Pro-Israel advertisements placed on San Francisco MUNI buses by an Islamophobic group have raised eyebrows and ire in this famously progressive city, and a leading local Jewish group has called for the removal of the "anti-Muslim" ads.
The ad, placed on a number of MUNI buses, reads:
"IN ANY WAR BETWEEN THE CIVILIZED MAN AND THE SAVAGE, SUPPORT THE CIVILIZED MAN. ✡SUPPORT ISRAEL✡ DEFEAT JIHAD"
The inflammatory message was paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a far-right, pro-Zionist group. AFDI was co-founded by Pamela Geller, a 54-year-old blogger, author, political activist and commentator best known for her fierce opposition to the Park51 'Ground Zero Mosque,' which she calls the "9/11 monster mosque."
"The reason why I wanted to run these ads was to counter the anti-Israel ads that were running in various cities across the country in New York, in (Washington) DC, on San Francisco BART," Geller told ABC 7.
An ad pointing out that Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Arabs has reduced the land area of Palestine by more than 90 percent and created millions of refugees was placed on Metro-North railroad platforms in suburban New York last month. Zionist supporters accused the ad's backer of 'anti-Semitism,' a "trick" that former Israeli education minister Shulamit Aloni admitted is often used in an attempt to de-legitimize Israel's legions of critics.
This inflammatory pro-Israel ad appears on some San Francisco MUNI buses.
The other San Francisco ads Geller referred to appeared in Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations and on cable cars and called for an end to US military aid to Israel. Each year, the US provides more than $3 billion in such aid, with many weapons used to kill, maim, oppress and dispossess Palestinian men, women and children during the illegal 45-year occupation of their homeland coming from the United States.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which under a policy that bars ads deemed too political or "clearly defamatory," has moved to pull anti-Palestinian ads in the past. But SFMTA has no choice in the matter this time around, as a recent ruling by a federal judge in New York decided in favor of AFDI in a suit regarding a similar anti-Palestinian ad rejected by that city's transit agency as "demeaning."
In his decision, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer declared that the New York ad was "not only protected free speech, it is core political speech" and thus "afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment."
SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose told the Huffington Post that the New York ruling was one of multiple factors informing the agency's decision to run the AFDI ad.
"We understand how many people may find this ad offensive, but we're limited in what we can do," Rose said.
The Huffington Post also reports that the The Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco (JCRC) has released a statement condemning the ads as "anti-Muslim" and calling on the them to be removed.
"The Bay Area's organized Jewish community takes great offense to the ad's inflammatory and anti-Muslim language," the statement read. "We are steadfast in our support for Israel and our concern about the growing threat of Islamic radicalism, and steadfast in our opposition to anti-Muslim stereotypes. We urge all transit authorities to reassess their policies and to construct advertising policies consistent with laws governing protected speech that preserve public transit as a safe place for all passengers," the statement added.