Groups rap ‘pro-Israel’ bus ads in San Francisco as hateful

Transportation authority says it will review approvals policy after running campaign referring to Muslims as ‘savages’

A San Francisco bus. (CC-BY-SA Jeff Muceus, Wikimedia Commons)
A San Francisco bus. (CC-BY-SA Jeff Muceus, Wikimedia Commons)

A “pro-Israel” ad campaign on buses in San Francisco has drawn sharp criticism of going over the line in anti-Islam rhetoric, spurring the body that approves such ads to review its policy for the future.

The ads, which read “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad,” were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

The group, headed by anti-Islam commentator Pamela Geller, is defined as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority told the San Francisco Examiner the signs were protected speech, but it would consider its policies in future cases.

“While this ad is protected under the First Amendment, our ad policy and our contractual obligations, we condemn the use of any language that belittles, demeans or disparages others. Going forward, we will review our policies with regards to ads on the Muni system,” the SFMTA said in a statement.

The AFDI last month won an injunction against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York for rejecting the same ad on buses and subways.

A judge in that case ruled the MTA’s policy against “demeaning” speech was unconstitutional.

However, a petition on to have the ads removed from buses in San Francisco called the ads hateful and said they could lead to the type of violence that saw six Sikhs gunned down while praying in Wisconsin.

“Declaring a whole people ‘savages’ belongs in the dustbin of 19th century colonial racism, not on a city bus in the 21st Century of a progressive city like San Francisco,” the petition, which only garnered 43 signatures as of Wednesday, reads. “Such organized hate has consequences, Mr. Rose. We saw it this month in the senseless slaughter of innocents in Oak Creek, Wisconsin as families were worshipping together.

The SFMTA told the Examiner it would donate the proceeds from the four-week campaign to educational activities of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

A similar issue has recently riled London, where groups have petitioned to have the city’s transportation authority remove anti-Israel advertisements on buses.

Transport for London said it would not take down the ads for Al Quds Day, an annual pro-Palestinian rally organized by an Iran-linked group, but said it would review its policies going forward.

It said the ads were slated to be removed in a few days anyway.


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