When Right-Wing Crazy Backfires: 5 Ways Racist Pro-Israel Ads Make the Right Look Like Hateful Idiots

Anti-Muslim blogger and activist Pamela Geller must have thought she would spread her hateful, right-wing Zionist message to more people by placing inflammatory advertisements in New York City subway stations. Instead, Geller has had to deal with a ton of backlash against the advertisements, which read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

The ads demeaning Muslims and Palestinians were placed in 10 subway stations in New York this week, following their placement in San Francisco last month. They were first rejected by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but after Geller filed a lawsuit, a judge ordered the MTA to allow them to go up.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization run by Geller and her Islamophobic partner in crime Robert Spencer, paid more than $6,000 to New York’s transit agency to run the billboards. AFDI has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Geller is the nation’s leading anti-Muslim activist, regularly publishing vitriol against Islam on her blog and promoting attempts to stop the construction of mosques. She made a name for herself when she led the charge against the construction of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan in 2010, falsely labeling it a “mega mosque” on the premises of Ground Zero. 

The ads are the latest attempt by Geller to make a name for herself and spread her hateful message that attempts to marginalize Muslim-Americans. But it appears they have backfired hard. Here are five reasons why:

1. Defacement

Almost as soon as the ads went up, they were defaced and, well, corrected. Big stickers with the words “Racist” and “Hate Speech” were plastered over at least seven of Geller’s ads, much to her dismay. You can see all the images on Mondoweiss.net (where, full disclosure, I am a staff reporter). 

And last night, Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy was arrested for spray painting over the ads in the Times Square subway station. Video posted by the New York Post shows Eltahawy using pink spray paint to deface the ad, only to be blocked by another anti-Muslim activist, Pamela Hall. Eltahawy was charged with “criminal mischief.” Geller has called on the New York Police Department to ramp up protection of the advertisements.

2. Jewish Organizations Reject the Ads

Geller’s dangerous rhetoric has never been accepted by the mainstream Jewish establishment in the U.S., who prefer their pro-Israel and pro-occupation messaging to come with a prettier face. The “savage” billboards have only widened the split between Geller and these mainstream organizations. 

The Anti-Defamation League, who, like Geller, came out against the construction of the Islamic center near lower Manhattan, has denounced the advertisements. Other Jewish groups have also weighed in. “The challenge for us now is to raise our voices to say that these ads don’t represent and don’t reflect the mainstream American Jewish community,” Mark Pelavin, senior adviser at the Union for Reform Judaism, told The Forward.

3. Transit Riders Disgusted

Geller’s game is trying to infect the American body politic with her toxic message. But most New York subway riders either aren’t paying attention or are expressing outrage. 

Bloomberg News reported that “most subway riders in New York’s Times Square subway station walked past” the ads. But when the news outlet did catch up with some riders, they weren’t happy. 

“If you are pro-Israel, this is abhorrent,” Rebecca Klinger told Bloomberg. “It is contrary to the basic values that Israel was founded on. So many suffered in the Holocaust because of racism. It’s painful to see supporters of Israel doing the same things. Nazis thought Jews weren’t human, and this ad implies some humans are savages.”

4. Geraldo Rivera Slams Geller

Rivera, talk show host, is not known for his sensitivity to minority ethnic or religious groups. After the Trayvon Martin shooting, Rivera was widely mocked for saying that “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as much as George Zimmerman was.” The hoodie reference is to the fact that Martin was wearing a sweatshirt with a hood when he was walking home before Zimmerman killed him. 

But on this issue, Rivera has been spot-on. Geller appeared on Rivera’s show yesterday, and he promptly berated her for the advertisements.

The ads “are so intentionally, recklessly provocative. I don’t understand what the real purpose is other than to cause upset,” said Rivera. 

After Geller ticked off a list of “savage” acts committed by Palestinians against Israeli civilians, Rivera fired back, saying, “Pamela Geller, hold on: do you want me to start delineating all the civilian casualties, the women and children who’ve died, on the other side, the Arab side?” Geller then referred to Palestinian civilian casualties as “collateral.” 

5. Fox News Calls Geller ‘Inflammatory’ and ‘Anti-Muslim’

The right-wing news outlet has boosted Geller’s career. She frequently appeared on Fox News during the manufactured furor over the Park 51 Islamic community center in Manhattan. And Fox News has also given “Geller a platform to promote her book The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America and was given airtime to promote and fundraise for her campaign suggesting that honor killings and terrorism are representative of the Islamic faith,” according to Media Matters for America.

But Media Matters noted yesterday that “Fox seems to have finally drawn a line on Geller's bigotry.” The media watchdog group reports that “Fox News obscured language in Islamophobic billboards created by conservative blogger Pam Geller's American Israel Defense Initiative, deeming the language ‘so inflammatory we're not going to show it to you.’” Media Matters also reports that “Fox's panelists agreed that they ‘hate’ the message in the ads” and that Geller is “anti-Muslim.”


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