They’re popping up on public transit all over New York and San Francisco: Advertisements sponsored by anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller that imply Muslims are “savages,” dismiss “Islamophobia” as “Islamorealism,” and urge passengers to “support Israel” and “defeat jihad.”
This isn’t the first time Geller, who warned America about “stealth halal” turkeys last Thanksgiving, has used a public transit ad campaign to get her views out. In 2010, she sponsored ads attacking a proposed Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero as a “Mega Mosque” celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Another ad campaign Geller sponsored offered help to those who may have a “Fatwa on [their] head” and are considering “leaving Islam.” This time, her ads, which are sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI)—one of the many anti-Islam groups Geller is associated with, were so controversial that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority initially rejected them.
One of Geller’s ads features a paraphrase of an Ayn Rand quote, “in any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” The text also urges people to “support Israel” and “defeat jihad.” When the MTA rejected that ad on the grounds that it was defamatory towards a group on the basis of religion, Geller and her attorney David Yerushalmi (the man behind much of the anti-Shariah legislation being proposed in conservative states) sued.
Yerushalmi, who once proposed making “adherence to Islam” a felony, wrote a letter to the MTA in which he argued that the ad referred to behavior rather than a group of people. ”[The ad] mentions neither individual nor group and it intends none.”
Whether ads implying Muslims are “savages” speak to anyone other than Geller’s fans, though, is another question. Several Jewish and pro-Israel groups have condemned the ads.
“AFDI presents itself as a pro-Israel group. Our sense is that it’s just a mischaracterization of who they are. They are an anti-Muslim activist group, and you don’t have to be anti-Muslim to be pro-Israel,” says Michael Salberg, director of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League. “The ads are offensive and inflammatory.” But despite calling the ads “inappropriate,” Salberg agreed with Engelmayer that Geller has a right to post them.
The Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco and the American Jewish Committeeissued a statement saying that “We are steadfast in our support of Israel and our concern about the growing threat of Islamic radicalism, and steadfast in our opposition to anti-Muslim stereotypes.” On her blog, Geller referred to the ADL, the JCRC, and the AJC as “dhimmi Jewcidals,” writing, “Even the Judenrat didn’t protect and defend the Nazis’ war on the Jews. They went along, but they didn’t advance and promote it.”