Freedom of Expression vs. Inciting Violence – An Open Letter to Pamela Geller

BY A J Sidransky (@AJSidransky)

First of all let me say that as a writer, citizen and human being I support Freedom of Expression and Speech unquestionably. No one has the right to tell me or anyone else for that matter what to say, write, draw or publish. Je suis Charlie? Obviously.

With that said, as a writer, citizen and human being I have to take serious umbrage with Pamela Geller, the American Freedom Defense Initiative and anyone else who was involved with the organizing of a contest to create cartoons mocking and attacking the profit Mohammed held last week in Garland, Texas.

So Pamela, where should I begin? I suppose a good starting place is to point out that sponsoring a contest to mock, attack, belittle or otherwise demonize the central figure of any one particular culture is not the same as publishing a cartoon in an established, respected, political magazine that encourages free expression by representing all sides albeit at different times. Rather it is an incitement to violence.

True, the gathering at which your event was held was the target of a Jihadist attack. What did you expect would occur given the history of this subject and the clearly known fact that there are Jihadist sympathizers in this country? To me that smells a lot like an intentional provocation. Now, while I in no way support those among us who would commit terrorist acts, I would like to point out that it is the responsibility of the police and FBI to flush out and arrest these individuals, not yours. Unless, of course, you were running a sting operation which I find doubtful.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this so troubling episode is that the interception and killing of these potential terrorists has become a much larger story for the TV news media than the fact that you contrived and held an event that was clearly meant to insult a sizeable number of Americans, both Muslim and otherwise. The story quickly became about a foiled terrorist attack rather than about the hateful, bigoted, mean spirited contest you held. I question whether the media has abandoned its moral mandate in favor of instant ratings in the twenty-four hour news cycle.

Furthermore, I would like to pose a question. How would you or anyone feel if an American Muslim group or any group for that matter sponsored a contest for the best cartoon that depicted Jesus, or Moses or Jews or Israel in an insulting, mocking, demonizing manner? Would that be acceptable to you? I doubt that. That’s what you did. You’re not a well-known political magazine although you are a well-known political agitator.

I would like to point out in the strongest, simplest language; we Jews don’t do this, precisely because it was done and continues to be done to us, particularly with cartoons as the medium. I would like for you to review a few of the cartoons at the end of this article as evidence of how vicious this practice is and has been to the Jewish community.

You are not helping our cause with any of this type of activity including the hateful ads you want displayed on New York City buses. Our best defense as Jews and supporters of Israel is truth, not stooping to the lowest level of bigotry to incite the uneducated and ignorant against those of us different from themselves whom they blame for every ill this country is experiencing. There is a legitimate battle to be fought against ISIS, al Qaeda and Islamic extremism in general. But I must caution that all extremism, Islamic, Christian, Jewish or otherwise is dangerous because when we fail to recognize the truth of someone else’s beliefs, we too easily find it acceptable to eliminate them from our society. That’s what happened to my family in Nazi Europe. With our rights comes responsibility. So, Pamela, I’m ready to debate this with you anywhere at any time that you would like. I cannot permit you to speak for me.

A.J. Sidransky is an author and columnist. His debut novel, Forgiving Maximo Rothman, was selected as a finalist for Outstanding Debut Fiction by the National Jewish Book Awards for 2013. His next book, Forgiving Mariela Camacho will be released in Sept 2015. He writes and speaks frequently on Jewish subjects including the Holocaust, Jewish refugees during the Nazi period and the immigrant experience. Over 100 members of his family were murdered by the Nazis. His aunt and uncle escaped Nazi occupied Europe for Sosua in the Dominican Republic in 1940, the basis for Forgiving Maximo Rothman. He lives in Washington Heights, NYC and can be contacted at

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  • GaryT
    May 8, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    The author presents an interesting argument and I find myself partly agreeing with the concepts upon which it is based. Yes, having the right to do something doesn’t mean it is right to do it. However in the current climate I agree with Ms Gellar. While her decisions and actions in staging the cartoon event may be questioned, she most certainly has the right to do so. Over many years many groups have performed similar actions which denigrate symbols of a social, cultural or religious group which they do not belong to. The author has clearly demonstrated this with the publication of the cartoons at the end of this article. The difference is that no other offended group has reacted violently to the point of taking others lives. The key point for me in considering the place and role of Islam in society is that Islam believes their Islamic laws apply to all peoples – muslim or not. Did you know that you are now living under 2 legal systems, that of your country and that of Islam, and that you are answerable to both? Do you realise that Muslims will not recognise the laws of your country against breaches of Islamic law? For Muslims, Islamic law stands above all other law and wherever possible is to be applied to ALL people, regardless of their faith. Ultimately the end result is a society living under a legal structure they never wanted, never voted for and cannot lobby to have it changed.
    So Ms Gellar’s exercising of her rights may be questionable but the Muslim response to her doing so is completely unacceptable.