by: Maayan Schechter
Savages of my faith do not represent me.
As an American-Jew, after viewing the video of controversial Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahway being arrested after spray painting over an anti-Palestinian advertisement, my first thought was, “This is so badass.”
At UNC Asheville, one of my missions is to destroy the negative stereotypes which plague the Muslim religion and culture because once in history, my religion and culture were targeted as well.
I joined the Muslim Student Association as an outreach coordinator, attend Muslim functions and give lectures to friends about how Islam is being disgraced as a savage religion.
When I found out Pamela Geller and her organization American Freedom Defense Initiative were the founder of such hate ads, it felt like my duty should be a spokesperson for American-Jews against hate speech. Pamela Geller is also an American-Jew.
The racist ad which reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad,” is yet another attempt by AFDI to spread hateful rhetoric across the United States. The New York Post was able to capture a video of Eltahway spraying the paint as photographer Pamela Hall attempted to block her for her 15 minutes of fame.
Hall asks Eltahway, “Mona, do you think you have the right to do this?” Mona answers, “I do actually. I think this is freedom of expression, just as this is freedom of expression.”
After a mini five-minute cat-fight session, Hall refuses to back down from Eltahway, screaming for her to stop. Eventually, an officer came over and broke up what was not even close to a fight, but was not able to keep Eltahway from screaming her views.
“This is a non-violent protest,” says Elthaway in the video. “See this, America? I’m an Egyptian-American, and I refuse hate.”
The ads were controversial and originally denied by the city’s Metropolitan Transport Authority. The MTA was later forced to put ads in 10 subway stations around the city. Freedom of expression is a precious human right, and the AFDI gets to have this right as well.
After ads ran on San Francisco buses, MTA tried to suppress the ads claming they were “demeaning.” The U.S. District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer overruled the MTA’s decision under the First Amendment clause. The New York office of the Anti-Defamation League released a statement against the the court’s decision calling it “highly offensive and inflammatory.” However, the ADL did agree that the AFDI had the right to free expression. Geller called the decision “a victory for the First Amendment” and in an interview with Fox News, she did not feel these ads would incite protests from Muslims.
The AFDI is an ignorant, controversial organization that notoriously spreads hate speech through ads, posters and even T-shirts. According to the AFDI website, they are “fighting the good fight in the information battle space.” This is not the first time the AFDI has been in the press.
In late 2004, Geller created a blog called AtlasShrugs where she posts her opinions as well as her twists on the news to inform her readers about Islam. Her organization spreads ads across the United States ranging from calling Palestinians “savages” to ads reading “19,250: Deadly Attacks Since 9/11/01. It’s not Islamaphobia. It’s Islamarealism.” Geller has made a profit out of inducing fear into American minds.
What the organization is really doing is spreading hate and stereotyping. Apparently, Gellar believes she is some kind of prophet for the ignorant.
Geller would refer to many like myself as a “leftist-Jew.” But what we really are are people who fight for the civil rights of all, whether or not we all agree with their ideals. However, I refuse to let Geller disgrace my religion and culture to hate on another.
The voices of the American-Jewish community are very important right now. While Israel is at the core of many of our identities, and many of us care about the well being of Israelis who have suffered at the hands of Muslim extremists, we must denounce Geller and the ADFI efforts to stereotype.
Regardless of what your beliefs may be, this is a time for all of us to stand up against hatred and bigotry. We must all use our freedom of expression to reject the hate in these ads. Geller is an unwanted bigot to the American-Jewish community. Her voice must not override those that continue to fight for peace and coexistence. This fight should not involve Israel versus Palestine. This battle should not involve Jewish versus Muslim.
This is a fight dealing with those in the belief of harming others and the belief of living together in something similar to harmony. Geller is abusing her right to freedom of expression and now is a time to beat her in her own race.