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NYC subway ad: When 'pro-Israel' rears its ugly head

Some of you may have noticed the drama surrounding an ad that first appeared last month in several New York City subway stations that looks like this:
Sponsored by the fanatic, Islamophobic, hate-mongering American Freedom Defense Initiative headed by Pamela Geller, the ads were initially rejected for being incendiary. But the AFDI sued on First Amendement grounds and won in a federal court, so the ads went up. The question of where the limits of free speech should be drawn is an interesting and important one – but what I’m consumed with is how this ad is being described in the media.


I get a google alert for the phrase “pro-Israel” so I have literally seen hundreds of articles in past weeks about it that use this adjective.  I guess it is logical enough since the ad includes the words “support Israel.” But have any of the reporters thought about what the ad or its creators actually have to do with Israel? What about it actually makes it “pro-Israel”? And what the hell does that mean anyway? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just call it what it is: belligerent anti-Muslim hate speech ad?

As I wrote about here six months ago when the ads were initially rejected, what disturbs and enrages me about this ad (as much as its content) is the fact that AFDI is using and leveraging Israel for its own hate-mongering and internal American political battles – when their agenda really has nothing to do with Israel or the well-being of anyone who lives under Israeli sovereignty.

However, the fact that it can even get away with being called “pro-Israel” in the first place is entirely the fault of the Israeli government and the self proclaimed “pro-Israel” lobby AIPAC, since they have both been actively and passively allowing and at times promoting anti-Arab and anti-Islam sentiments to be equated with being “pro-Israel.”  To the Anti-Defamation League’s credit, they have insisted that “pro-Israel” does not mean “anti-Muslim.”

So I just wanted to thank both the Israeli government and AIPAC for giving Israel such a great reputation, and tell all journalists reporting about this to think twice before describing this disgusting ad as “pro-Israel.” As far as I’m concerned it is irresponsible to use the term at all. Oh, and I also wanted to thank President Obama for taking part in this by being the most “pro-Israel” president we have ever seen.

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    1. Jan

      It is really difficult to be “pro-Israel” when it is Israel that is oppressing the Palestinians, when it is Israel building illegal settlements that preclude a viable Palestinian state, when it is Israel pushing the US to another war, this time against Iran, when it is Israel trying to manipulate US elections etc. etc.

      There are many Israelis who decry what Israel is doing and I share their frustration and anger but until Israel changes its ways and listens to these good people there is no way that I can return to what I was once before and that is “pro-Israel.” For the time being, hopefully not forever, I cannot be “pro-Israel” any more than I was “pro-America” during the Vietnam War or “pro-South Africa” during the years of apartheid.

      Reply to Comment
    2. This line for civilised.

      This line for savage.

      Reply to Comment
    3. If people begin to associate Israel with rabid Islamophobia — and this ad seems to desire to do exactly that — it may slightly harm Israel. But Israel itself does much — without Pam Geller’s help — that seems rabid to me and perhaps to many others. so, all in all, the ads may not have that effect.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      What about it actually makes it “pro-Israel”?

      Well, you answered that pretty well yourself: “I guess it is logical enough since the ad includes the words `support Israel.'” That should be enough, journalistically speaking.

      But that’s not enough, of course. You’ve made a good point before, that self-described pro-Israel organizations are arguably anything but pro-Israel. To borrow some Bolshevist terminology from the 1930s, you’re saying that the ad is objectively anti-Israel. And I agree with you that it is. But using pro and anti in an “objective” sense is playing with fire. That’s because in most arguments both sides want the same good things – peace, prosperity, etc. – and believe that the other side is objectively against it, whatever their intentions. So, for instance, each side would describe the other as (objectively) anti-Israel, and all you’d be left with is name-calling.

      Frankly, that rhetorical technique you’re playing with is too hot to be touched by mere journalists.

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    5. sh

      Look, anyone who hates Muslims potentially hates Jews. This ad is gross incitement, hate speech that should never be confused with freedom of speech. I suggest the Americans put a nutters podium up in the parks of some of their larger cities where people like Pam Geller can sound off à la London’s Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. At least that gives the victims of the hatred a chance to answer back.

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    6. As G. W. Bush said after 9-11, “if you are not with us, you’re against us.” Almost all who see this ad in the subways will know nothing of the actual life affects of the occupation, or the growing attack on speech in Israel itself. I agree with the court’s decision. But if the add is successful, one can expect speech to come under further attack in Israel. That is the danger of free speech–that is may lose to its own value. And that underbelly weakness is also its long term strength.

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    7. rsgengland

      Islam/Muslims were not mentioned once in the ad
      The ad was talking about irrational,intolerant bigots that preach hatred and worse.
      That most of these bigots tend to be Muslim , DOES NOT mean that the great majority of Muslims feel the same way.
      The problem is the evil ones make more noise than the silent majority,
      who need to make more noise to distance themselves from that evil

      Reply to Comment
    8. sh

      @Rsgengland – “The problem is the evil ones make more noise than the silent majority”

      Maybe we should keep ourselves busy with making more noise over our own intolerant bigots who make more noise than the silent majority, instead of pointing the finger at others no worse than ourselves. Our intolerant bigots are our current coalition’s shock troopers – for them *preaching* hate’s just a hobby.

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      • sh

        “Islam/Muslims were not mentioned once in the ad”
        Jihad is what if not Muslim?

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    9. Sharon Ellis

      Can someone please tell me why the Israelis are supposed to be considered civilized? They’ve been conducting an illegal and brutal occupation for about 40 years, and that doesn’t sound too civilized to me.

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      • Piotr Berman

        I beg to differ. Historically, when “civilization” was contrasted with “savages” it was a prequel to serious slaughter. Invasion and extermination. Israel does not match the standards of colonial wars, but it can dream…

        Of course, relative to superior Arian races Israel comes rather short, but among the Semites they have best technology etc.

        Reply to Comment