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Israel being used in NYC subway ad war

On Tuesday, New York City’s MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) explained its September 2011 decision to reject an ad created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative on the grounds that it is “demeaning.” It did so during a hearing to address a law suit filed by the anti-Islamic group, which claimed the MTA decision was limiting its free speech. Here is the proposed ad:

I think this ad speaks for itself, as does the MTA’s sensible decision to reject plastering it across New York City’s subways. (The New York Times also recently refused to run the AFDI’s ad, claiming it could put American soliders’ lives in danger).

The ad was conceived in response to an campaign from half a year ago advocating an end to U.S. aid to Israel. That ad depicted both Israelis and Palestinians calling for people to be on the side of  “peace” and “justice.”

What is so deeply upsetting and enraging about this story is the fact that this group is trying to get away with using Israel for its own hate-mongering, Islamophobia and internal American political battles that have absolutely nothing less to do with Israel than with their own political interests. While Israel does have plenty of its own racism issues to deal with, it doesn’t need any more added on from afar.

According to Pamela Geller from the AFDI, the MTA’s director of real estate, Jeffrey Rosen, himself called it a “pro-Israel” ad when detailing why he rejected it.  And as she so poignantly points out, he is a “member of the tribe,” so if he did in fact call it that, then he himself is perpetuating the equation of being “pro-Israel” with being anti-Islam as a Jew, which gives someone like Geller more legitimacy to call it that as well, unfortunately.

The primary reason they can get away with using Israel’s image in the first place is because the American Jewish establishment, monopolized by AIPAC, has branded Israel – and along with it, the “pro-Israel” label – in its own lobbying, which over the years has consistently demonstrated that “pro-Israel is anything that is anti-Palestinian and by extension anti-Islam and anti-Arab, and more recently, anti-Iran.

This story further substantiates my deep concern over the fact that Israel is increasingly being used as a pawn in American politics and that people can get away with using the term “pro-Israel” when it has no place. Another example is an ad from a couple of years ago by Elie Wiesel in major American newspapers stating that Jerusalem is “above politics,” which even the liberal daily Haaretz got away with calling a “pro-Israel” ad, when for me it was certainly not a “pro-Israel” ad because it does not promote the interests of anyone living in Israel.

This subway ad affair is another example of how dangerous and misguided the role of Israel has become in American politics. I therefore implore all writers and journalists out there to trash the term “pro-Israel,” or at least meticulously qualify it when using it. Anything less is irresponsible, damaging and offensive.

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    1. Rafael

      I’m now reminded of Immanuel Wallerstein’s words at recent RT interview: in any war between the civilized and the barbarous, it’s always the civilized who start the aggressions.

      Reply to Comment
    2. ToivoS

      Zonszein writes: ” using Israel for its own hate-mongering, Islamophobia and internal American political battles that have absolutely nothing to do with Israel.”

      To respectfully disagree, but Islamophobia is from my perspective mostly a genuine Israeli export to American culture. If we agree that 911 was blowback for negative US actions in the ME (mostly on behalf of Israel) then just about all of it maps back to Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    3. The ad is disgraceful.

      But it has nothing at all to do with AIPAC. Nothing whatsoever. AIPAC also does not “monopolise” the American Jewish establishment. It has nothing to do with most Jewish issues at all, it never runs Jewish-related campaigns.

      Making this discussion about AIPAC is exactly like the AFDI making the Israel discussion about Islam. They are hijacking the issue to further their own agenda, as is Zonszein — just a different agenda.

      AIPAC does not promote its policies through Islamophobia and if you take the opportunity to take stabs at AIPAC, you are losing the opportunity to condemn the racism in the ad.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mairav Zonszein

      @Toivos, you are right and after writing this I thought to myself how much it absolutely does have to do with Israel – but nonetheless, I wouldn’t call American Islamophobia an Israeli export, as Israel’s relationship to the Arab wold is historically so much deeper and more complex than America’s.

      Reply to Comment
    5. AmeriPat

      Great story. Shows both sides of the argument, and as abonus – shows how this Rosen guy who is Jewish, sound off that this ad was INDEED a pro-israel “hitpiece”..

      Ater all, HOW the hell does the ” ad-runner” compromise, amend, and bring to adjudication, the Illegal occupation of the Palesrtinian people? by his/her assinine assinuation?

      Reply to Comment
    6. delia

      To my mind, American Likudism is anything but pro-Israel. It is pro-Likud.

      Reply to Comment
    7. XYZ

      Mairav-you obviously don’t know anything about American history in the Middle East. The US was deeply involved in the Middle East long before Israel or even Zionism came around. The FIRST war the US fought after achieving independence was against the Barbary Pirates (Arabs) who were attacking American ships in the region and taking the crews hostage and forcing them to convert to Islam. This is the origin of the song of the US Marines…”from the halls of Montezum to the shores of TRIPOLI”. The US sent Army Corps of Engineers people to the country in the 1840’s and they mapped the Dead Sea region among others and gave their names to geographical entities there. Americans started coming to the country in the 1830’s as missionaries and visitors.
      Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren wrote a whole book about this subject.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Michael Levin

      The “Be on Our Side”(“We are the side of peace and justice. End Military aid to Israel”) media and education project promotes a positive, productive U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For more information about the “Be On Our Side” campaign, and the posters appearing in cities across America see http://www.twopeoplesonefuture.org

      Reply to Comment
    9. XYZ means that Oren wrote a lot of nonsense on the subject of early US involvement in NA and the Ottoman Empire.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Jack

      Did you just claim that eastern africa belongs to the middle east? And you are saying other people “dont know anything”?

      Reply to Comment
    11. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      Wow. Even the categorical norm in the first sentence of the ad was shocking enough, without bringing Israel or Muslims into it. Support the civilized side against the savage side in any war? I could probably think of about a dozen ways that’s wrong.
      Also, even aside from the substantive claim, the rhetoric is about 50 years out of date. I wasn’t surprised to see the name Pamela Geller associated with this. She’s tone deaf, and all she knows how to do is shout. She’s just a savage.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Lauren

      Oh darn…. having them posted would have given me an opportunity to modify the ads with a permanent marker. A great NYC pastime.
      Actually, I would have been infuriated if they allowed that ad.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Walter Sauerland

      Mairav & Toivos : Wouldnt it be right to describe the present relationship between the American right and Israeli likudniks as a symbiontic system? A kind of relationship which isnt steered by a realistic perception of the respective partner but by projections generating from unsolved internal conflicts? And that this symbiosis gives rise to a shared distorted perception of the reality? In this perspective the question who invented and exported islamophobia is misleading, like the question of hen and egg.The symbiosis is shaped by the idea of a civilisatory, cultural and in the end religious and by that unevitable war of West against East.And in this war USA and Israel are perceived as but one.Thats why any faint move of an US administration towards a mild criticism of Israel’s politics leads to hysterical reactions.And thats why Pam Geller can easily switch from US domestic politics to Israeli politics like exhibited in her infamous piece for Arutz 7 : “It galls me that the Jews I fight for are self-destructive, suicidal even. Here in America (and the world over), Israel’s real friends are in the Republican party and yet over 80% of American Jews are Democrats. I don’t get it. …So I say to Israel, stand loud and proud. Give up nothing. Turn over not a pebble. For every rocket fired, drop a MOAB. Take back Gaza. Secure Judea and Samaria. Stop buying Haaretz. Throw leftists bums out.” (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/7968#.T3xLedmO4W8 )
      The magic splendor of that ideology vanishes easily when the question is put forward : who profits from it and who pays the bill?
      Israelis started to ask the right questions when they went out in masses last summer.

      Reply to Comment
    14. ginger

      @tovios –

      Of course that is exactly right – Islamophobia is an Israeli and Israeli Lobby-trademarked propaganda tool.
      To not see this either deliberately blind or an egregious oversight
      Israeli racism in service of the Apartheid state knows no bounds, nor does it care that it doesn’t

      Reply to Comment
    15. Jack

      Calling people “savages” clearly show what kind of racially degrading view these people have of people just becuase of their ethnicity.

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    16. sh

      XYZ you seem to have got it wrong, not for the 1st time. Maybe Oren did too, I haven’t read his book, but it’s hard to believe he was that careless. Many of the Barbary Pirates were European, but some were Jewish (expelled from Spain), some Turkish and since the Barbary Coast was predominantly Berber not Arab (Barbary is what the British called the Berbers), your claim that they were Arab should be reviewed thank you very much.
      Here’s a map that might help you understand what the empire comprised, why TRIPOLI (as you insisted on capitalizing it) doesn’t necessarily mean Arab and how problematic it would be to generalize about the racial origin of the Barbary corsairs.

      Reply to Comment
    17. sh

      Since, as we’ve seen, there’s no American excuse for calling Arab savages, one can only call that ad what it is: incitement. It’s odd that seeing the Israeli flag waved proudly in the hands of the white power people at that rally in Aarhus last week should give Pam Geller pause. Forget tone deaf, Breivik’s manifesto should have rung so many bells for her that she must have been deaf as a post already then.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Jack

      True, just imagine if it were the other way around, that the ad called jews savages…. However when it comes to arabs or middle eastern people/african people in general its ok to use these degrading names. THIS is also a reason why US nor Israel look at palestinian as an equal, this settler mentality must go.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Piotr Berman

      Perhaps the ad refers to the battle ground of NYC dating scene where Jewish girls (and boys, if so inclined) should give preference to a “civilized man”. That would explain both male gender and singular form.

      But frankly I am not that familiar with the subtle points of English usage, when “The Civilized Man” is properly used. It kind of assumes that there is only one, so I imagine that it would be applicable when a girl chooses between two available partners, and it is recommended that her choice should be “kulturnyi” to use a Russian expression. (If anyone watched “From Russia with Love”, you may notice that Tatiana is very pleased with James Bond and murmurs “kakoi kulturnyi”, which may be translated as “soo civilized” or “so urbane”)

      Reply to Comment
    20. ken kelly

      I looked at the ad and it reminded me of something.
      What if the ad was running in the old west, The native Americans would be the civilised ones. What if the ad was running in Australia during that countries birth, would the Aboriginal peoples be the civilised ones.
      What if the ad was running in apartheid south Africa, would the native peoples be the savages.
      The are numerous global examples of the civilised being uncivilised to those whose land and possessions they want. Why should the modern world of today be any different. It doesn’t matter who is the real author of such a scribe is. They are all on the right maybe even far right of centrist democratic norms.

      Reply to Comment
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