Citing freedom of speech and lack of compelling evidence of imminent danger, a federal judge ordered the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Tuesday to run an ad on its buses nicknamed the “killing Jews” ad, Reuters reported.
US District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan said the ad from the American Freedom Defense Initiative(AFDI) was protected speech under the First Amendment.
The ad in question shows a menacing man wrapped in a headscarf, with the words: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” attributed to “Hamas MTV,” and then states, “That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?”
The ad is part of a greater campaign which includes images of known terrorists (and one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) along with quotations which seem to glorify violence against non-Muslims. The other three ads were accepted by the MTA, but the “killing Jews” ad was not.
The campaign is sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which filed the lawsuit against the MTA. Each ad is accompanied by a disclaimer that it does not represent an endorsement by the MTA of the views depicted.
The AFDI is actually a right-wing organization aimed at fighting what it sees as violations of American civil rights in the course of government capitulation to Islamic extremists. In other words, far from promoting Islamic violence against Jews, the group wishes to combat it.
The “killing Jews” ad, along with the rest of the campaign, is intended to counter and parody an earlier campaign run by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which tried to portray jihad in a more positive light.
The MTA claimed it was concerned the AFDI ad would be seen as advocating killing Jews as a form of Muslim worship, and might incite violence in New York.
The judge wrote in his decision, however, “if that group is as violent and radicalized as the defendants contend, presumably they would not need a bus advertisement to remind them of Hamas’s interpretation of the Quran. . . It strains credulity to believe that New Yorkers would be incited to violence by ads that did not incite residents of Chicago and San Francisco,” where the ads have already run, “to similar acts.”
This is not to minimize the terror threats to New York City, but those threats do not arise from these fleeting advertisements.”
David Yerushalmi of the American Freedom Law Center, who defended the AFDI, told Reuters in a phone interview, “There is no question that transit authorities have the right and duty to protect their riders from violence. They do not have the right to give terrorists or potential terrorists a ‘heckler’s veto.'”