Thursday, August 16, 2012 | return to: views, editorial


Support for Israel should not be built on bigoted bus ads

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The Bay Area’s Mideast ad wars have heated up again, and this time they have taken an unexpectedly ugly turn.

Last week, the New York–based American Freedom Defense Initiative launched a four-week ad campaign, placing anti-Muslim posters on San Francisco Muni buses.

AFDI is a group headed by Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim bigot who led the fight against the so-called Ground Zero Mosque in lower Manhattan two years ago.

The new bus posters’ offensive text reads: ”In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”

How offensive? Let us count the ways, starting with the ridiculous 19th-century language (“civilized man”) that conjures up images of pith helmets, rajas and jewels in the crown. The weird use of the word “man” similarly betrays the sponsor’s outdated — and sexist — worldview.

Then there’s that word “savage.”

To call Israel’s enemies savages is to lump all Muslims into one jihadist camp. It is to assign collective blame, the kind of charge Jews have unfairly faced for centuries. This is unacceptable.

While the Jewish community supports Israel and condemns militant Islam, any right-thinking person, Jewish or not, must oppose these ads.

In fact, major Jewish organizations in the Bay Area quickly blasted them.

The Anti-Defamation League “strongly objected to this message of intolerance,” and called the ads “highly offensive and inflammatory.” The Jewish Community Relations Council, together with the American Jewish Committee, released a statement ripping the ads’ “anti-Muslim” language. Rabbi Doug Kahn, JCRC executive director, told j. he had received calls from Muslim leaders, thanking him for his swift response.

In a statement Aug. 14, Tom Nolan, board chairman of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, criticized the ads as “having no value in facilitating constructive dialogue or advancing the cause of peace and justice.” He said Muni will donate proceeds from the ads to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

Muni is allowing the ad campaign to stay up, perhaps to avoid a federal lawsuit, such as New York City’s transit authority faced earlier this year, when Geller won the right to place the same posters on New York buses.

So this ad campaign will run its course and then disappear. We hope the strong condemnation from the Jewish community will remind the world at large that just as we fight to defend Israel’s right to safety and security, so do we fight to protect all people from bigotry and intolerance.


Posted by theother
08/16/2012  at  10:37 PM
the opposition of the JCRC is welcome... however...

it would be better if they were a bit more consistent. Just last month, aipac honchos like Jeff Mendelsohn, who serves as AIPAC’s National Outreach Director spoke at the virulently racist “Christians United for Israel” event in DC. Also attending was Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim extremist that is part of the very same organization,  “Stop Islamization of America”, that put up the Hate Ads on the MUNI buses.

For its part, aipac has itself hosted many racist speakers. For example, in 2011, aipac featured Douglas Murray, a supporter of the English Defence League, an organization that is known for violent street protests and affinity for the fascist British National Party. 

JCRC then does not have to go far to protest the choice of hate speech and extremists, it can start much closer to home. It can start demanding that aipac end its relationship with CUFI and end its support for anti-Muslim bigotry. Not just in instances when it gets a bit too openly crude to be useful.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
08/17/2012  at  04:23 PM
theother, You Are the Pot Calling the Kettle....

Your JVP pals hobnob with Sabeel and other anti-Semitic organizations. And you support a so-called “One State Solution” which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish State. Moreover, you support BDS vs Israel.

Hence, you and your Israel-loathing allies stink to high heaven with the sort of hypocrisy you have written here. Again, I don’t know why you write anything on this site as we all recognize you and those you serve for what you are. You are fooling nobody, except of course yourself…

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Posted by Michael Harris
08/17/2012  at  06:06 PM
falling back on typical anti-Israel rhetoric

Given that pretty much ANY supporter of Israel is considered a “racist” by the people with Israel Derangement Syndrome (not a term I can take credit for, though I wish I could- that belongs to volleyboy1 at, their use of that word is rather suspect.  I wasn’t at the CUFI event in DC, but I did attend a CUFI event in Sacramento earlier this year—along with a number of Jewish community members.  Nothing said there, aside from support for Israel’s existence, could remotely be interpreted as “racist”. 

The deafening silence from JVP—not about other anti-Israel groups but about the groups that THEY THEMSELVES PARTNER WITH, such as Sabeel and American Muslims for Palestine—puts the lie to their claim that they stand against anti-Semitism.  Yitz Santis wrote in detail about this in his blog last year:

Yes, JVP did finally get around to condemning the in-your-face anti-Semitism of ex-Israeli Gilad Atzmon, but only after you were given permission by Ali Abunimah, who realized that Atzmon was too toxic even by his extremist standards.  Does JVP take all of its marching orders from Abunimah and Omar Barghouti?  Sadly, it seems that way.

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Posted by Frank
08/17/2012  at  11:50 PM
Looking forward to strong editorials, ads and rallies supporting Israel

Israel’s terrorist enemies are not “savages”?  (The “civilized man” is “sexist”?  How sophomorically “Berkeley”)

Fine.  So where are the Bay Area Jewish community’s ads and rallies supporting Israel against its terrorist murderous enemies?

If “savages” is not politically correct (albeit accurate), would the Jewish critics prefer “terrorists” or “Islamic fascists” or “Muslim extremists”?  These are facts, not “stereotypes”. What language urging Americans to support Israel against the murderous enemies of Israel and the Jewish people (and America) would be adequately “politically correct”?

Iran is on the verge of producing nuclear weapons, which requires an impending military attack to prevent a second Holocaust (sanctions are a joke and Obama has, dubiously, said he will use military force) ... so where is those Bay Area Jewish groups public outreach to rally support for Israel’s defense?

Instead of venting its spleen in high dudgeon, maligning a pro-Israel activist (labeling her a “bigot”), perhaps JWeekly might pen a strongly worded rousing editorial rallying support for actually vigorously protecting Israel’s “safety and security”. 

I hope to soon see JWeekly’s editorials and the Bay Area Jewish community’s ads and rallies supporting Israel against its terrorist murderous enemies, to prevent an impending second Holocaust.

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Posted by craven_maven
08/18/2012  at  07:18 AM
It's called free speech.Odd, nothing

It’s called free speech.

Odd, nothing has ever been written on these editorial pages against the blatantly mendacious Arab propaganda posted against Israel on Bay Area bus stops.

I notice that the Egyptian Muslim Brothers have begun persecution of opposition. How long before this “civilized” Islamic group begins its executions out in the open? Will the “J” editorial staff even notice?

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Posted by theother
08/18/2012  at  08:25 AM
really Michael?

So now you acknowledge support of an organization like CUFI, that features the most extreme fanatics, most of whom oppose *any* Palestinian state where Palestinians have any rights (that you give lip-service to) and, of course, supports the sponsors of this ad, as to what amounts to an incitement to violence. Gaffney-Geller’s group has in fact, has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I note that you express no opposition to the ad yourself. others here give it support, and oppose this editorial. I am not surprised, i think most, but certainly not all, J Weekly readers are probably on Geller’s side. I am glad the editorial staff is a bit more sophisticated.

it is so worth posting here, when i get both you and Dan so worked up.

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Posted by Michael Harris
08/18/2012  at  06:09 PM
"so worked up?"

Theother, I can respond to what you write while multitasking—it’s that easy. 
While I certainly don’t agree with everything CUFI (or AIPAC, or JCRC) does, they also state that they will support decisions made by the elected government of Israel. Do they have preferences as to what those decisions would be?  Sure—just like J Street does.

The problem I have with Geller’s ads is that they are subject to misinterpretation (since I don’t know her, I can’t render an opinion as to whether this is deliberate or not) and they create a controversy about the ads rather than focusing on the facts of the situation.  I’d certainly refer to those who slit the throats of the Fogel family as savages.  (How would you refer to them—“freedom fighters”?).  But it’s wrong to give the impression that this should refer to all Muslims, which would include such people as Ismail Khaldi, the Muslim who was Israel’s Deputy Consul General in San Francisco a few years ago, or Dr Zuhdi Jasser, who heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. 

Of course it’s natural for you to want to paint the entire pro-Israel movement with the shades of its most extreme members.  But here’s the truth:  even the most moderate anti-Israel groups deny the right of the Jewish people to a state in a portion of our homeland.  That meets the European Union’s definition of anti-Semitism.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
08/18/2012  at  07:49 PM
How Childish theother is...

that utter fool posts simply to “get Mike and Dan riled up.”

Out of curiouslty, theother, didn’t you outgrow your tantrum stage at kindergarten? I suspect not. And then there is your deep-seated need to demonstrate your contempt for Jews in general and Israel in particular. The vast majority of our community knows precisely where the origin of such hatred emanates.

It’s interesting that whenever Jews rightfully or wrongly criticize Israel and its supporters, haters like theother are always ready to chime in. But when Palestinians and other Islamofacists engage in untoward activity, you hear nothing but silence from the JVP, SJP, MECA, KPFA, and Sabeel camps.

theother, do please let us know who you are. Mike Harris and I are open about our identity. But JVP’ers who are regularly laughed at such as Steve Kessler are unwilling to acknowledge their identity as they would risk making themselves even more of a target for mockery, if indeed that is conceivable…

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Posted by craven_maven
08/20/2012  at  09:09 AM
Ridiculous Political Correctness

This is political correctness taken to a ridiculous extreme. O, we must be very careful not to offend Muslims, even as by their silence, more often than not, so-called “moderate” Muslims give their implicit consent to Islamist terrorism and rampant anti-Semitism.

“J.” said nothing about advertisements on Bay Area bus stops that slandered Israel for human rights violations against Arab children, an absurd allegation given the fact that Arabs and Muslim routinely use children as civilian shields and have repeatedly targeted Israeli children for terrorist attacks.

Thanks for the reference “J.” I looked up Pam Geller and found her internet site,, where I donated money.

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