Several prominent Jewish groups have gone on the record to object to the anti-Muslim ads.
Jewish groups are seeking to limit the damaging fallout from a controversial New York subway ad campaign that brands Muslims as â€śsavages.â€ť
Groups that work to build interfaith relations between Jews and Muslims are speaking out against the provocative ads, paid for by anti-Islamic activist Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, that urge readers to â€śSupport Israel. Defeat Jihad.â€ť
A judge ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to start running the ads in a small number of subway stations during the last week of September. â€śThe challenge for us now is to raise our voices to say that these ads donâ€™t represent and donâ€™t reflect the mainstream American Jewish community,â€ť said Mark Pelavin, senior adviser at the Union for Reform Judaism and associate director of the Religious Action Center.
Along with the pro-Israel message, the ad exhorts readers: â€śIn any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.â€ť
The timing of the campaign could not be worse, as anger is still simmering worldwide over the anti-Islamic YouTube film â€śInnocence of Muslims,â€ť which insults the Prophet Muhammad. Despite the small reach of the AFDI campaign â€“ only 10 ads among the 11,000 spread across New York Cityâ€™s 400-odd subway stations â€“ the reaction to it is unpredictable.
Jewish advocates are particularly disturbed by the ads because they combine anti-Islamic propaganda and pro-Israel discourse as if supporting Israel and rejecting Islam were two sides of the same coin.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and a longtime champion of interreligious dialogue, told the Forward that he was â€śtroubledâ€ť by the linking of Islam and Judaism in such a contentious way.
â€śPeople must understand that there is not a conflict between Muslims and Jews,â€ť Schneier said. â€śThe only conflict there is is between those who believe in coexistence and those who seek to destroy human rights.â€ť
Schneier added that in the same way that other seemingly small manifestations against Islam have been taken as extremely offensive in the past, it would not be hard to imagine how this â€ścould mutate in other parts of the Muslim worldâ€ť â€” and raise anti-Israel feelings.
â€śThese ads are Islamophobia at its worst, and in a very irresponsible fashion, since Israel has been brought into the frame,â€ť Schneier said.
The MTA initially refused to run the ads, calling them â€śdemeaning.â€ť But U.S. District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer ruled that they constitute protected speech under the First Amendment. He specifically cited the pro-Israel perspective of the ads as evidence of their political character.
The New York office of the Anti-Defamation League released a statement in July, when the court decision against the MTA was first announced, referring to the campaign as â€śhighly offensive and inflammatory.â€ť The ADL, however, agreed with Engelmayerâ€™s decision that the MTA had no right to block the ADS. Geller, who publishes a blog called Atlas Shrugs, called the judgeâ€™s order â€śa victory for the First Amendmentâ€ť in anÂ interview with Fox News, and said she didnâ€™t think it would spark protests from Muslims.
San Franciscoâ€™s transportation authority agreed to run the same adS, but inserted a small white square next to each ad, stating that it â€śdoesnâ€™t support this message.â€ť But the MTA said such a disclaimer would violate its marketing policy.
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