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Pro-Israel Bus Advertisement Rejected by Massachusetts Transit Authority; AFLC Files Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit

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Release by the American Freedom Law Center
Today, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
(MBTA) for rejecting a proposed advertisement for display on its
advertising spaces that supported Israel in the debate over the Israeli /
Palestinian conflict.  The advertisement stated: “In any war between
the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.  Support
Israel.  Defeat jihad.”  MBTA officials claimed that the advertisement
was “disparaging” and “demeaning.”  
 
AFLC filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on behalf of Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and their organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative
(AFDI).  As stated in the complaint, last month the MBTA, which
provides public transportation throughout Massachusetts, including to
millions of riders in the Greater Boston area, accepted for display on
its advertising space an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian advertisement that
appeared on approximately 80 posters throughout the transit system.
 That advertisement depicted four maps that purport to show “the
Palestinian loss of land” to Israel between 1946 and 2010.  Text
accompanying the maps says: “4.7 million Palestinians are Classified by
the UN as Refugees.”  


 
After
receiving a rash of complaints, on October 31, the MBTA removed all of
the anti-Israel advertisements from the MBTA’s advertising space.
 However, the very next day, the MBTA, citing a “miscommunication” with
its advertising agent, reversed its decision and agreed to repost the
advertisements.
 
Despite
permitting the anti-Israel advertisement, the MBTA officially rejected
ADFI’s pro-Israel advertisement on Monday, November 4, prompting the
immediate filing of this lawsuit. 
 
Robert
J. Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented: “The MBTA’s
acceptance of advertisements that specifically address the hotly debated
Israeli / Palestinian conflict, and in particular, its acceptance of
the anti-Israel advertisement, clearly demonstrate that the
advertisement space is appropriate for AFDI’s message.  Indeed, there is
little doubt that the MBTA, motivated by political correctness,
censored our clients’ pro-Israel advertisement out of a fear of a
backlash from area Muslims and left wing activists.  And there is even
less doubt that the MBTA’s decision violates our clients’ fundamental
right to freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.”
 
David
Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added: “Since when is
calling murderous jihadis who target women and children savages
demeaning or disparaging?  The MBTA has taken a political position on
the side of defending terrorists.  Presumably they would allow an ad
that labeled these terrorists freedom fighters.”
 

Robert
Muise pointed out the obvious: “The fact that the MBTA accepted the
anti-Israel advertisement yet censored our clients’ advertisement once
again reveals the double standard that too often permeates government
agencies nationwide.  Fortunately, our similar free speech victories in
New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., prove that this type of
censorship is blatantly unconstitutional and a grave threat to our
profound national commitment that debate on public issues should be
robust and uninhibited.”