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Thursday 14 November 2019

'Killing Jews' advert on US buses

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the advert could incite violence (AP)
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the advert could incite violence (AP)

A political advertisement containing the phrase "Hamas Killing Jews" has been allowed to be displayed on buses in New York.

US federal judge John Koeltl said the advertisement from the pro-Israel advocacy group headed by blogger Pamela Geller, the American Freedom Defence Initiative, is protected speech.

He said he was sensitive to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) claim that the ad could incite violence but noted that the same ad ran in San Francisco and Chicago in 2013 without incident.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said the agency is disappointed in the ruling and is reviewing its options.

The judge suspended the effect of his order for a month to leave time for appeals.

David Yerushalmi, a lawyer for the American Freedom Defence Initiative, said the decision "sends a strong message both to government bureaucrats who would restrict our freedom of speech based upon what they perceive to be a global jihadist threat".

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the American Freedom Defence Initiative, which said the group buys the advertisements to express its message on current events and public issues "including issues such as Islam's hatred of Jews".

The lawsuit was filed after the MTA notified the group in August that it would display three of four proposed advertisements but not an ad with the quote "Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah" because it could incite violence.

In the ad, a covered face is shown next to the quote, which is attributed to "Hamas MTV". It is followed by the words: "That's his Jihad. What's yours?"

In a September statement, the MTA said it recognised that the rejected ad was a parody of "MyJihad" ads sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which said it was promoting the concept that jihad is an individual and personal struggle rather than a violent conflict or terrorism.

Judge Koeltl said he recognised the MTA believes it would be far more difficult to counter the advertisement because it has parodic aspects.

But he said he believes the agency underestimates "the power of counter-advertisements to explain that the MTA does not endorse the ad and that the ad is not to be taken seriously".

Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, noted in a statement that the mayor has said "these anti-Islamic ads are outrageous, inflammatory and wrong, and have no place in New York City, or anywhere".

PA Media

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