The MBTA Accepted a New Version Of That Controversial ‘Pro-Israel’ Ad

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Photo By Alex Lau

Photo By Alex Lau

Apparently all it takes to meet the MBTA’s advertising guidelines is tweaking a few words in order to clarify a message.

Although the transit agency won a court decision last month, and was deemed within their rights to deny a “demeaning” advertisement with a “Pro-Israel” message from being displayed at stops and stations, after a few tweaks to the wording, a similar version of the same poster will be going up.

“The last one read, ‘In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad,’ and one of the points the judge highlighted is that it was referring to the person as a savage. So we changed the new version of the ad submitted to the T, which was approved,” said Robert Muise, cofounder and legal counsel for the American Freedom Law Center, a non-profit group. Muise is representing members of the American Freedom Defense Initiative in the court battle over free speech.

The new submission, which is very similar to the original, got the thumbs up from the T, and reads:

In any war between the civilized man and those engaged in savage acts, support the civilized man. Defeat violent jihad. Support Israel.

By adding “those engaged,” and the word “violent” to describe jihad, the issue subsided.

The “Defeat Violent Jihad” version came after a recent ruling in U.S. District court in December, where a federal judge denied a preliminary injunction to force the T to post the ads, and ruled that the agency’s censorship of the previous pro-Israel advertisement submitted by the AFDI was “reasonable” based on the T’s advertising guidelines.

The AFLC first sued back in November, and they are now pursuing an appeal to have the judge’s decision overturned. The ads were in response to a set of posters boards, plastered across 80 locations, that promoted an anti-Israel message, depicting a shrinking Palestinian landscape.

MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the decision to accept this new ad had “absolutely nothing” to do with any potential litigation, and the ongoing court feud.  He said this version of the poster was accepted solely because it complies with the MBTA’s court-approved advertising guidelines.

“It did not violate the MBTA’s court-approved advertising standards,” he said.

Muise said that rationale, however, was ridiculous.

“The first one apparently ran afoul, but the second one is perfectly acceptable. I think it’s absurd. I hate to overuse that word, but it’s absurd. Any rational or reasonable person looking at this, they would think ‘what’s the difference between those two ads, that [the second one] is acceptable?’”

The acceptance of the new version of “Defeat Violent Jihad” did not change Muise’s perspective of furthering the issue in court.

“This is all about free speech,” he said.

He said he is not sure where and when the new ads will run, and that his clients plan on submitting a third version of the message for approval. If that one is also accepted, they will then either put up both posters, or pick between the two.

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2014/01/08/mbta-ad-accepted-pro-israel/