New York City Judge, John Koeltl, ruled on Tuesday that a well-known group called the pro-Israel American Freedom Defense Initiative, which has made a quite name for themselves due to their public blasting of Islam, will now be allowed to use New York City’s pubic transportation buses to advertisement their messages, that ultimately, is only promoting hate. This Israel loyalist group is only causing a further divide between people in the U.S. and it is completely unnecessary. The group already had a banner put in place on the side of a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority bus displaying a photograph of Hitler from 1941 along side Palestinian Arab nationalist and supporter Hajj Amin al-Husseini stating the Quran teaches Islamic-Jew hatred. A message about stopping the hate was placed underneath in big bold letters.
The advertisement that was called into question was that of one making the claim that Hamas is the killer Jews. Last year, a lawsuit was filed by the head of the Israel loyalist group American Freedom Defense Initiative, Pamela Gellar, which came immediately after The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) told the pro-Israel group that they would use three out of the four ads they had proposed, excluding the one stating that the worship of Allah is the killer of Jews, because they believed that message that would send would surely cause an incident to occur. Judge Koeltl responded by saying counter advertising is powerful enough to make it known to the public that MTA does not stand behind the ads placed on their buses, so people will have the sense to not take them so seriously.
The reason why Judge Koeltl is permitting the use of the ad is because it falls under the category of protected speech. The idea that the Israel loyalist group would be causing a further unwanted divide in the city holds no ground in court.The MTA expressed a sense of worry claiming there is potential for the ad to provoke anger and violence, but they were urged to take whatever precautions or actions necessary to prevent physical attacks. Judge Koeltl also added that in 2013, Chicago and San Francisco both ran the ad with no incidents of violence occurring as a direct result. All violent attacks that have been reported by the MTA reveal that they come from just about any person and they will come at random, so it is virtually impossible to predict when an attack will happen.
Even though using these pro-Israel advertisements have made some people afraid of what may come because of them, the First Amendment states that an individual’s right to freedom of speech cannot be revoked just because people are too fearful of what could possibly end up happening, depending on how that message is received. Adam Lisbery, a spokesman for MTA, said the ruling to allow these controversial ads has brought about a lot of disappointment from agency.
Those that stand behind the advertisements have claimed that the decision made to permit usage is sending out two very clear and much needed messages. The first message is sent to government administrators who put forth an effort in trying to limit freedom of speech strictly based on what they define jihadist threats to be. The second message is to enemies at home and abroad that threats of violence will never stop the First Amendment from being upheld in the courts.
It would seem that the majority of the city feels that these advertisements, whether legal to be used or not, are wrong, demagogic and serve absolutely no positive purpose. The message attached to the ads this Israel loyalist group is sending is only causing a further unwanted divide between the people of the city. In a time where intolerance is the direct cause of so much tragedy, it is hard to understand the reasons why people are so hell-bent on spreading hatred that they bother to take their personal issues to the courts just to perpetuate it.
Opinion By Kameron Hadley
Photo By Viktor Nagornyy-Flickr License