Advertisements Are Causing an Uproar Over Their Controversial Sentiment

The American Freedom Defense Initiative has put up a series of anti-Islamic billboards in Metro-North stations in Westchester County, New York in the past week.

The billboards — reading “19,250 deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11/01 and counting. It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism” — have been spotted at the Hartsdale, Scarsdale and Hastings-on-Hudson train stations.

Pamela Geller, the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, said the group has 50 ads running for the month and will continue to run them as funds are raised in a nationwide campaign.

The ads are “running on the same kiosks as the vicious and fallacious anti-Israel ads,” Geller wrote in an email to Newsday, referring to a set of pro-Palestinian advertisements posted in Metro-North stations in July.

The earlier billboards were sponsored by Henry Clifford, the co-chairman of the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine, and featured maps of Israel from 1946 through 2010 focusing on the expansion of Israel at the expense of Palestinians.

Clifford’s ads were met with criticism from residents and Jewish leaders. In response to the signs, the California-based pro-Israel group StandWithUs sponsored its own set of signs highlighting its view of the historical Jewish connection to Israel on billboards in Metro-North train stations from Peekskill to Yonkers.

A spokeswoman for StandWithUs said the group had no comment on the signs put up by Geller’s group. Henry Clifford and the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine could not be reached for comment.

Ron Meier, New York Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, told Newsday that although his group agrees the ads should be legally allowed to run, they “object both to the message and the messenger.”

“We find them to be highly offensive and inflamatory,” Meier said, “Being pro-Israel does not mean being anti-Muslim.”

The Hastings-on-Hudson station ad was vandalized not long after it went up. A photo appearing on the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s website shows the sign almost entirely removed save for a blank corner where someone wrote in metallic marker: “Countless acts of terrorism and violence have been committed by Christian Extremists. Does this make all Christians terrorists?”

Geller said CBS Outdoor, who oversees Metro-North advertising, initially replaced it with a different ad, but has assured her that it is being rectified.

The Metropolitan Transpiration Authority in New York (MTA) said it doesn’t support the sentiment displayed in the ad but doesn’t bar advertising based on content, according to CBS station WCBS in New York.  MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota said the agency may discuss its policies on political ads in September.

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