Pamela Geller’s Anti-Muslim Ad Hits A Snag In Boston

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Corrected: January 3, 2014, 12:17 PM EST

Pamela Geller has taken the fight over her “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad” subway ad to Boston. And things aren’t going great.

A federal judge late last month rejected a motion from Geller’s organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, to require the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to display the ad, which reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” That language may sound familiar. The ad has previously been displayed on buses in San Francisco and in the New York City subway system. Everywhere it has gone, the ad has attracted disputes.

On Thursday, Geller published a column on calling the recent ruling by by U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton “no surprise” and vowing to appeal the decision.

She made reference to the MBTA’s October 2013 acceptance of an ad funded by the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine. According to Gorton’s ruling, the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine’s ad depicted “four maps of the Near East that purport to show how Palestinian territory was chronologically reduced within Israeli-controlled territory between 1946 and 2010,” and has appeared in New York City and Washington D.C.’s transit systems.

“It was the MBTA that invited the debate on this issue by accepting anti-Israel ads,” Geller wrote on Thursday. “And then they turned and said that our ad was objectionable. […] The jihad against Israel is savage. Any war against innocent civilians is savage. That this is ‘controversial’ or ‘demeaning’ illustrates just how far down the rabbit hole we have gone.”

The MBTA, which provides public transportation in the metro Boston area, reviewed Geller’s ad last year and in early November found that it was “disparaging or demeaning” under MBTA guidelines. Geller, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and Robert Spencer, the group’s vice president, filed a lawsuit just a few days later.

Geller has won court battles over her ads before. In July 2012, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had violated the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s First Amendment rights in barring the ad.

On Thursday, Geller wrote that while Gordon ruled against her group, “it appears that he did so reluctantly.” She focused on the following passage from the judge’s ruling:

[T]he Court agrees with the plaintiffs that the most reasonable interpretation of their advertisement is that they oppose acts of Islamic terrorism directed at Israel. Thus, if the question before this Court were whether the MBTA adopted the best interpretation of an ambiguous advertisement, it would side with the plaintiffs. But restrictions on speech in a non-public forum need only be reasonable and need not be the most reasonable.

Geller also anticipated “the enemies of freedom to crow and howl.”

“This is what they do: invoke the freedom of speech to kill freedom of speech,” Geller wrote. “Free speech is for them, and them alone.”

Correction: This post has been updated to fix the spelling of Geller’s name in one instance.

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