Jewish and Christian groups have simultaneously unveiled ad campaigns countering the controversial anti-jihad advertisements paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group led by conservative blogger Pamela Geller.
The new ads, which are due to go up in New York on Monday, are a clear statement against the earlier campaign, whose posters read, "In any way between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad."
The ad by Rabbis for Human Rights North America, a collective of 1,800 rabbis, reads, "In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.”
"We were concerned because [the ad] frames this in the language of supporting Israel," Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, said in a statement. "We didn't want New Yorkers to think that in order to support Israel, you have to dehumanize a whole other group of people."
The original 10 Manhattan ads went up last month only after the American Freedom Defense Initiative successfully sued the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which wanted to ban them. In the wake of protests across the Muslim world against recent Islamophobic film “Innocence of Muslims,” the ads have been defaced at least 15 times, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told The New York Times.
Geller insists that her ads only attack violent Muslims who hate Israel, and that she feels equally towards all terrorists. "These rabbis have good intentions," she wrote The Jewish Week after the paper requested comment. "I am all for choosing love. My own ad is not hate speech, it's love speech. It's love of life speech ... Pushing back against such hate is not hate."
Rabbi Jacobs disagrees, saying that Geller is defining all Muslims as practitioners of jihad.
"We agree with her 100 percent that there's no excuse for terrorism," Rabbi Jacobs said to The Jewish Week. "But that's not an excuse to come after an entire group of people, just like we wouldn't want someone who's concerned about settlers to use that as an excuse for anti-Semitism."
Separately, Sojourners, led by the Christian author and social-justice advocate Jim Wallis, has engaged the MTA to place their own ad response to the jihad posters. The Sojourners ad simply says, “Love your Muslim neighbors.”
Sojourners’ campaigns manager, the Reverend Beau Underwood, said to The New York Times, “An essential tenet of Christianity is to love our neighbors.” He added, “In the face of religious extremism, the best response is to treat others like we would want to be treated. Our ad campaign has a simple message that is at the heart of our faith.”
Following the lawsuit, the MTA changed its advertising rules last week to ban ads that could “imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.” But Donovan told the New York Times that the new ads “are accepted and conform with our guidelines,” adding, “The MTA doesn’t endorse any of the ads we carry.”
Both religious organizations and transit officials have confirmed that the new ads will be purposely placed near the anti-jihad spots in the same subway stations.