Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
Consider a country in which the minister of
justice prepares an official ''speech code'' that
delineates the boundaries of permissible
speech, and where violators may be sent to
Consider a country in which people are
arrested for expressing criticism or dissent,
even if it is in a casual conversation in a cafe, a
bank or a barber shop.
Consider a country in which the minister
of education calls upon school pupils and their
parents to report to the police the names of
teachers who make ''incendiary statements'' or
engage in ''incitement.''
Consider a country where people are
afraid to express their political opinions for
fear of being overheard by informants and
where people look over their shoulders before
daring to speak candidly about politics.
Consider a country in which rabbis are
openly vilified by the leaders of the state,
where politicians, journalists and professors
call for the wholesale arrest of rabbis and
dissidents, where scores of rabbis are
interrogated by the police for ''inciting.''
Consider a country where religious Jews
walking down the street are insulted and
called ''murderers'' and other foul names by
Consider a country where a popular radio
host calls for a law that would require that all
dissidents either recant their views and
endorse government policies or go to prison; or
where a newspaper columnist closely identified
with the ruling party declares that Voltaire's
famous statement (where he says that he
would die for the rights to free speech for those
with whom he disagrees) represents the most
absurd and ridiculous idea imaginable.
Imagine a country where teenagers are
imprisoned for making statements and posters
that are in poor taste, or where an old man can
be arrested for losing his temper and shouting
at a policeman, ''What do you think this is
here, a police state?
Imagine a country where people can be
arrested for making jokes that some might
regard as being in poor taste.
Imagine a country in which dissidents
quoting old statements by the prime minister
himself or who quote from the Bible could be
arrested on charges of engaging in incitement
Now ask yourselves, does all of the above
describe the Habsburg Empire during the
worst Franciscan repressions of the early 19th
century? Or maybe some totalitarian country
before the fall of communism? Or perhaps a
fictitious government in some Orwellian
No, I'm afraid the above is an exact
description of Israel as it was in the immediate
aftermath of the assassination of Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Each example refers
to an actual event that occurred in Israel in the
months after that murder.
Seven years after the event, Israel is still
in a state of shock from the Rabin
assassination. One of the most harmful and
dangerous aftershocks to that murder has been
a long series of assaults upon the fundamental
democratic freedoms and rights of Israeli
citizens, led mainly by the Israeli Left.
Rabin's body was not yet cold when an
anti-democratic theory of the assassination was
invented. In the following days, not only was
this theory repeated endlessly, but it assumed
the status of revealed gospel. The theory holds
that the assassination was caused by
irresponsible speech, by calls of ''Rabin is a
Murderer/Traitor,'' by incitement and agitation
on the part of anti-Oslo dissidents.
In response to this theory-as-gospel, there
were repeated calls in Israel for new legislation
to suppress ''oral violence'' and ''incitement.''
In 1995 the minister of justice even prepared a
new law that would have instituted a sort of a
national ''speech code'' delineating the
boundaries of acceptable speech (it was never
implemented). The governments of both Labor
and Likud approved decisions to make a
growing list of organizations on the Israeli ''far
right'' illegal, simply on the basis of their
positions and opinions. A long list of people
were investigated and/or indicted for
Following the assassination, an assault on
dissent and democracy was launched by
Israel's politicians from the Labor Party and
the leftist Meretz. For example, a call to pupils
and parents to inform to the police on teachers
engaging in ''incitement'' came from the
minister of education under the Labor Party's
administration, Professor Amnon Rubinstein of
Meretz. Rubinstein is a well-known expert on
constitutional law, which he taught for many
years at Tel Aviv University. Prosecutions of
people for having expressed anti-Oslo opinions
continued even under Likud administrations.
All of this is no less frightening and
alarming than the assassination itself. It is
particularly troubling because the new
orthodoxy is itself patently false. It is also
dangerous because the criminalizing and
prosecution of extremists on the far right could
in fact lead to an upsurge in violence.
First, despite the shock that we all felt
and feel, it behooves us to recall that Rabin
was not killed by free speech, but by a
murderer with a gun.
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
The meaning of “God’s watch” here is not entirely clear.
Don’t Israelis and Arab Palestinians deserve more than this? Is it not time to stop the insanity?
At age 104, my mother was still concerned about her relationship with Hashem.
“The only difference between this world and the time of Meshiach is our bondage to the gentile kingdoms.”
You’ve discovered our little secret!
Klein’s challenger has demonstrated a propensity to unleash poisonous vitriol, even to other Zionists
President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy.
Welcome the book of Leviticus!
If the nationalist Knesset members don’t provide the answer, the Arab MKs will do so in their place.
International Agunah Day falls annually on Ta’anis Esther, this year on March 13.
Yeshiva University Museum recently hosted an exhibit titled “Threshold to the Sacred.”
Even a foxhole Yid has to admit that antisemitism is on the upswing.
As shocking and insulting and horrifying as it is, Nazi war criminals are still living freely among us.
One can almost imagine a shocked Mr. Kerry thinking to himself, “How could he?” Yet not only did Mr. Putin do what he did, China, one of the three major international players along with the U.S. and Russia, agreed with him, not with Mr. Kerry.
When the Temple was in existence, Jews were religiously obligated to eat roast meat at least once a year.
I have frequently drawn up lists of what I love most about Israel, and Arik Einstein has ranked high.
In the past, the law school prohibited the singing of Hatikvah.
American non-Orthodox Jews are intermarrying their way into post-Jewish oblivion, and they’re doing so as a direct result of having emptied their version of Judaism of all meaning.
The Taliban is all too willing to obliterate anything attesting to ancient Jewish life and culture.
It began as just another exercise in political academic wackiness at Hebrew University. A graduate student there claimed that the absence of any history of rapes of Arab women by Israeli soldiers proves that Jews are racists and oppressors, people who do not even regard Arab women as sexually desirable. The student at the Mount Scopus campus and her “research” were then awarded a university honor for these impressive “discoveries.”
I favor eliminating the exemption of yeshiva students from military service and, without quibbling about details, I endorse the initiatives designed to end that disgraceful exemption.
American news headlines over the past few weeks have focused on political targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of conservative groups. But Israel is experiencing its own form of political targeting by the state. The attorney general is leading an initiative to have a small group of radical juveniles who engage in mischief declared a terrorist organization.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/free-speech-for-me-but-not-for-thee/2003/01/17/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.