May 31, 2016

Free Speech, Hate Speech and Campus Boycott Israel Campaign

[From article]
The Netherlands has just declared the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel to be free speech. Israel is furious; but for classic conservatives, there is no easy answer to this issue.
“Statements or meetings concerning BDS are protected by freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the Dutch Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights,” [Dutch Foreign Minister Bert] Koenders said Thursday...-- Jerusalem Post
"Limits on the concept of freedom of speech?" Sounds detestable. Who gets to decide those limits?
Boycotts have been a major part of the Western social arsenal for centuries. History has been swayed by boycotts.

The Boston Tea Party led to a sense of American identity and the American Revolution
The Irish led boycott against eponymous Captain Boycott resurrected Irish nationalism and put Britain on notice that the Gaels were not beaten.
The Jews themselves unsuccessfully tried to boycott German goods in the 1930s, in hopes of toppling Hitler.
In Mandatory Palestine, both the Arabs and Jews tried to boycott each other. Labor Zionism was predicated on Jewish exclusivity.
Blacks led a boycott of the Montgomery Bus line to desegregate buses.
In NAACP vs Claiborne Hardware, 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld boycotts as protected speech.
So boycotts have an honorable history. It is with trepidation that any Western government should intervene to stop them. Normally, they are a vital part of the democratic process. At least Sweden thought so, as well.
...Sweden had been the only European government to recognize that BDS is a civil society movement and that governments should not try to impede it. -- Electronic Intifada
But other nations in Europe have judged in favor of Israel. They agree with the Israeli government that BDS is hate speech intended to bankrupt the Jewish state into dissolution, just as South Africa was broken.

In October 2015, the French high court declared BDS illegal.
French law prohibits targeting of nations for discrimination -- Times of Israel
While one applauds France's preference for the Israeli position, the Muslim world asks why it is deemed okay for the French to draw nude pictures of Mohammed, insulting Islam, in Charlie Hebdo, but peaceful boycotts against Israel are now taboo. Of course, France is less inclined to appreciate Islamic calls for free speech after the Islamic attacks in Paris. Since when were the Muslims ever peacefully in favor of free speech? At least the French did not shoot up BDS organizations.
The fact remains, however: even though Islam obviously does not respect free speech; should the French have restricted free speech; albeit for a different purpose? Though Islam is despicable, free speech has taken a hit in France.
[. . .]
I do not support BDS, but I do support free speech; and so I am in a quandary.
Such restrictions on free speech come to no good. After WWII, with the Holocaust in mind, European countries passed laws protecting minorities from hate speech. Instead of protecting Jews, the laws ended up protecting Muslims from criticism. Michel Houellebecq was hauled into French court for merely criticizing the literary merits of the Koran. Geert Wilders was hauled into Dutch court. Brigette Bardot was regularly in and out of court. And this is just a short list.
Laws intended to protect Jews ended up protecting the enemies of Jews.
[. . .]

I do not support BDS; but I do support the First Amendment. I want Israel to live, but I do not want dangerous restrictions put on free speech. Such laws always backfire. Ask Michel Houellebecq or Geert Wilders.
There is no easy answer to this problem. BDS is starting to hurt Israel. Agrexco, an Israeli agricultural firm, went bankrupt. Sodastream suffered a setback from BDS. BDS is rearing a generation of anti-Israel intelligentsia on campuses all over the Western world. If left unchecked BDS will snowball. Israel is right to fight it.
[. . .]
I have no easy answer to this. I do not want to see Israel hurt or go under, but neither do I want free speech restricted. If one says BDS is an agent of Arab foreign policy -- and it may be -- and therefore should be illegal; how long would AIPAC hold up to similar scrutiny?
No one had expected the Arabs/Palestinians/Fakestinians to fight on this long or this determinedly. And it seems that no one will be allowed to take a neutral position. Will the West have to prioritize whether the Jewish state or Free Political Speech is the superior value? One's opinion on Israel is no longer confined to theory. It now seems Western democratic institutions and practices will be adversely affected.
The Arabs demand free speech to destroy Israel, but scream and shoot if Mohammed is criticized. Zionists wants free speech to criticize Islam, but will sue and if possible, prosecute, if one advocates BDS. We in the West no longer have the option to tell the opponents to take it elsewhere.

May 30, 2016
BDS and Free Speech
By Mike Konrad

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