This week, virulent hatemonger Pamela Geller unveiled a new $100K ad campaign that will bring a series of Islamophobic ads to over 100 buses and two subway stations in NYC next week. But the MTA has rejected one of the proposed ads, which includes the quote, "Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah," attributed to "Hamas MTV." Geller says the MTA has violated the freedom of speech of her group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and they will sue. "They’re wrong," Geller told the Times. "And when they’re wrong, they make it easy."
You can see the ad in question below.
Geller previously sued the MTA when they rejected some of her ads that suggests Muslims were "savages." At the time, the MTA argued the ads violated its "no demeaning" language policy, but a judge ruled in favor of Geller's First Amendment rights. So the MTA instead revised its policy, requiring that the ads feature a prominent disclaimer stating clearly that these are not the views of the MTA.
Here's the MTA's statement about the latest ad:
The MTA concluded it was reasonably foreseeable that displaying the advertisement would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace, and so harm, disrupt, or interfere with safe, efficient, and orderly transportation operations. Under the MTA’s viewpoint-neutral advertising standards, the agency can prohibit advertisements that violate that standard.
The advertisement features the quotation “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” attributed to “Hamas MTV.” It depicts a masked figure and includes the phrase, “That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?” The advertisement was an apparent parody of “MyJihad” ads sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which the group said were intended to show that jihad is a concept of individual and personal struggle, rather than violent conflict or terrorism. Those ads ran on buses in other cities, but not in New York.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative has run many other advertisements promoting its views on jihad, Hamas, Islam and Israel throughout the MTA network. In 2011, the MTA rejected a proposed advertisement from the group on the grounds that it demeaned groups of people on account of their religion, national origin or ancestry. The group sued the MTA, and the next year a federal judge ruled the MTA’s “no demeaning” standard violated the First Amendment. The MTA responded by updating its advertising standards to the current standard.
The MTA does not decide whether to allow or not allow a proposed advertisement based on the viewpoint that it expresses or because that viewpoint might be controversial. MTA Director of Safety and Security Raymond Diaz, a former chief of the New York City Police Department Transit Bureau, concluded the proposed advertisement would lead reasonable observers to interpret it as urging direct, violent attacks on Jews, given turmoil in Gaza, Syria and Iraq and New York City’s heightened security concerns.
An unmoved Mayor de Blasio weighed in on the controversial ads as well, saying they had "no place in New York City, or anywhere. These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city," de Blasio said, according to the News. "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."
Geller waved off de Blasio's criticisms: "Doesn't Mayor de Blasio have bigger fish to fry?" she told the News after being told about the mayor's comments. "New York is the softest terror target."