In Boston, Saying 'No’ to Pamela Geller’s Savage Hate

Geller’s anti-Muslim subway poster campaigns across the U.S. don’t, as she claims, build support for Israel: They simply feed bigotry.

Michael Felsen
Michael Felsen
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Commuters walk by an advertisement that reads 'Support Israel/Defeat Jihad' in the Times Square subway station in New York, September 24, 2012.
Commuters walk by an advertisement that reads 'Support Israel/Defeat Jihad' in the Times Square subway station in New York, September 24, 2012. Credit: Reuters
Michael Felsen
Michael Felsen

Pamela Geller has brought the fight for the right to hate to Boston.

Having waged their version of holy war in city transit system ad campaigns in New York, San Francisco, and elsewhere, the American Freedom Defense Initiative is targeting Boston. The AFDI's Executive Director, Pamela Geller, is also founder, editor and publisher of Atlas and the Stop Islamization of America organization. If what they’re offering purports to support Israel or defend freedom - as they claim it does - thank you very much, but we’ll pass.

Geller’s foray into Boston follows the October 2013 posting in Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA or T) subway stations and bus stops of an advertisement (paid for by the Connecticut - based chairman of the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine) that displays four maps depicting, over time, “Palestinian Loss of Land – 1946 to 2010,” and the statement “4.7 Million Palestinians are Classified by the UN as Refugees.”

In response, Geller sought to post the same ad she and AFDI had plastered in a few other transit systems around the country, in screaming capital letters: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

The MBTA rejected the ad on the grounds that it would demean and disparage a group of individuals - in this case Muslims and/or Palestinians - and so would violate a specific T ad guideline. Geller and her group challenged that decision in federal court in December, and lost. They’re appealing that ruling.

Then, in January, AFDI submitted a revised ad: “In any war between the civilized man and those engaged in savage acts, support the civilized man. Defeat violent jihad. Support Israel” - which the MBTA approved.

Apparently, though, this version didn’t do the trick for Geller, Spencer, and AFDI, after all. Instead of posting it, Geller proposed a “tweak”: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Defeat violent jihad. Support Israel." Boiling it down, to convey what Geller really wanted to convey, “those engaged in savage acts” would need to be replaced by “the savage.”

The MBTA said “no,” and on February 10 this year Geller and her group returned to court with a new complaint, asking the same judge to require the agency to immediately allow this “tweaked” version to go up. On March 17, the judge refused. He found that the T had not acted unreasonably. He also found that AFDI had acted in “bad faith” - by offering a version the T agreed to accept, and then challenging its rejection of the “tweaked” version. He clearly wasn’t pleased with what he called “blatant gamesmanship.” AFDI is appealing this decision too.

Pamela Geller has been called “the anti-Muslim movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Her admirers include Dutch MP Geert Wilders (“You are a hero”), Steven Goldberg, National Vice Chair of Zionists of America (“An American and Jewish national treasure”), and the Nassau County (N.Y.) Federation of Republican Women (they gave her the Guardian of Freedom Award in May 2013). Perhaps emblematic of what makes Geller tick is what she told the New York Times in October 2010: this quote from The New York Times: “If you don't lay down and die for Islamic supremacism, then you're a racist anti-Muslim Islamophobic bigot. That's what we're really talking about."

Last year, Etzion Neuer, director of community service and policy for the ADL’s New York region, said that Geller is fuelling "anti-Islamic bigotry” by demonizing an entire religion. On top of that, despite the fact that Geller sees herself as "a pro-Israel advocate, “Geller doesn’t do us any favors. She muddies the waters because she hands the platform to the extremists in our midst. Instead of thoughtful, fact-based dialogue on the issues, we get incendiary rhetoric and xenophobia.”

Ms. Geller, Boston has no use for anti-Muslim hate-mongering - for smearing our Muslim friends and neighbors with outrageous, unfounded stereotyping - at any time, and particularly as we approach the anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing tragedy. Nor are either Israel’s interests or the fragile cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace served by your provocations. Our trains, buses, and stations – indeed, Western civilization -will fare quite well without the benefit of your “savage” posters.

Thanks for trying to save us from ourselves, but, please, leave Boston alone.

Michael Felsen is an attorney and served as president of Boston Workmen’s Circle from 2007-2013. He also serves as a trustee of the Interreligious Center for Public Life in Newton, Massachusetts.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage

Flame and smoke rise during an Israeli air strike, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza City August 6, 2022.

Israel Should End Gaza Operation Now, if It Can