The Jewish Voice Interviews Activist Pamela Geller, Co-founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative
As the controversy continues to escalate over the placement of ads in New York City subways that call for a moral outcry against jihad and the pernicious deeds of radical Islamists around the world, the Jewish Voice sat down with controversial and oft-maligned political commentator Pamela Geller, a co-founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the organization that has spearheaded this ad campaign.
If Ms. Geller’s name sounds familiar, it is because she has been at the forefront of championing the causes of democracy, liberty and justice through her role as author of the popular blog Atlas Shrugs, a co-founder of “Stop the Islamization of America,” and a prolific writer on the subject of the threat to the American value system that, she and her colleagues feel, is represented by encroachment of Sharia law in Western society. Her latest book, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America which she co-authored with Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch speaks to these very issues.
As a visible political activist and commentator, Ms. Geller was an early driving force and an outspoken opponent of the proposed construction of Park51, better known as the “Ground Zero mosque,” which was to have been located only two blocks from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. Under her leadership, Ms. Geller inspired the “Campaign Offensive: Stop the 9/11 Mosque!” and other protests.
Ms. Geller was kind enough to take some time from her busy schedule (made all the more busy, no doubt, by the uproar sparked by the anti-jihad advertisements throughout the NYC subway system), and speak with the Jewish Voice.
JEWISH VOICE: We understand that the anti-jihadist ads placed by the American Freedom Defense Initiative on New York City subways have generated a great deal of controversy. Your ad says, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” It also appeared in the (San Francisco)Bay Area Rapid Transit System as well and was defaced, while disclaimers were placed on buses. Why, at this time, did you decide to place these ads and what message are you trying to communicate?
PAMELA GELLER: I first attempted to place these ads in 2011 when an anti-Israel ad campaign was being running in the New York City subway system, although there was no controversy or opposition to those anti-Semitic ads. Our ad campaign was hung up by legal battles. Anti-Jewish ads are okay; anti-jihad ads are “offensive.” Once I won my First Amendment rights, the ads finally went up. I intended the ads as a response to the anti-Israel ad campaign.
The message is clear. Any war on innocent civilians is savage. The war on Israel is a war on innocent civilians. The relentless 60-year campaign of terror against the Jewish people is savage. The torture of hostage Gilad Shalit was savage. The bloody hacking to death of the Fogel family was savage. The Munich Olympic massacre was savage. The unspeakable torture of Ehud Goldwasser was savage. The tens of thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel (into schools, homes, etc.) are savage. The vicious Jew-hatred behind this genocide is savage. The endless demonization of the Jewish people in the Palestinian and Arab media is savage. The refusal to recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state is savage. The list is endless.
One of the many emails I have received in support of the ads was from the parent of a young victim in the massacre at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Unimaginable inhumanity. Anyone who has a heart understands. The media and political elites aligned with the jihad force, and whitewashed this horror. The objective of the campaign is to increase awareness of this unspeakable evil among good and decent people.
JV: Many anti-Israel ads have been placed in subway systems and buses throughout the nation, yet the first amendment rights of free speech were granted to the groups that sponsored them. Can you tell us about your legal battles for free expression with the New York City MTA and the Washington, DC subway system, and what is your reaction to Donna Lieberman’s statements at the ACLU? At this point, has the Washington, DC system agreed to place the ads?
PAMELA GELLER: The NYC MTA refused the ads on the pretext that they were “demeaning.” This was struck down on First Amendment grounds. Obviously the idea that my ads are “demeaning” but the anti-Israel ads weren’t was politically motivated. Civilized men do not sanction jihad or the Islamic Jew-hatred that is commanded in the Koran. The response to our ads by anti-Israel and self-hating Jewish groups is expected. The silence of Zionist and pro-Israel organizations is enormously disappointing.
In D.C., they wanted to delay the ads for fear of violence from jihadists. But this, too, failed in court: in America we do not censor ourselves to kowtow to savages. Donna Lieberman said the ads were “patently offensive.” In reality, they’re offensive only to jihadist savages and their useful idiot non-Muslim defenders. Yes, D.C. has agreed to run the ads, and they are running.
JV: I understand that a female Egyptian blogger has embarked on a crusade to deface the ads in the NYC subway. Do you have any information about this person and do you know if she is being sponsored by CAIR, or groups of that nature?
PAMELA GELLER: Mona Eltahawy is a frequent analyst for CNN and Reuters. She is noted for having criticized Islam’s mistreatment of women in an article several months ago. Also, she was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square last year by men she termed “beasts.” But now she is displaying full-on Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with her oppressors and furthering their agenda. Maybe she was trying to get back into the good graces of her Muslim Brotherhood friends who were angry about her article.
Hundreds of anti-Israel ads have run in every major city across this country. Not one was defaced. Ten little anti-jihad ads go up, and every one of them was destroyed. This is a physical manifestation of the entire conversation, or lack thereof. Anyone who speaks about jihad and Sharia is attacked, defamed, destroyed – just like these ads. This is exactly what’s happening in the media regarding jihad coverage in general. Anti-American, anti-Israel, pro-Sharia hate is all over the airwaves, but anyone who dares to speak the truth about Islam and jihad in the media is immediately smeared and defamed. You can’t have this conversation in the media, any more than I can present these pro-Israel ads and receive any semblance of fair treatment.
JV: Rep. Mike Honda (D) of California has taken a leading role in condemning your ad campaign. He asserts that he is an outspoken supporter of free speech and feels that the answer to “bad speech” is more speech. He has called for a boycott of WMATA. What are your thoughts on his position and why do you feel that he is wrong?
PAMELA GELLER: Honda is a stooge of Islamic supremacist forces in the U.S. He has appeared with Islamic supremacist leaders and harshly criticized the King hearings on jihad activity in the United States. We are facing opposition from elected officials who have aligned themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., and with those who would undermine national security. I hope Honda’s constituents realize on election day how he is carrying water for Islamic supremacist enemies of free speech.
JV: Your call for support for Israel in the face of the burgeoning movement of radical Islam seems to be the most disturbing part of your ad for those who oppose it. Do you feel this is the just the latest display in the campaign to demonize Israel, and is this anti-Israel sentiment, in your view, being fostered by the strain in relations between the Obama administration and Israel?
PAMELA GELLER: Yes, certainly. Obama has greatly emboldened leftists in their Jew-hatred. But it is more than that. It is the normalizing of Jew-hatred in the culture. The annihilationist rhetoric of Islamic supremacists is very much a part of the media and academic narrative.
JV: For those wishing to support Israel over savagery, as your ad suggests, how would you recommend that they go about it?
PAMELA GELLER: Support Netanyahu. Vote out Obama and the Democrats. Act against anti-Israel propaganda in your local area. And contribute to our ad campaign as it goes national.