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Posted on Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:05 a.m.

AATA rejects anti-Israel ad on buses for second time

By Cindy Heflin

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has, for the second time, rejected a request from Ann Arbor resident Blaine Coleman to place an anti-Israel advertisement on its buses, the Ann Arbor Chronicle reported.

The board met Thursday to consider the request. AATA was under a court order to reconsider the ad, which it first rejected more than a year ago. AATA considered the ad Thursday under a revised advertising policy.


The rejected proposed advertisement.

AATA’s original rejection of the ad prompted a lawsuit on Coleman’s behalf from the American Civil Liberties Union, which alleged AATA violated Coleman’s First Amendment right to free speech and 14th Amendment right to due process.

In rejecting the ad in November of 2011, AATA said the ad violated AATA’s policy prohibiting any advertisement that “defames or is likely to hold up to scorn or ridicule a person or group of persons.”

The ad features the words “Boycott ‘Israel,’ Boycott Apartheid,” with the word Israel in quotation marks. It includes a cartoonish black-and-white image that depicts a skeleton-like figure holding a skull in its right hand and a bone in its left.

The board also cited the wording in its policy that stated AATA does not “intend to create a public forum,” that AATA reserves the right to approve all advertising and “all advertising must be considered in good taste and shall uphold the aesthetic standards as determined by AATA.”

A federal judge ruled in favor of the ACLU and Coleman in September, arguing the AATA's advertising policy was vague and unconstitutional. The judge said the First Amendment overpowers the AATA's discretion to run only ads it considers in "good taste."

AATA then revised its policy in November but said at the time that Coleman’s ad still wouldn’t be allowed.

A judge in December ordered AATA to reconsider the ad and issue a ruling by Jan. 4, the Chronicle reported. The judge also ruled a telephone status conference would be held on this matter Jan. 9 to discuss whether additional relief is necessary and what “additional proceedings … may be required.”

In rejecting the ad Thursday, AATA’s board cited its “prohibition of political or political campaign advertising, as well as a prohibition against holding a person or group up to scorn and ridicule,” the Chronicle reported.



Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 11:57 p.m.

For the AATA to reject this ad, I can only conclude that some or many of the AATA members are a) actually true supporters of Apartheid or b) working in the US but secretly advocating on the behalf of a foreign country (Israel). Either way, I am confident this ad will ultimately be published. AATA may condone Apartheid and human rights violations, but the overwhelling majority of Americans do not. In the meantime, I am tempted to say "I ain't gonna ride Ann Arbor" ...


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

Oops! Spell checker doesn't spare one from making grammatical errors and other tactical omissions. The second sentence in the first paragraph of my comment just above should actually read: Israel is one of the US's greatest allies and anyone who calls a country that is democratic, multiracial, multiethnic, multi-religious (the only such place in the Middle East, BTW) "apartheid" is spreading a spurious and outright fiction.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:49 a.m.

I can only conclude that the most strident supporters of this hateful ad are intractable antisemites. Israel is one of the US's greatest allies and anyone who calls a country that is democratic, multiracial, multiethnic, multi-religious (the only such place in the Middle East, BTW) is spreading a spurious and outright fiction. And to blithely label the AATA and any one who says a word in Israel's behalf as racists is going way over the top. When one singles out the world's only Jewish state for such inexhaustible opprobrium to the utter exclusion of all the far worse and true crimes of all of her neighbors and target a synagogue's worshipers with venomous, accusatory placards on their holiest days as Mr. Herskovitz does (see above for his cynical attempt to cover up his decade-long harassment campaign at Beth Israel Congregation as a "peaceful vigil"), there is nothing else to call such "free speech" activities than what they are, examples of unequivocal antisemitism. And just as happened in King County, Washington, I am confident that this ugly, libelous toxic ad (with images callously ripped off from Mexican Revolution era artist José Guadalupe Posada, 1852-1913 and exploited in way out-of-context manner without permission from its copyright holders) will never see the light of day on AATA buses.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Does just declaring something to be true MAKE IT TRUE?! We're seeing an awful lot of this kind of "declaration" - extending far beyond the subject of Israel's actual character and nature. Implicit in the Blaine Coleman ad is a declaration accusing Israel of apartheid practices. This is an attempt to characterize Israel's defensive measures as somehow immoral and wrong. That debate may go on - but it IS NOT PROVEN by any objective or independent means and therefore is NOT TRUE UNTIL PROVEN. This is why we have a policy demanding TRUTH IN ADVERTISING. We AND THE COURTS must defend this "limitation" on freedom of expression - OR - face having witch hunts or having things like sock puppets 'DECLARED' to be evil. Obviously - we cannot afford to have a policy which allows INSANITIES like that to be expressed, let alone enforced. And remember: this is how PRECEDENT gets set - if Blaine Coleman's suit succeeds it will be used to force municipal bus services across the country to do the same. The UCLA is all about setting precedent and using "land mark court decisions" on everyone. Blaine Coleman: you will not be allowed to become the New Cotton Mather. Your "beliefs" will not become ours nor will you be allowed to proclaim the Israeli people witches and warlocks, NO MATTER what you do!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:08 a.m.

Henry Herskovitz has common cause with neo-Nazis, antisemitic apologists for Mussolini and Hitler (Charles Coughlin in 1930s Detroit), Holocaust deniers, and homophobic Jew haters who picket the funerals of American service men and women (the Phelpses of Topeka, Kansas), true or false? Further, Herskovitz has been harassing worshipers at a Jewish house of worship for the past 10 years. True or false?

Henry Herskovitz

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 1:53 a.m.

@Tru2Blu76: "Israel" is in violation of 65 UN resolutions. True or false?


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

We have much too many advertising on the Tv, computers, junkmail, signes and out door advertising in our lives/eysite..NO wunder al of US are angry...tried of the ads telling US what to do or who to hate .where to buy etcetc.WE NEED a GREEN country NO MORE advertisng ........Plant a tree each time you have a statemen to make. GO GREEN/Plant a tree..NOT kill a TREE/Paper.etc


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

Well said! :-)


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the advertising department of the bus company function similarly to a TV or radio station? Don't TV and radio as businesses get to decide for themselves who advertises on their stations and more importantly, as journalists, don't they get to edit or delete things they find distasteful? As a business, they can't discriminate. AATA isn't telling Coleman he can't ride the bus nor are they telling him he can't advertise on the side of their buses. But as the editor in chief of what they publish, don't they have the right to decide what goes out? A newspaper and the air waves have final say so in what gets put out there. Why can't AATA? deletes comments they judge to not meet their guidelines. While I 100% support everyone's First Amendment rights to speak their minds no matter how offensive and objectionable I find it, I also support AATA's right to decide for themselves what gets slapped on the side of their buses. It's their buses. If Coleman wants to go stand on the steps of City Hall and be a nuisance there, that's his First Amendment right and actually demonstrates one of the purposes of the First Amendment. If he wants to wear his distasteful message on a t-shirt on a bus, that's his choice. It should also be AATA's choice what they wear on their buses.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

Despite the urgings of those who most heartily abuse "free speech" (like shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, e.g.,), hate speech can not only cause harm by polluting what we regular bus riders would be forced to view in the Ann Arbor area but grievous physical injury or worse. In Seattle, just over six years ago, one woman was murdered, one paralyzed, and several others injured at a Jewish organization by a crazed gunman shouting slogans similar to those cavalierly tossed about by Coleman and Herskovitz about the Jewish State. King County officials very wisely rejected an ad that was only slightly less toxic than Coleman's that would have disfigured their buses. There, like here, the ACLU took the side of the hate mongers, and the County's decision was upheld. It is to be hoped the same result will occur here and everywhere that this kind of inflammatory hatred rears its ugly, grossly intolerant head.

Henry Herskovitz

Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

@Sue: Homeowners in Ann Arbor are assessed a millage rate of 2.056 (compare with Public Library assessment of 1.55) for "Mass Transit". And as far as I know there is no other mass transit agency serving Ann Arbor other than the AATA.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

It possibly depends on whether it's a privately owned business /transportation system or if it's funded by the government; federal, state or local, making it owned by the public who lives and pays taxes there. On public property people are legally allowed to share their opinions and beliefs as far as I know, whether they offend anyone else or not, which is why creches, crosses, and other religious symbols, as well as political messages and signs, are allowed on government or publicly owned property.

Henry Herskovitz

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 9:08 p.m.

Unlike TV, Radio, Newspapers, the AATA is not a private enterprise and is beholden to the US Constitution, having used taxpayer monies to stay in business. This may help explain why our (private owned) media in general is heavily biased in "Israel"'s favor, and why it's so important to have governmental agencies like AATA held responsible to Coleman's (and your) First Amendment rights.

Pogliaghi Mezza-notte

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

This forum is full of Pro-apartheid hate mongerers ! We're free to unveil the true face of israel everywhere anywhere . please wake up and see the truth.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

Pogliaghi Mezza-notte makes a very specious claim that those who oppose the display of this toxic ad are "Pro-apartheid hate mongerers" [sic] when in fact it is clear that those who single out Israel and only Israel of all the countries in the world for their exclusive derision—while unashamedly refusing to recognize that Israel is surrounded by countries (look at Syria for just one with over 60,000 killed in the last two years) whose human rights violations on their best days make Israel look really good on its worst day—are definitely Judeophobic. This is hypocrisy and disingenuousness of huge proportions. Tru2Blu76 has it exactly right. Israel is in fact the only viable multiracial, multinational, multiethnic, multi-religious state in the Middle East as well as the only true democracy in that very troubled region. Apartheid does, however, exists in many of its neighbors who harass, debase, abuse, imprison, forcibly, cover over, beat, torture, and murder women, non-Moslems, minorities, and homosexuals among others who don't toe the extremist Islamist line. Moslems and Arabs have more freedom by far in Israel than any in land ruled by Moslems or Arabs. Now, that _is_ a fact.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

Proving that Israel haters have this absurd habit of labeling / proclaiming their suspicions as facts. The ad in question does NOTHING to "reveal" ANYTHING about Israel, it simply labels Israel as something bad. So while your free to "reveal" facts, you're definitely NOT free to spread false accusations. So please wake up and see the truth: we're FREE to denounce and stop false advertising. We're also free to pinpoint neurotics and those with hidden agendas - and eqoists who self-proclaim themselves "right" and call everyone else "wrong." Have you submitted yourself to professional mental health examination at any time? Do so, I'd bet you'd find it a big surprise. :-)


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

Hip, hip hooray to AATA -- please continue to stand your ground. Personally, I definitely do not wish to see any type of ad such as this posted on public transportation buses or anywhere for that matter.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 6:57 a.m.

So what? I don't want to see anything promoting religion, political views or certain kinds of entertainment, but it's not up to what I personally want. It's up to what a person has the legal right to do or not do in situations such as these, regardless of whether others will be offended.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

Good for the AATA!

Linda Peck

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:45 p.m.

Good for AATA. Who wants hate campaigns on the bus?


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 2:47 a.m.

Okay, so "love campaigns" are okay, right? Therefore you would support AATA if they had a positive message about men who love men and women who love women in support of gay love/marriage?


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:59 a.m.

M: This has nothing whatever to do with freedom. Freedom is Coleman's right to parade around with his sandwich board with the swastika. He does not have a right to compel the city buses to carry the same sign around for him, whether with a swastika or a skull-and-bones. Freedom is my right to ride a city bus without being forced to carry his message of hate around for him.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

Anyone who supports freedom.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

The AATA is right to reject this hate-filled trash. Blaine Coleman couldn't even come up with his own original vitriolic design. He had to violate copyright and steal an image from a long deceased Mexican revolutionary artist who is no longer around to tell Coleman his artwork had nothing to do with Coleman's monomaniacal cause and that stealing other people's ideas is plagiarism at best and rights violations at worst.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 7:53 p.m.

As a long time abuser of the First Amendment, Henry Herskovitz ought to reveal that he has been leading a siege of Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor for about a decade now. He also hides here--but freely admits on his websites--his common cause with a number of professional antisemites such as the late demagogic Charles Coughlin who railed against Jews on Detroit radio in the 1930s, the Phelps Family Cult who not only are virulently antisemitic and homophobic, but picket the funerals of US service members, and a number of Holocaust deniers. I think his own affiliations with fellow fanatics are far more telling than those of the AATA Board. He has been widely condemned by the mayor, A2 City Council, and many interfaith groups including Moslem leaders.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 5:04 a.m.

Not everyone has an outsized ego. "Peaceful?" Signs that mimic those of the Nazis in the 1930s sometimes bedecked with swastikas thrust in front of worshipers on their day of rest is hateful provocation. Far from peaceful. "Vigil?" A ten year siege is rather a fanatical display of monomania and has yet to help a single Palestinian or Israeli or anyone. There is no decent justification for this replication of the activities of Brownshirt pickets who harassed Jews in Germany some seven decades ago. And when one sees--if he or she has a clear and reflective mind--that such activities here in 21st Century Ann Arbor are an utter failure on every count and yet continues to lead this exercise in hatred year-in/year-out weekly targeting Jews on their Sabbath, there is no doubt that it is an unadulterated manifestation of antisemitism as the ICPJ rightly calls it.

Henry Herskovitz

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 11:50 p.m.

Do I get this right? ContreMilice - hiding behind a nickname - wants me to "reveal" what is already known: that we conduct peaceful vigils in front of Israel-supporting Beth Israel (House of Israel) Congregation every Saturday morning. In fact, Rabbi Dobrusin and ICPJ Director Chuck Warpehoski receive their copy of our vigil report every week. You can, too. Just send a request to "henryherskovitz-at-hotmail-dot-com"


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

without commenting on the efficacy of this particular sign I say Ah Ann Arbor the liberal bastion of high education and free thinking... UNLESS the liberal educated elite don't like how you think...


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

Bingo? Hardly. You've left a lot of squares uncovered. You lose!

Henry Herskovitz

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 11:30 p.m.



Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

Blaine Coleman has long strutted around Ann Arbor with a sandwich board almost identical to the placard that he wants to impose on our buses. The only difference is that the old sign (which decorates his Web site) has a swastika instead of the skull and bones. The call to boycott resonates with me. I would certainly boycott any bus carrying Coleman's message of hate.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 6:24 p.m.

The bottom line is that the ACLU already has won a preliminary injunction under the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1871 and Judge Goldsmith may award the ACLU attorney fees for their efforts based upon that victory alone. One reporter had revealed that the AATA was billed about $6,900 for the first month's legal representation in November of 2011 from the Maddin Hauser law firm alone - not including Jerry Lax's law firm's fees or the $250.00 per hour expert witness fees of Professor Aaron Ahuvia of the University of Michigan. There is a $50,000.00 legal costs deductible the AATA is liable for - it would be interesting to see if that has been exhausted yet. There needs to be a cost accounting of the defense of the case and discussion how do these costs square with the mission of the AATA. The AATA has potential exposure to six-figure costs liability in this case. In Olympia, Washington, the Olympia Food Co-op's request is pending before a judge for $280,000.00 in legal fees to reimburse a public interest firm in successfully defending the co-op and its directors from efforts to stop a Boycott Israel policy from being implemented. I predict a significant win in this case for the ACLU even if the ad is not placed upon AATA buses.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

The only "winners" are the lawyers.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

"a significant win in this case for the ACLU even if the ad is not placed upon AATA buses?' If losing is a winning like "war is peace" and "lies are truth" as in George Orwell's _1984_. And there is very good precedent when King County disallowed other hate-filled anti-Israel ads on the buses of Metro Seattle.

Henry Herskovitz

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

At least two members of the AATA Board, David Nacht and Jessie Bernstein, along with Legal Counsel Jerry Lax, all strong supporters of Israel, should identify their bias in this case and refrain from commenting, advising and voting on this issue. And the judge in this case - Marc. A. Goldsmith - has an even longer stack of "credentials" indicating his support of Israel: He owns Israeli bonds but no US bonds, he is Vice-President for B'nai B'rith Barristers, an organization that openly advocates for Israel, and he served on the Anti-Defamation League's Board for 8 years. He also sent his daughter to study in Israel. Judge Goldsmith should publicly recognize his attachments to the Jewish state (for which he has a perfect right to do) and admit the perceived and actual conflicts of interest that are present, and recuse himself. The ACLU should have made these obvious conflicts of interest an issue from day 1.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 6:39 p.m.

The Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice recently condemned Henry Herskovitz's harassment of Beth Israel Congregation during its services since 2003, pointing out the Antisemitic implications of targeting an American house of worship to express disapproval of the existence of an independent democratic country thousands of miles away. By the way, Blaine Coleman was a charter member of that caper. Henry Herskovitz supports the Hamas terrorists who rule over Gaza. His concept of democracy is that only Hamas fans like himself should be allowed to vote, while supporters of Israel (a vast majority of Americans) should be disenfranchised.

Superior Twp voter

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 5:24 p.m.



Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

The ACLU is out of control and tearing this country apart at it's foundation; fighting Christmas displays, forcing anti-israel agendas down our throats, fighting . They allow the federal government all kinds of intrusions into our privacy (wire taps, collecting our personal emails, etc) ; don't fight the ability to arrest American citizens accused as terrorists who can be held indefinitely without a trial or legal representation? They won't fight that but waste time on a bus ad that most feel is offesive? What is next with this group? Do they only protect radical fringe groups to forward their agendas or what? From their website: "One of the most noted moments in the ACLU's history occurred in 1978 when the ACLU defended a Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois where many Holocaust survivors lived." "The ACLU is frequently asked to explain its defense of certain people or groups—particularly controversial and unpopular entities such as the American Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Nation of Islam. "


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

I will tolerate the views of others as long as they don't want to change this country in the process. This country is changing rapidly for the worse, both culturally and morally, taxes will have to go up until the federal government slows down it's spending and quest to be a secular, socialist, european country. Try going over to a foreign country and try to effect change over there, especially in the middle east. Yet we are expected to accept the changes that they would like to impose upon us and use the ACLU to do so...............


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

So you only want freedom for groups whose ideology doesn't offend you?


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

"They allow the federal government all kinds of intrusions into our privacy (wire taps, collecting our personal emails, etc) ; don't fight the ability to arrest American citizens accused as terrorists who can be held indefinitely without a trial or legal representation?" They are fighting all that.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

Free speech should not equate to the transition of a requirement to display the speech or speech subject onto paid advertisement. If Blaine Coleman wants to put his "free speech" onto his own vehicle, so be it. The intent of the First Amendment was to allow individuals to express an opinion against the status quo without the potential for repercussions. The ACLU should at least acknowledge this and quit wasting taxpayer dollars trying to allow individuals to take their free speech to an exhorbitant level.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

@pest, 1. The hate speech is thick on both sides of the argument. Both sides legitimately claim violations of human rights, but only one can rightfully claim censorship and suppression. They can also take credit for being offensive and tasteless, which is common in a free society but less so in a fascist state. 2. If it is not owned by the public, which private entity owns AATA? None at all. They are government, and government does not get freedom of expression, only people do.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

I for one, will absolutely REFUSE to ride or contribute to any organization that allows hate speech to be promoted. IF AATA allows it, I hope others refuse to ride the bus as well. And it's funded by the public - not owned by the public.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:57 p.m.

If it's publicly funded, then the public owns it. He owns it, he has a right to put what he wants there. End of story.

DJ Foley

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

Thank you AATA. The only time I'd like to see skulls on a bus ad is when The Expendables 3 is about to come out in theaters.

Top Cat

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Do these new "rights" under the 1st and 14th Amendments also include the expanded use of spray paint?


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

Thank goodness; indeed, who wants to see this garbage gracing our busses in this beautiful city! Bravo, AATA... you serve your community well!


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.



Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Interesting, suing to make AATA put political hate speech on their busses. I certainly do not want to see this garbage on busses.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

Pest, good points. Unfortunately, however, the AATA has already linked themselves to Henry Herskovitz's blatantly antisemitic group with its cynical and very misleading name, "Jewish" Witnesses for "Peace" and Friends by allowing them to "adopt" the bus stop that is ironically right in front of Beth Israel Congregation. The trash can attached to the bus stop sign there has a metal plate bolted to it with Herskovitz's group's name on it. In my very humble opinion, that plate belongs in the trash, not outside it. In any case, it's bizarre that while fighting to keep the extremist hate message of JWPF off of their buses, AATA has played right into their hands by permitting this group that has obsessively harassed the worshipers at BIC for the last 10 years with their large hate-filled placards on the Jewish Sabbath and other major Jewish holidays, hijack one of their bus stops!


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

It's not about what anyone does or doesn't want to see on buses, it's whether a person has a legal right to put something there or not, regardless of whether anyone else likes it or not.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

M - using paid advertising is not "free speech". Let the guy go stand on the street corner all he wants. Let him apply for permits for gatherings. Whatever. No one is silencing him and restricting his rights. It is simply a company not allowing what it perceives as hate speech to be on their vehicles. If AATA were to allow it, they would automatically be linked to a group of people who are anti-semitic, and that can, and probably would, harm their organization.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

Well, if you want freedom, then "Too bad". I think this ad is childish, petty, and exclusionary, and I will fight to my death to make sure he has a right to put it there.