The Anti-Defamation League condemned Wednesday as “highly offensive and inflammatory” an anti-Muslim bus ad campaign featuring images of Adolf Hitler meeting with the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem. The campaign, spearheaded by controversial blogger and activist Pamela Geller, was launched in Washington, DC, earlier this week.
“The Anti-Defamation League deplores the use of this Hitler imagery and this message of intolerance. These ads are highly offensive and inflammatory,” said David C. Friedman, the ADL’s Washington DC regional director.
“Pro-Israel doesn’t mean anti-Muslim,” he continued, “and support for Israel cannot be built on bigoted anti-Muslim and anti-Arab stereotypes.”
Friedman stressed that though he heavily disagreed with the messages the campaign promoted, he believed the US government should not act to remove the ads.
“ADL consistently maintains that government censorship is not the right response to hate speech,” he said.
“The League supports the free speech guarantees embodied in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, understanding that the best way to combat hateful speech is with more speech.”
The 15-foot-long ads featuring a photograph of the Nazi leader were placed by Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative on 20 city buses. The ads claim that Islam promotes Koran-based Jew-hatred and demand an end to US foreign aid to Islamic countries.
Geller wrote on her website that the campaign – which features an archival photograph of Hitler meeting with Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian nationalist and Islamic leader of British Mandate-era Palestine — is a response to “the vicious Jew-hating” ads placed on Washington buses in March and April by the Illinois-based group American Muslims for Palestine. Those ads stated, “We’re sweating April 15 so Israelis don’t have to! Stop US aid to Israel’s occupation!”
Geller told The Times of Israel by email that she never considered not responding to the American Muslims for Palestine ad. “When is it ever advantageous to let a lie stand unchallenged by the truth? The truth is always appropriate — now more than ever,” she wrote.
For its part, AMP denied that it was promoting anti-Semitic or “Jew-hating” messages, and claimed that criticizing Israeli policies should be considered political speech rather than hate speech. The Illinois-based group added that Geller’s response to the ad was both “racist” and “Islamophobic.”
“The policies of any country are often topics in the national discourse and Israeli policies are no exception,” Dr. Osama Abu Irshaid, an AMP national board member, told The Times of Israel in an emailed statement. “Criticizing Israeli policies is not anti-Semitic or ‘Jew-hating,’ as Geller claims.”
Irshaid added, “Typically, we don’t respond to Geller and her attention-seeking tactics, but this ad is so over the top we felt we had to speak out.”
Geller was barred from entering the UK in 2013. The Home Office denied her entry on the basis that her “presence here would not be conducive to the public good.” Her previous history reportedly indicated to the Home Secretary that Geller might attempt to “foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.” In addition, synagogues in the US have in the past canceled appearances by her, citing security concerns.
Renee Ghert-Zand contributed to this report.