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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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Letters To The Editor

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The problem, Perlman argues, was that Geller’s invitation was revoked, and that it’s censorship when someone is denied an opportunity to speak because of content.

In fact, it’s not censorship, because Geller was not entitled to the invitation in the first place, and revoking the invitation is not going to stop her from speaking. It would be censorship if she incurred some penalty, such as a fine or a jail sentence, for speaking.

Like many protests in Geller’s favor, Perlman’s is wholly political. It is doubtful, for instance, that Perlman would argue that the revocation of an invitation to a panel on Israeli democracy that included BDS supporters by Congregation Ansche Chesed on the Upper West Side was an act of censorship. And it wasn’t. It was merely the act of a private institution that chose, after careful consideration, not to affiliate itself and not to create the impression among the public that Jews affiliate themselves with ideas and people it finds repugnant. It did not say these figures were not free to find other forums to host them.

It is not accurate either to argue that those who oppose Geller simply oppose those who criticize fundamentalist Islam. Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear speakers in Jewish institutions who talk about the dangers of jihad. It is not even very uncommon at Orthodox institutions to hear those who cross the line from criticizing jihad to smearing Muslims and Islam in broad terms we would never allow others to direct at our own community.

So the notion that Geller’s ideas are being censored is nonsense. Geller incites controversy because she attacks virtually everybody who disagrees with her ideas in vitriolic, extraordinarily nasty, personal terms, calling liberal Zionist Jews “kapos” and calling peaceful Muslims “jihadis.” She also trades in discredited rumors; for instance, she argued that the president was not a United States citizen long after the rumor had been discredited.

Michael Brenner
(Via E-Mail)

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