According to media reports, on December 17th, a new series of ads that draw a direct connection between the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Islamic law will appear in the New York City subway system. Outspoken conservative blogger, Pamela Geller, who is the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, has just purchased a slew of advertising space in several subway stations and on numerous Metro-North platforms in order to display her newest anti-jihadist message.
Ms. Geller gained international notoriety back in 2010 when she single-handedly launched a campaign against an Islamic mosque that was to be erected near “Ground Zero” at the former site of the World Trade Center buildings. Through her blog, known as AtlasShrugs.com, she promulgated the philosophy that this mosque was a desecration of the memories of close to 3000 Americans who perished in the infamous attack. Reasoning that the intended mosque was an extension of the radical ideology on which the al-Qaeda suicide attackers predicated their fatal mission, Ms. Geller was in the forefront of ensuring that this mosque would not be built on this “hallowed ground.”
Her latest ads will feature a panorama of the sky the moment the World Trade Center burst into flames in 2001, accompanied by a quote from the Quran that reads “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers.” Ms. Geller’s various websites, AtlasShrugs.com, JihadWatch.org and TruthAboutQuran.com are listed on the top of the ad; while an Metropolitan Transit Authority disclaimer will consume up to 25% of the ad space. The MTA disclaimer reads: “This is a paid advertisement sponsored by American Freedom Defense Initiative. The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed.” The subway management’s new disclaimer policy came in September of this year following an incident in which protestor Mona Eltahawy, 45, was filmed spray-painting another AFDI advertisement, which equated radical Islamic ideology with savagery. The ad stated: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” It added, “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” in between two Stars of David.
Ms. Eltahawy was apprehended and all 10 ads in the series were defaced by the end of the first day. The MTA addressed the issue of polemical advertising at its monthly board meeting and had previously attempted to amend its advertising guidelines so it could refuse what it perceives to be “demeaning” ads; a rule that would prohibit “images or information that demean an individual or group of individuals on account of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation,” but that modification was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in June of this year. With its hands tied, the MTA opted to include a disclaimer on ads that expressed a particular viewpoint on “political, religious or moral issues or related matters.”
“A cost of opening our ad space to a variety of viewpoints on matters of public concern is that we cannot readily close that space to certain advertisements on account of their expression of divisive or even venomous messages,” the MTA’s statement at the time read. “The answer to distasteful and uncivil speech is more and more civilized, speech.”
In an interview with The Jewish Voice, Ms. Geller said that this time around, she is making her largest subway ad purchase yet; with 250 spots strategically located beside each of the clocks hanging in New York City’s subway stations. The clocks are suspended from ceilings above subway platforms in stations across the city, substantially decreasing the likelihood that they too will be defaced. “The clock buy is brilliant because metaphorically it’s so powerful. The clock is ticking, from a civilizational point of view. Bombs, at least in movies, tick and are set off by clocks,” observed Ms. Geller, while adding that the “left-fascist vandals would have to get a ladder” in order to do any damage to them. She says that the ads are “also behind glass. If the criminals destroy these ads, this would be a much more serious crime, because of the cost involved in damage to these clocks. And I would prosecute to the full extent of the law, as would the MTA. That’s one reason why I love this ad -- it’s the safest ad in the subway, and the most visible.” The price tag for the ads is roughly $320 each for a four-week placement and about $70,000 for all the clocks.
Of the controversial maelstrom of publicity that her ads have elicited, Ms. Geller boldly asserts, “It is freedom of speech, and I will not abridge my freedom of speech so as not to offend savages. I cannot imagine why anyone would be outraged by the truth, but this is the era that we’re living in. Truth is the new hate speech, and just telling the truth is a radical act. There’s nothing that’s inaccurate in my ad. It’s merely a statement of fact, so what’s the problem?” Dismissing the potential adverse effects of the disclaimer attached to her ads, Ms. Geller says, “The MPAC ads have the disclaimer, as the ad sponsored by a group of liberal dhimmi rabbis. The disclaimer makes no difference. It is absurd to think that people don’t know that paid advertising is paid advertising. No one actually thinks the MTA endorses ads in the first place. We are currently making new buys, so the ads will be running for some time into the future. In any case, we want to increase awareness of an increasingly prohibited subject, and yes, we believe that our Quran ad highlights the motives of the jihadis who are at war with the U.S. -- motives that are increasingly ignored and denied.”
According to Ms. Geller, both “Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood groups in America” have been running subway ads touting Quranic verses. She said that she chose this juncture in time to place her ads because, “a third anti-Israel ad is currently running on Metro train kiosks. At the same time, there is CAIR’s (Council on American Islamic Relations) deceptive ad that featured a Quran quote counseling forgiveness - a quote that Muslim scholars say is abrogated, and that was designed to mislead Americans into complacency.”
Speaking with a palpable degree of gravitas and enormous candor, Ms. Geller insisted, “No one defaced the anti-Israel ads. No one protested them. The double standard is obvious. My pro-Israel ads calling jihadis “savages” were widely denounced as “racist,” yet Hillary Clinton, the New York Times, and others have recently called jihadis “savages” without a murmur of protest from anyone. The double standard is set against those who stand strongly for Israel and speak out against the roots of jihad terror as within the Islamic faith. Yes, this is a blatant attack on my First Amendment rights. It’s very dangerous. It’s really dangerous – this war on free speech, and I think every American should be more concerned about that than the content of my ads,” she said.
Warning of deeper and more perilous implications for Jews and supporters of Israel because of those who dare to speak the truth about the pernicious agenda of radical Islam, Ms. Geller ruefully observed, “the knee jerk attack on pro-Israel ads speaks to a systemic, institutionalized anti-Semitism. The cultural norming of Jew hatred.”
Offering prognostications of the role that Islamic terrorists will play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the years to come, Ms. Geller said, “I think that President Obama will eventually recognize Hamas and press Israel to make painful and ill-advised concessions to Hamas, as well as to enter into negotiations with them, and that is of very grave concern to me.”
While Ms. Geller has gained a reputation in politically liberal circles as an incendiary figure for her criticism of radical Islam and for her staunch opposition to the foreign policy objectives of President Obama, she maintains that she is “definitely not anti-Islam”, but rather someone who “extols the truth about ideologies whose aim it is to eradicate ‘infidels’ and other non-believers.” Her typical brash honesty rose to the surface when she told a Village Voice reporter in a recent interview with the publication that she believes, President Obama is a “Muhammadan who wants jihad to win” because of his appeasement stance as it pertains to the nascent radical Islamist movement that has taken hold in many countries in the Middle East since the birth of the Arab spring. Ms. Geller does not apologize for representing a clarion call for truth concerning the existential dangers that the Islamist movement plays for the future of Western civilization as we know it, nor does she ever demure from incessant criticism. Political observers have noted that she is a woman driven, “not by hatred of the other, but by love for the values that we’ve all come to cherish; freedom, liberty, justice and true democracy.”