Tag Archive for 'AFDI'

In Any Media War Between Israel and Palestine, Support the Side That Is Unambiguous

Advertisements are often quite fun in politics; how else can you get a person to say on public television that they are not a witch?

Sadly, some advertisements are more serious than others. New York City subways, for example, have begun placing advertisements created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) calling for the defeat of Jihad “savages”.  The ads began appearing in NYC subways at the end of last month, September 2012. Although the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA), the governing body of NYC’s subways, had initially refused to put up the ads due to a standing rule not to put up offensive messages, US District Judge Paul Engelmayer overruled the MTA, citing the AFDI’s right to free speech.

Muslim rights groups view the ads as an attack on their faith and their community. The AFDI, however, states that the anti-Jihad messages are only a response to “pro-Palestinian” advertisements calling for the end of American military aid to Israel, ads created by the Palestine Authority Group. The pro-Palestinian advertisements, unlike the anti-Jihad ads, faced no resistance from the MTA. Nevertheless, the MTA has moved forward in putting up the anti-Jihad ads in accordance with Judge Engelmayer’s ruling, but with disclaimers that the ads do not represent the MTA’s views on the issue.

The AFDI has a valid constitutional claim on the matter and Judge Engelmayer made the correct decision in this case. It is a long standing principle of American law that people have a right to speak their minds so long as the speech does not cause violence. If the KKK can hold an anti-Semitic parade down a Jewish neighborhood and the Westboro Baptist Church can hold an anti-gay protest across from funerals of homosexuals, then the AFDI should be able to place anti-Jihad ads in the NYC subway. The AFDI and the conservatives who support them are also right in emphasizing that we, Americans, cannot sacrifice our own values just because a group of people have anger management issues.

I realize that comparing the AFDI to the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church isn’t a flattering comparison. However, many liberal watch groups would lump the AFDI with the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church together as hate groups. Based on the AFDI’s anti-Jihad advertisement alone, the “hate group” label might be warranted. Indeed, I call their advertisements “anti-Jihad” rather than “pro-Israel” because there are significant differences between the AFDI’s advertisements and the Palestinian Authority Group’s advertising which calls for such a distinction.

If we compare the pro-Palestinian ad to the advertisement created by the AFDI, there are some notable differences and similarities. Calling Palestine the side of peace and justice is just as self-serving as calling Israel the side of civilization, but the Palestine message only calls for the end of American military aid to Israel. Given America’s debt crisis and Israel’s proven ability to defend itself, this policy suggestion is worthy of debate. I question the objectivity of any person who equates a simple foreign policy suggestion with anti-Semitism.

The AFDI claims their advertisement only targets “jihad”, radical Muslims who would kill an American Ambassador over an online video. The problem is that the advertisements run by the AFDI are not clear as to what course of action the AFDI wants other than to “defeat” Jihad. How the AFDI wants to defeat the Jihad threat is itself a mystery; Muslims can only hope that the AFDI’s plan doesn’t involve criminal persecution. Indeed, the FDI has already been caught trying to entrap Muslims by bribing said Muslims into making incriminating statements. The FBI isn’t gaining too much from its campaign, but the police harassment is certainly annoying to innocent citizens who have done nothing wrong. Although the AFDI itself doesn’t command the FBI, public fear does push the government to make certain decisions. Perhaps the AFDI should fine tone their messages before they spark more unnecessary calls for prosecution of Muslims.

Columnist Arrested for Defacing Pro-Israel Ad Claims Freedom of Expression

The U.S. Constitution is one of the greatest things about America.  It legally guarantees access to a number of basic freedoms for all citizens of our nation.  Freedoms that, in some countries, are simply unavailable to the general populace.  While each right is important, arguably one of the most essential is the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.  It was one aspect that truly set America apart when the country was first founded, and today, it also happens to be what causes the most debate.  Especially when it comes to the Middle East.

The latest controversy to spring from it involves prominent columnist Mona Eltahawy.  The Egyptian-born activist was caught on tape spray painting over a pro-Israel ad located in a New York subway station.  The tape shows Eltahawy defacing the poster as another woman attempts to block her.  The advertisement reads “In any war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.  Support Israel.  Defeat Jihad.”  The signs dot many New York subway stations.  They were purchased and put up by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and, unsurprisingly, they’ve stirred up quite a controversy in The Big Apple.

Eltahawy was arrested and charged with a number of misdemeanors, including criminal mischief.  While the possible sentences she faces aren’t anything too severe, the interesting aspect of this story involves her defense.  In the tape, Eltahawy can be heard telling the other woman that her act of vandalism was a protected form of free expression.  And apparently, her attorney is going with this as her legal defense, despite the fact that it’s absolutely wrong.

It’s common knowledge that the First Amendment protects one’s right to free speech and expression.  But what many people don’t seem to understand is exactly how that freedom works.

By its very nature freedom of expression means that every citizen is guaranteed the right to say or otherwise express any opinion they possess.  However, the caveat is that you can’t impede on anyone else’s rights in the process of expressing yourself.  People seem to forget that latter part, and indeed, it seems like Eltahawy and her lawyer are no exception.

While Eltahawy was certainly within her First Amendment right to spray paint her own message, by attempting to cover up the subway poster she was also simultaneously preventing another person from speaking their mind – namely AFDI and its members.  You see, by spray painting over AFDI’s message, Eltahawy was impeding on their First Amendment rights.  That’s a big no-no and is definitely not protected under the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has long held that the appropriate way for a citizen to counter speech they don’t agree with is by more speech, not covering up an opponent’s opinion.  In Eltahawy’s case, the correct response would’ve been taking out her own ads condemning AFDI’s message, speaking out and holding a rally against the organization, or any other way in which she could’ve voiced her own thoughts without trying to shut up AFDI.

Eltahawy’s vandalism was the exact opposite of freedom of expression.  The right is designed to encourage societal tolerance and debate.  It’s meant to keep the channels of communication open and drive people towards an equally pleasing solution through discussion.  Eltahawy’s actions weren’t only against the essence of America’s Constitution, they were downright tyrannical and disgusting.  And regardless of whether you agree with AFDI’s message, the solution isn’t to silence the other party, but rather to get your own message out.

So from a legal perspective, Eltahawy doesn’t have a leg to stand on if she’s planning on using the First Amendment as her crutch.  No judge in their right mind would buy such a ludicrous argument.

However, it’s probably safe to assume that the point of both her vandalism and subsequent legal defense isn’t necessarily to win her current court battle, but rather to spur greater action toward her side in the never-ending Middle East debate.  So from this point-of-view, Eltahawy is right on track with her strategy.

Though it still doesn’t make what she did any less unjustifiable or unconstitutional.