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.