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Exclusive: Alan Dershowitz Calls Amended M.T.A. Advertising Rules “Plain Dumb” and “Unconstitutional”

September 28, 2012 3:15 pm 21 comments

The pro-Israel ad that sparked the M.T.A's new rules.

In an interview with The Algemeiner, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz  slammed new approved advertising guidelines announced by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, calling them “Plain Dumb” and “Unconstitutional.”

The new rules allow the M.T.A. to ban ads that it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.”

“A. it’s clearly unconstitutional” he said, and “b. it incentivizes people to engage in violence. What it says to people, is that if they don’t like ads, just engage in violence and then we’ll take the ads down.”

“It’s very bad policy,” he continued, “and it’s just plain dumb, because it is going to encourage violence.”

Responding to the charge in an interview with The Algemeiner, M.T.A. spokesperson Aaron Donovan declined to comment.

The new M.T.A. rules, announced yesterday, came after pro-Israel ads, which were initially rejected by the M.T.A., ran in ten New York City subway stations, after the group running the ads sued the M.T.A on first amendment grounds.

Protesters objecting to the ads set about defacing them, including in one widely reported incident where Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy was charged with criminal mischief misdemeanor for spraying one with pink paint. Referencing the incident, Dershowitz said, “what the transit authority is doing, is giving people like Mona, the power to censor.”

Referring to the recent uptick in violence in the Middle East, Dershowitz added, “It is the worst possible approach to dealing with radical Islam.”

“In the age of radical imams whipping up reactions, it just gives them more encouragement to do it. So if somebody wants to put up a picture of Mohammed in the subway, all people have to do is threaten violence and its censorship comes into effect,” he said.

The Law Professor also made clear that he is certain the decision will face legal challenges. “It will be challenged, there is no question about that,” he confirmed, “if the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) doesn’t get into this case immediately, they are going to have to write to me several times for my contribution this year. This is a perfect case for the ACLU, the ACLU should be in there, opposed to the MTA.”

“I would hope the ACLU would get behind the organization that put up the ads even though I’m sure they disagree with the content of the ads, as do I,” he concluded.

When asked by The Algemeiner if they had considered the constitutionality of their decision, M.T.A. spokesperson Aaron Donovan said that he wasn’t concerned. “All of the changes that were made to the guidelines, were made within the framework of our understanding of First Amendment law, we feel the guidelines as they have been amended are firmly planted in the bedrock of the constitution, specifically the First Amendment,” he said.

Asked about the M.T.A’s concern over the threat of further lawsuits, he said, “it’s impossible to predict the future.”


  • Subway Ads are a privilege and not a right. You violate that privilege if you purposely incite hate. It doesn’t matter if one side has been able to get away with it. No one should be able to denigrate a population with a billboard owned by a utility.

    Subway Ads can be fully removed from the station, and you couldn’t do a damn thing about it. So stop pretending that you have a right to speak on those ads.

    Delusional professors like Mr. Dershowitz are trying to frame this as Free Speech so that the hateful message can continue to be displayed. Well guess what? Vandalism is also speech. How come you aren’t trying to protect the protestors speech? Because vandalism isn’t legal? Well now who is the hypocrite?

    Any person defending signs such as these denigrating any group of people are obviouslly morally bankrupt. But because it’s about Islam, you people don’t care.

    You people disgust me.

  • Asked about the M.T.A’s concern over the threat of further lawsuits, M.T.A. spokesperson Aaron Donovan said, “the taxpayers have to pay for our legal defense, so I don’t really give a ****.”

  • Ganesha_akbar

    Is censorship in media promoted in journalism school today?

    Witness 2011: Campus Free Speech War @ U-Maryland

    Update 2012:

    U-MD: FLAME war

    This past Wednesday, Facts and Logic About the Middle East, a San Francisco-based political organization, placed an advertisement in The Diamondback entitled, “The Myth of ‘Settlements.'” Like every other ad published by FLAME, it was inflammatory, argumentative and untruthful… I think it’s time Maryland Media, Inc. does the right thing and stops allowing the [FLAME] advertisements. Don’t you?

    These discredited wacademic dhimmis (at Jason Blair’s alma mater, no less) are nothing, if not persistent.

  • He’s right.

    Additionally, who gets to decide what is provocative?

    How would the MTA know what might provoke me to violence–an ad for Chic-fil-A? An ad for Prophet Muhammad condoms? An ad to joint the Marine Corps? An ad to vote for a conservative politician?

    Which ads do you think MTA could accurately predict would incite a disturbance in the nut case infested world we now live where everyone is a victim of someone, something, or some historical grievance from the distant past?

    Besides, don’t we already have laws against committing violent acts?

  • Dumb is right. The western world needs to stop surrendering our rights the moment a Muslim becomes hysterical.

  • Adirondack Patriot

    We should all cuase a civil distrubance when Bloomberg puts his campaign posters in the subways.

  • It is nice to see that the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority has joined that long line of appeasers in history.
    You would think that at least on person serving on the authority would know enough history to understand what this type of decision give you.
    More of the problem you are trying to avoid.

  • Did the ‘pro-Israeli’ poster organizers think that by poking a stick in the cage of Muslim religious thought, wouldn’t provoke a Muslim (and non-Muslim) backlash? What did they THINK the reprecussions would be? As someone who is not (never has been and never will be) Jewish or Muslim, I have no vested regilious/personal interest in the outcome of this. I find it incredibly interesting that the media has no problem with promoting pro-Israeli (and anti-Muslim) rhetoric, while not issuing (or even suppressing) pro-Muslim and anti-Israeli rhetoric. Initially the First Amendment (as most of the other constitutional Amendments) were enacted to protect and expand the rights of the minority to prevent persecution by the majority and ensure equality. How delicious it must be for the Jewish population who have benefitted from this in the past, must now stand by and watch their religious enemy benefit from the identical Amendment.

  • We should do what the Muslims do and burn down 300 people in protest. Apparently there’s neither a law against that nor a compunction to criticize it.

    • This neonazi-style generalizing about individual human beings with words such as “We should do what the Muslims do and…” is starting to make me sick. I mean it’s really getting on my last nerve. How about you?

      Your ignorance, madam, makes me want to puke.

  • Dersh says, “… if the ACLU…doesn’t get into this case immediately, they are going to have to write to me several times for my contribution this year.”

    So, they’ll have to ask him several times but he’ll still send ’em the money. Shouldn’t he say, “if the ACLU…doesn’t get into this case immediately, they are going to have kiss my Jewish tuchas.” And then not give them another penny?

    Nah. He’s still talking out of both sides again.


  • Congressman Allen West on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 9:48am

    In his speech today to the United Nations, President Obama stated six times that the attacks across the Islamic world are attributed to a silly video. Furthermore, he refused to use the words terrorist attack in referring to what occurred in Benghazi Libya at our US Consulate on the 11th anniversary of 9-11. He continues to offer up apologies instead of defending our hard earned First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression. There is no message to this silly video trailer, and it is beneath the dignity and esteem of the Office of the President of the United States to mention it at all. When tolerance becomes a one way street it leads to cultural suicide. I shall not be tolerant of the intolerant. I know about the UN Resolution 1618 which would make any statement deemed by the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) “offensive’ to Islam a crime…..NOT ON MY WATCH FELLAS!

    My statement to the United Nations would have been, “The future does not belong to those who attack our Embassies and Consulates and kill our Ambassadors. The Angel of Death in the form of an American Bald Eagle will visit you and wreak havoc and destruction upon your existence”

    • Representative Allen forgot to add “peace be with you” as we send you murdering cockroaches into Hell for killing our citizens.

  • Those who will sacrifice liberty for a little temporary security deserve neither liberty or security”.
    Benjamin Franklin.

  • Have I got it straight? NY subway signs that offend the tolerant non-violent Jews are acceptable … an expression of free speech but … NY subway signs that offend the intolerant violent Muslims are BAD … VEEEERY BAD!!

    Islam has won!!
    Provocative Palestine-Israel ads at New York train stations rile critics
    Published July 12, 2012
    The ads, as of now, will stay, however, according to Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the transit agency.
    “The MTA and our advertising contractor, CBS Outdoor, review proposed advertisements to ensure that they comply with the MTA’s uniform, viewpoint-neutral advertising standards,” Donovan said in a statement. “We do not decide whether to accept or reject a proposed ad based on the viewpoint that it expresses or because the ad might be controversial. The MTA does not endorse the viewpoint expressed in this ad, or any of the ads that it accepts for display.”

    Read more:

  • In other words, Dershowitz is saying, Jews should stay under the radar to avoid attracting the likes of Eltahawy. Well, acting like that did nothing to save us from a long line of malevolent tyrants.

    • I couldn’t agree more Richard. I do not understand hiding under rocks. Now apparently, the Chief Rabbi of Berlin is calling for Jews to give up kipot. As a secular Jew who has never worn one outside of Shul, I’m considering wearing one as a political statement.
      Mr Dershowitz is a “liberal”. They are not used to having a backbone.

      • Did you read the same article that I did? This professor says that the MTS shouldn’t back down and that the ads should stay up even under the threat of increased crime, and you guys declare that he holds the exact opposite opinion? I’m struggling to grasp your thought process here.

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