Early this morning, in the shadow of the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood, freedom's A Team gathered to fight for not the second, not the eighth, not the tenth, but the First Amendment. Robert Spencer, David Yerushalmi, Robert Muise and I converged upon the United States Courthouse to battle the neanderthals of the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority. Four hours of deliberation.
Jeffrey Rosen, director of real estate for the MTA, admitted that the decision to reject our AFDI pro-Israel ad -- and he called it the pro-Israel ad -- laid solely with him. This member of the tribe eagerly accepted an anti-Israel ad calling for the end of U.S. aid to Israel, in his view because it was a strategy for peace. What it is in reality is a Final Solution for the elimination of Israel. But this self-important jackass knows better than everybody. The only thing more disgusting than his position was his relentless nose-picking two rows in front of Spencer and me, as we took turn dry-heaving at his gross behavior -- if he wasn't picking his nose, he was picking his scalp. (TMI, but I had to share.)
His almost irreconcilable thinking gave even the most astute among us great pause. Even the judge seemed astounded when he admitted that ads saying "Southerners are bigots" or "Blondes are brain-dead" would be acceptable, but ours was "demeaning." Which it was not. Mr. Rosen went on to admit that in the past fifteen years, the MTA had never before rejected an ad based on its being "demeaning": ours was the first. What I found contradictory was that Rosen admitted that he would run an ad saying "Support Israel, defeat jihad," but somehow it was not OK to run it with the tagline, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man." How can that be reconciled with his claim that the ad was insulting to a religious group -- Muslims -- based on his understanding of the word "jihad" as a religious concept that had nothing to do with violence and terrorism? And how does he further reconcile his claim that the ad was demeaning to a nationality ("Palestine," which doesn't even exist) with his position that the anti-Israel ad was not demeaning to a nationality (Israel, which really does exist)?
The issue is viewpoint censorship versus content censorship. And of course it's all ridiculous because not only did Rosen (who is a lawyer) agree, but both lawyers for the defense agreed that our ad was political speech, which is the most protected class of speech under the First Amendment.
Needless to say, our crack world-historical legal team, David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise, was brilliant. Yerushalmi was relentless and caught Rosen in numerous self-contradictions, leaps of logic, and inconsistencies. Muise made a ringing summation, explaining the case's First Amendment significance. In a just world, this would be an open-and-shut case. Muise made the point that pro-choice ads that the MTA ran, that demeaned women and pro-life advocates (based on religious beliefs), were deeply offensive to him as a Catholic. So clearly the MTA is being selective in which religion can or cannot be offended. Is that the MTA's position -- that homicide bombers, the targeting of innocent civilians, and violent Jew-hatred are sacrosanct and cannot be criticized?
Judge Paul Engelmayer clearly did his homework, was very thorough and inquisitive, and challenged both sides -- although the defense had more holes in their argument than swiss cheese. He made reference numerous times to a recent precedent that establishes our case. I pray that he follows American law in American courts.
It was interesting also that both Rosen and the defense tried to put our websites on trial. But Judge Engelmayer would not allow the proceedings to go off on irrelevant tangents, or our political views to be put on trial in PC Manhattan. Instead, he insisted that the case concerned the "four corners" of the ad -- that is, the content of the ad alone.