Ron Kronish

In New York, anti-Muslim ads elicit shock and dismay

Yes, there is a problem with radical, extremist Islam, but it is a problem for the moderate Muslim majority as well

I am writing to express my shock and dismay at the outrageous hate ads which have been put on subway stations in New York City by of an irrelevant and largely unknown organization in the USA which is doing a great job at increasing misunderstanding and hatred in the world! If you haven’t read or heard about the ads yet, this is what they say:

A controversial New York subway ad reads 'In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.'
A controversial New York subway ad reads ‘In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.’

Can you believe this? It’s outright hate-mongering.

The extreme right-wing group in the USA is called the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is headed by a Jewish woman named Pamela Geller. I had never heard of her or her organization until a friend of mine who works for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York alerted me to her defamatory anti-Muslim ads which are causing the Jewish community in New York much embarrassment and great harm (and hopefully will not lead to anti-Jewish or anti-Israel violence).

Jewish leaders in the USA are correctly distancing themselves from the hateful rhetoric, as my friend and colleague Rabbi Rick Jacobs did in an excellent op-ed in The New York Times on September 25:

These ads are lawful but they are wrong and repugnant. What other purpose can they have but to incite hatred against Muslims?

The ads should be condemned by any thoughtful and reasonable person. Instead, they were cheered on from Israel recently in an outlandish column by a Mr. Israel Kasnett in the Jerusalem Post Magazine of September 28.

Jewish and Interfaith groups in New York are correctly denouncing these ads. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (the central resource and coordinating body for over 60 Jewish organizations in the metropolitan area) issued this statement:

While agreeing with U.S. District Court’s ruling that the placement of the AFDI ad in the New York Subway system is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution, nonetheless, we find the ad’s content to be decidedly prejudiced and dangerously inflammatory. The broad mainstream of the New York Jewish community does not equate its unwavering support for Israel with intolerance for Muslims or their faith. We will continue our work with leaders of the Muslim and other faith and ethnic communities within the demographic diversity of New York to strengthen the communal collective and improve the quality of life for all.

In addition, the Interfaith Center of New York has organized a coalition of more than 25 organizations throughout New York to gather on the steps of City Hall to denounce these anti-Muslim hate advertisements and to repudiate the incitement and hate speech of the ads. The group also released a statement to the press in which it urged Mayor Bloomberg to “stand up to the politics of fear and show the millions of New Yorkers and millions of visitors to this great city that we do not endorse hate speech.”

Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of The Interfaith Center of New York — with whom I met last year when she visited Israel — observed:

Having worked in partnership with Muslim and other faith leaders across New York City for over a decade, we deplore these ads. While legal, the ignorance, prejudice, and disrespect the ads display betray the American ideal of E pluribus unum — “out of many, one” — and dishonor the efforts of New Yorkers who, after 9/11, overcame their religious differences and worked together to rebuild our great city.

Promoting Islamophobia — whether in America or in Israel — is immoral and counterproductive. We Jews don’t like anti-Semitism, so we should be the last ones who fan the flames of anti-Muslim hatred. Of all people, we ought to know the soul of the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Yes, there is a problem with radical, extremist Islam. It is a problem for the moderate Muslim majority as well — not just for America and Israel; just as radical, extremist Judaism, which promotes disdain and hatred of other religions — as we saw again yesterday in the latest “price-tag” attack on a church in Jerusalem — is a problem for the moderate majority in Israel.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,