New York City

Pro-Israel group asks judge to override New York bus ad ban

May 1, 2015 By Larry Neumeister Associated Press
A photo of the ad in question. AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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Lawyers for a pro-Israel organization whose advertisement containing the phrase “Hamas Killing Jews” prompted a transportation agency to reject all political ads for city buses asked a judge on Thursday to order their message be displayed anyway.

The lawyers made the request of U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl a day after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority banned all political ads on subway trains and buses in the nation’s largest mass transit system.

The MTA’s board voted after the judge ordered the agency to display the ads, saying they were protected by the First Amendment. The judge had immediately stayed the effect of his order so the MTA could appeal.

Attorneys David Yerushalmi and Robert J. Muise, representing the American Freedom Defense Initiative, told the judge the MTA’s decision was a “disingenuous attempt to circumvent” his order. They added that it was now clear the MTA did not plan to appeal and said it was appropriate for the judge to lift the stay and let the ads go up.

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“In short, defendants’ effort to remove this case and the constitutional issues it presents from the jurisdiction of this court fails for many reasons,” the lawyers said.

The MTA was reviewing the letter and had no immediate comment, a spokesman said. An MTA lawyer declined to comment.

American Freedom Defense Initiative is an organization led by blogger Pamela Geller, who’s behind the advertisement and a lawsuit against the MTA.

Last August, the MTA notified the group that it would display three of four proposed advertisements but not an ad with the quote “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” In the ad, a covered face is shown next to the quote, which is attributed to “Hamas MTV.” It is followed by the words: “That’s his Jihad. What’s yours?”

The MTA has said the advertisement could incite violence.

In September, the MTA said it recognized that the rejected ad was a parody of “MyJihad” ads sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which said it was promoting the concept that jihad, or holy war, is an individual and personal struggle rather than a violent conflict or terrorism.

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