It took only hours after the posting of a pro-Israel slogan in New York City for opponents to launch a violent spray-paint attack against the message and for a religious adviser to Barack Obama to use the conflict to try to raise money for his own campaign.
At the center of the ruckus is an attempt by New York transit authorities to censor the message “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The message, which authorities call “demeaning,” is being promoted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its executive directors Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Lawyers with the American Freedom Law Center have been working with them to overcome anti-Israel activism that has deterred and delayed the posting of the ads.
Just days ago, WND reported that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority halted a plan to post the ads this week, expressing concern about “situations happening around the world” and the “security and safety” of passengers. A court hearing has been scheduled.
In New York City, the ads were posted only after a federal judge struck down the transit agency’s policies as a violation of the First Amendment.
However, according to the New York Post, a self-described “liberal Muslim,” Mona Eltahawy, “strolled up to one of the signs at the crowded 1/2/3 train mezzanine at the Times Square station and sprayed pink paint on the ad.”
The report said a Manhattan mother, Pamela Hall, rushed to stop Eltahawy, who insisted she had a right to deface the message.
“I think this is freedom of expression, just as (the ad) is freedom of expression,” Eltahawy said.
She was arrested and accused of creating graffiti, possessing a graffiti instrument and criminal mischief.
Tim Graham of Media Research Center pointed out that Eltahawy has appeared periodically on NBC, MSNBC and CNN. He noted that in CNN’s reporting on the confrontation, Eltahawy was identified only as an “activist.”
Geller, who noted the latest developments at her blog, Atlas Shrugs, said the destruction actually validates the message to oppose jihad and savagery.
“The defacement is a metaphor for the entire national conversation on these issues. Hundreds and hundreds of anti-Israel posters ran all over the country. Not one was defaced,” she said.
However, Geller said: “One anti-jihad poster goes up, and it’s defaced within an hour, while its creator faces defamation, smears and libel. Mona Eltahawy, a Muslim writer who was herself assaulted in Egypt by people she called ‘beasts’ took a can of spray paint to our ad and assaulted a pro-freedom blogger, Pamela Hall, who tried to stop her.”
Geller continued: “Islamic supremacists and leftist thugs criminally defaced these ads within an hour. This is a physical manifestation of the way the entire conversation, or lack thereof, always goes: anyone who speaks about jihad and Shariah is attacked, defamed, destroyed – just like these ads. This is exactly what’s happening in the media regarding jihad coverage in general.
“Anti-American, anti-Israel, pro-Shariah hate is all over the airwaves, but anyone who dares to speak the truth about Islam and jihad in the media is immediately smeared and defamed. You can’t have this conversation in the media, any more than I can present these pro-Israel ads, and receive any semblance of fair treatment,” she said.
The Post released a video of the confrontation in the subway station.
Pamela Hall posted her encounter with Mona Eltahawy on Youtube:
Geller also reported the multiple emails and other communications from critics who advocated more violence against the ads and her.
“Isn’t it illegal to exhort people to commit a crime?” she questioned.
The second line of opposition to the anti-jihad ads was announced by Sojourners, the publication led by Rev. Jim Wallis, one of the Obama’s top religious advisers.
His group announced “Christians across the country are standing up to counter anti-Muslim ads” and launched a fundraising drive to support a “Love Your Muslim Neighbor” ad campaign in New York.
In a statement, Wallis said: “The second of The Ten Commandments is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ It didn’t come with stipulations. It didn’t come with extra addendums, with added qualifiers. Christians around the world need to put that into action as often as we can, especially where we see hatred like this.”
Actually, the second of the Ten Commandments is: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
“Love your neighbor” was the second commandment mentioned by Jesus when his disciples asked him which was the most important. The first was to the effect, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.”
Sojourners later amended the organization’s statement to remove the reference to the second commandment.
The Wallis statement said: “Everyone – regardless of race, religion, or creed – deserves to feel welcomed and safe when riding public transit in America. With tensions across the world at an all-time high, the Christian community is doing what it can to promote non-violence in their own backyard, and this addition of subway ads to an ongoing billboard campaign only reinforces the Christian call to peace.”
The New York Times describes Sojourners as “a left-leaning evangelical organization.”
Geller told WND it’s “a pity that Rev. Jim Wallis didn’t get his group together to stand up when Christians, Hindus and so many others were facing vicious persecution in Muslim countries.”
“Where is Sojourners when Christians are victimized by jihad? Wallis is standing up for those who oppress and kill Christians,” Geller said.
The anti-jihad ad earlier drew opposition on the West Coast, where San Francisco transit officials accompanied it with a disclaimer.
American Freedom Law Center co-founder David Yerushalmi pointed out that under the First Amendment, speech cannot be punished or banned “simply because it might offend a hostile mob.”
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s speech restriction, he said, is based on the perceived negative response that the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s message might receive from certain viewers based on its content and viewpoint.
“However, a viewer’s reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation,” he argued. “This is known as a ‘heckler’s veto,’ which is impermissible under the First Amendment.”