected Metropolitan Transit Authority claims that a bus and subway poster campaign would incite antisemitic violence, the Washington Post reported April 22. The claim was particularly ironic for two reasons: First, the posters, created by the pro-Israel American Freedom Defense Initiative, criticize antisemitism, according to an AFDI press release. And second, any calls for antisemitic violence they contain come from Islamist figures quoted in each poster. In cities from Boston to Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco, AFDI has a history of mimicking what it calls “misleading ad campaign[s] of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that [attempt] to deceive Americans into thinking that jihad involved nothing less innocuous than going to the gym and taking children to school, not waging war against non-Muslims” in order to refute them. And in each of these cities, they’ve been taken to court, either by CAIR or the city’s own mass transit authority, to keep their posters from running. The campaign that US District Judge John Koetl green-lighted to run, on First Amendment grounds, originally appeared on the sides of San Francisco buses, after a similar attempt to censor them.
What opponents of the ads may find galling is that they copy the look, feel, layout, type faces, and language of Muslim organizations’ (in this case, MyJihad’s) advertising – and, in this case, that they do so with verbatim quotes from such Islamophobic figures as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey (“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers.”), Times Square car bomber Faisal Shazad (“Jihad, holy fighting in Allah’s cause, with full force of numbers and weaponry, is…an obligation and duty in Islam on every Muslim.”), the Hamas MTV music television channel (“Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.”), and none other than Osama bin Laden himself (“The first thing that we are calling you is to Islam.”).
While the MTA claimed the “killing Jews” poster “could incite violence against Jews,” according to the Post, Judge Koetl rejected the argument, writing that it “underestimate[s] the tolerant quality of New Yorkers and overestimate[s] the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements. Moreover,” he ruled, “there is no evidence that seeing one of these advertisements on the back of a bus would be sufficient to trigger a violent reaction. One thing Koetl got wrong: Since the posters are wide and shallow, not squarish, they’ll more likely appear on the sides than the backs of buses. But it terms of protecting freedom of speech, it sounds like he got everything right.