In 2012, Hamas aired a music video with the message, “Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah.”
Now that message will appear on the sides of buses, and New York politicians like Mayor Bill de Blasio are outraged… …at Pamela Geller. Geller’s organization, American Freedom Defense Initiative, paid for the ads, and they highlight the hateful ideologies of various Islamic extremist elements. The ad featuring Hamas was rejected by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, but AFDI sued and had their free speech rights upheld in court.
U.S. District Judge John Koeltl ruled, “[T]here is no evidence that seeing one of these advertisements on the back of a bus would be sufficient to trigger a violent reaction. Therefore, these ads—offensive as they may be—are still entitled to First Amendment protection.”
The Hamas viewpoint depicted is indeed offensive. The quote about “Killing Jews” runs alongside an image of a Hamas fighter and the tagline “That’s His Jihad. What’s Yours?” parodying a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) ad campaign.
Attack the Messenger, Ignore the Message
But the response of many liberals and local Democrats seems to suggest they are more offended by the ads than by Hamas. The ads have “no place in New York City,” Mayor de Blasio said. CAIR responded on its Facebook page: “These ads can achieve nothing but sow the seeds of hatred.” What can spread more hate than Hamas’ calls for genocide?
Even some left-wing Jewish outlets attacked AFDI. The magazine Tikkun said these ads legitimize terrorism. “By displaying these ads AFDI has, once again, provided a legitimate excuse for terrorist organizations to practice their heinous acts which do not even come close to religious ideology,” Lubna Qureshi wrote, in an article that preemptively tries to justify terrorism.
Terrorist groups often cite all kinds of any farcical, dishonest excuses for terrorism. Some even cited an obscure YouTube video created by a private citizen as justification for attacking Benghazi. None of that justifies terrorism. To do so would be to blame the victim. Yet Qureshi didn’t just call the ad an “excuse,” she called it a “legitimate” one. To deny that Islamic terrorism is a problem while raising the possibility of a terrorist attack is on its face a self-defeating argument. In fact, the attack on the Muhammad cartoon event Geller organized in Garland, Texas, on May 3 only highlights the problem. Whatever one thinks of Geller, he ought to defend her right to express herself without being killed.
Criticizing Hamas Isn’t Criticizing Islam
Some people oppose these ads because they are “anti-Islam.” “When did those noble concepts of ‘liberty,’ ‘free speech,’ ‘freedom of conscience’ and ‘individual rights’ come to mean fighting for the ignoble right to say vile things about Muslims?” Abby Zimet wrote at Common Dreams.
Surely most Muslims do not support Hamas’ terrorism, but Zimet says the ad says “vile things about Muslims.” In fact, the ad only says something about Hamas. The ad in question quotes Hamas calling for the death of Jews and attributes it to “Hamas MTV.” Specifically, the line is taken from a sign in the background of a music video that ran on Hamas’ propaganda channel Al-Aqsa TV in 2012. The video shows a militant with a gun singing about “killing occupiers.”
There’s a treasure trove of anti-Semitic propaganda on the Al-Aqsa channel. That’s the channel that famously played a jihadist version of Mickey Mouse inciting children to “martyrdom.” After Jihadist Mickey Mouse was “martyred,” on the show, by Israeli intelligence agents, he was replaced by a bee, who died of disease, who was then replaced by Assud, a bloodthirsty rabbit, who said, “I, Assud, will get rid of the Jews, Allah willing, and I will eat them up, Allah willing, right?”
Another one of Al-Aqsa’s music videos featured a four-year-old girl pledging to “follow mommy in her steps” after depicting her mother’s own suicide bombing. The director of Al-Aqsa TV and leader of the Hamas Public Affairs Department Fathi Hamad once gave a speech encouraging the murder of Palestinians used as human shields:
For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: ‘We desire death like you desire life.’
Supporters of Palestinian rights should be just as outraged by what Hamas is doing to the very people it claims to govern.
Islamic Extremism Isn’t Just Hamas
Hamas is the organization of government in one of the Palestinian territories, which is campaigning for statehood, so it is noteworthy what they say. The world should be informed on its ideology, including its genocidal charter, before making policy on Israeli-Palestine matters.
But Hamas isn’t the only Islamic extremist entity gracing the AFDI ads. Other ads quote Turkish Prime Minister Tayypi Erdogan, Egyptian Islamic theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and terrorists Osama bin Laden and Faisal Shazad. Granted, AFDI was probably going too far by using those terrorists, and anyone who disagrees with bin Laden’s violent interpretations of Islam can criticize him without criticizing Islam.
Many of the people on the ads, however, are not fringe figures but rather important leaders. Erdogan is the first elected prime minister of Turkey, a country with a population of 76.5 million people, which is in the process of consideration for European Union membership. Erdogan’s tenure has been noted for his crackdown on protesters and his attempts to move what was a relatively secular country closer to theocracy.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the scholar al-Qaradawi are both quoted as making anti-gay comments. Al-Qaradawi might not be a well-known figure, but he is the chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and an advisor to the Muslim Brotherhood, which recently held power in Egypt and is fighting for power elsewhere. He has a show on Al Jazeera and has published over 100 books.
These ads are frankly spreading awareness of hate. If you are worried about ethnic hate, religious hate, violence, and religious fanaticism, those people depicted on the ads are who should be condemned.
De Blasio says the ads “serve only to divide and stigmatize.” If they stigmatize the bigots they display, then good, but New Yorkers and Americans should be united in disagreement with Hamas and the others.
Anyone who practices a moderate, non-violent form of Islam by definition doesn’t believe in the extremist view, yet the extremist view of Islam is a major problem in countries around the world today. Rather than attacking the messenger, let us criticize the extremists.