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July 28, 2015 / 12 Av, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech’

US Supreme Court Rules on ‘Free Speech’ in Social Media

Monday, June 1st, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (Monday, June 1) to affirm protection for “free speech” on social media and the internet – even if that speech is threatening or provocative.

The decision was handed down in the case of Anthony D. Elonis V. United States of America, affirming that threats made over the internet are protected, unless they are malevolent or reckless.

The case relates to Facebook posts by Elonis, who was convicted for making unlawful threats as he expressed anger about events in his life, basing the posts on rap lyrics of various artists.

In an amicus curiae brief (friend of the Court), The Rutherford Institute had argued the First Amendment protects even inflammatory statements that might give offense or cause concern to others unless the statements were a credible threat to engage in violence against another, and made by the defendant with the intent to cause fear in the alleged victim.

The decision is also particularly relevant to the brouhaha over the “Jihad Watch Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” held in Garland, Texas a few weeks ago. Sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) run by Pam Geller, the event attracted an attempted attack by two terrorists, who opened fire on a security guard but were both shot and killed by police.

The event was organized in response to the radical Islamist attack on the Paris offices of the “Charlie Hebdo” French satiric magazine in January of this year, Geller said. “We decided to have a cartoon contest to show we would not kowtow to violent intimidation and allow the freedom of speech to be overwhelmed by thugs and bullies,” she told The Washington Post in an email statement.

Helsinki Environmental ‘World Village’ Bans Jewish National Fund

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

The Finnish “World Village festival emphasizing the environment has banned the participation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the largest environmental organization in Israel. The Finnish government feigned it was powerless to interfere in the boycott and told the Israeli Ambassador to Helsinki that it has no say in the matter because the “Maailma Kylässä” festival is a “private event.”

Dan Ashbel, the Israeli ambassador to Finland, said:

I wonder how this scandalous decision is consistent with values such as eco-friendliness, fairness, tolerance, and the desire for peace. I wonder if the rest of the organizations in the festival are required to stand up to the same criteria.”

However, the Finnish government’s security forces were able to convince the World Village to ban the Freedom of Speech village, warning that an exhibition supporting the freedom of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine to publish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed might cause violence.

The JNF has planted 240 million trees since 1901, and Israel is one of only two countries in the world that registered a net increase in the number of trees at the beginning of the 21st century.

It can be assumed that the organizers do the World Village were celebrating Boycott Israel when deciding to ban the JNF, which also has donated 3,000 trees to the Palestinian Authority for its new city of Rawabi north of Ramallah.

The World Village organizers figure that the environment is better off without a pro-environment organization, which is Jewish, and without a free speech environment that might upset Muslims.

Canada May Propose Defining Boycott of Israel a ‘Hate Crime’

Monday, May 11th, 2015

The pro-Israel Canadian government may be planning to include boycotts of Israel as a hate crime, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported Monday.

It said that such a move would target organizations such as the United Church of Canada, Canadian Quakers, campus protest groups and labor unions. It also would raise legal questions under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canadian Prime Stephen Harper is unarguably the most pro-Israel head of any government in the world. He sounded like an echo of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his visit to Israel last year.

Recently-retired Foreign Minister John Baird in January signed an agreement with Israel to fight the Boycott Israel movement, and government ministers have said they will show “zero tolerable” towards groups that are part of Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS). He described the Boycott Israel movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism.”

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney recently said that boycotts of Israel cannot be separated from anti-Semitic hate speech and the recent terrorist attacks against Jews in France.

CBC asked the government to explain the meaning of “zero tolerance,” and Blaney replied that Canada has “one of the most comprehensive sets of [hate] laws anywhere in the world.”

Last year, Canada changed its definition of hate speech to include statements made against “national origin” and not just race and religion.

That has raised fears among civil libertarians that anti-Israel remarks could be classified as statements against Jews.

The concept of associating Israel with Jews goes at the very heart of the liberal Jewish community, as well as Jews who have no interest in Judaism in Israel. Whether they like it or not, hatred of Israel and Jews increasingly makes them identified with Israel by the fact that they are Jews.

They can like it or not, but inevitably, “Jew” cannot be separated from “Israel.” They can like it not, but the “People of Israel” means Jews – everywhere.

The question is whether that definition has a legal standing.

CBC reported that the Canadian Quakers wrote a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson in March “expressing concern” about describing boycotts as acts of anti-Semitism.

Blaney’s office did not specifically say that would be the case but noted that it is illegal to promote hatred against an “identifiable group.”

However, BDS protests in other parts of the world have been anything but violent, with frequent clashes with police such as in France.

In Israel, it is against the law to boycott the country

In France, hate speech as a crime includes statements aimed at people’s “national origin,” and BDS activists sometimes have been charged with violating the law.

Belgium is considering a similar law.

On paper, it would seem that prohibiting a group from promoting a boycott of a country – and Israel is the only nation that is targeted – because of its political polices is a violation of freedom of speech.

In reality, such protests are often like the Palestinian Authority term “resistance,” a code word to encourage terrorists to kill Jews.

The Nazis Are Coming, The Nazis Are Coming

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Published on Jewish Business News

Would I be shocked if some day an investigating committee discovered it was a secret agent of the internal security service who posted those pictures of Israeli politicians in Nazi uniforms? Honestly, I wouldn’t be. It’s what Israel’s internal security does—cast blame on the right.

Back in 1996, the Shamgar committee investigating the Rabin murder ruled “without any doubt” that it was Avishai Raviv, an agent provocateur of the Jewish Department of the internal security police, who created and disseminated a poster of Rabin in Nazi uniform. Agent Raviv did a lot of bad things, according to the committee, including inventing the idea that the prime minister had the status of “rodef,” one who is about to commit murder and so must be killed first.

And he created the Nazi Rabin poster, with government funds, to cast false blame on the right.

Lest I be misunderstood, I join all the voices in Israel who, over the past week or so, have expressed various levels of disagreement, even shock, at the images of several key Israeli politicians dressed in Nazi uniforms, courtesy of Photoshop and Facebook.

I happen to believe that the first party to mention the Holocaust in a debate loses. Comparing any post-Holocaust event, including some holocausts, to the Holocaust belies a deep misunderstanding of the scope and monstrosity of the European Holocaust. Certainly comparing the quality of service at some roadside motel to Auschwitz would betray a deep ignorance of the suffering of Humanity in general and the Jewish people in particular.

In Israel, the images of leading politicians, such as Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Judiciary Minister Tzipi Livni in Nazi uniforms have created a stormy news cycle complete with police investigation, the closing down of the Facebook page that featured those images, and a vehement condemnation by the outgoing Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court, the final arbiter of democratic values.

To an American who enjoys the luxuries of a well honed First Amendment to the Constitution, this must seem very strange. Why would a fairly amateurish artistic effort to dress up some politicians in Nazi uniforms be perceived as a danger to the rule of law and democracy? Isn’t democracy a place where one can express oneself offensively as long as they like, provided they don’t yell fire in a crowded theater?

But the Israeli media response to the Nazi posters is a masterpiece of propaganda, borrowing heavily from the father of modern communications, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who wrote: “The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

In Israel, anyone would tell you that the 1995 murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a main square in Tel Aviv began with posters that depicted Rabin in a Nazi uniform. Surely, goes the argument, if the public is drenched once again with these offensive images, we’ll end up with yet another political murder.

You see, the average Israeli is remarkably stupid and thick-headed when it comes to the sanctity of freedom of speech. They simply don’t remember it was their government which paid for and delivered the Rabin Nazi poster, they only remember the poster, with horror, because after the poster some nut job killed Rabin.

And so, with zero regard to the value of free speech in a democracy, Israeli police is pursuing the new Nazi poster offenders indefatigably.

But even if the anonymous person calling himself or herself Natan Zuabi (an inside joke at the expense of an Arab MK and an Israeli radio broadcaster) is not a police agent—the pursuit of those images constitutes the suppression of free speech. And a supreme court justice who can’t recall it was the government who invented those Nazi posters is asleep at the wheel of democracy.

Alas, the only democracy in the Middle East just got a little less democratic. And it could get worse.

Nazi Montage on Facebook

President Rivlin Bans Performance of Singer because of Anti-Arab Song

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

President Reuven Rivlin announced Tuesday he has cancelled the scheduled performance of musician-singer Amir Benayoun because of a song he wrote and released after last week’s Har Nof massacre and which is called “Ahmed Loves Jerusalem.”

Benayoun wrote the lyrics of a fictitious Arab who learns at a government-funded university and plans to kill Jews.

“Ahmed” sings, “I will send a Jew or two to Hell…. I am just an ungrateful piece of scum. The day will come when you turn your back on me and I will stick a sharp knife into it, I will shoot you in the back.”

That was too much for President Rivlin, whose office said he would not allow Benayoun to perform next Sunday at the Present’s residence at an event marking the exile and expulsion of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran.

“Against the background of the release of Amir Benayoun’s latest song yesterday, I wish to notify you that we will not be able to allow him to perform at the President’s Residence,” the office wrote in a letter that was distributed as a press release.

“Amir Benayoun is a renowned and exceptional artist, and his talent has greatly contributed to Israeli music” the statement continued. “However, his statements made at this time of conflict and tension, even if uttered out of frustration and pain, do not, to say the least, help bring calm to the streets, and are inconsistent with the responsibility required of the President’s Residence, and of all institutions with influence over the public discourse, to work to alleviate tensions, and promote cooperation rather than division in Israeli society.”

Liberals on the left have charged that Benayoun should be arrested for incitement.

Benayoun said he did not intend to promote violence, which he opposes.

One of his former compositions is “Jerusalem of Hussein,” which describes President Barack Obama’s policies.

Egypt Slaps White House, Jails Al Jazeera Journalists for 7 Years

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Journalists around the world are expressing outrage in the wake of an Egyptian court’s decision to sentence three Al Jazeera journalists to prison for seven years.

The three were taken from their hotel room in Cairo in December 2013 and charged with conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to tarnish Egypt’s international reputation. Australian ex-BBC reporter Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian ex-CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy, and local Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were among 20 accused in connection with the charges.

Al Jazeera has denied the accusations and journalists around the world have condemned Egypt for conducting what is seen as a direct campaign by Egypt’s new president to snuff out freedom of speech.

In the United States, the issue was also perceived as a diplomatic slap to the White House, which condemned the sentence. Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri to express his government’s “serious displeasure” over the matter.

The court decision had come just one day after Kerry’s unannounced visit to Cairo in which he announced that Washington had unfrozen billions of dollars in military aid to Egypt. He also vowed during his visit that the U.S. would deliver 10 Apache attack helicopters for use in the fight against terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula.

Newly-elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi refused to “interfere in the judicial verdict,” setting off an international firestorm.

“Egypt should review its unacceptable sentences against Egyptian and international journalists, and show commitment to freedom of the press,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Al Jazeera reported.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott added that his government would work to get the imprisoned journalists out of the country “quickly.”

Leaders from various other international groups said that they, too, would work to free the journalists.

MKs and Ministers Trying to Kill the Free Press in Israel

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Israeli Ministers and Knesset members are coming out against the free market of ideas, and the free market as well, by proposing a bill that would potentially kill the popular and free Israeli daily print paper, Yisrael Hayom.

The paper is given out free in Israel, and has become the primary competitor to Arnon “Nuni” Moses’s Yediot Achronot, which leans more to the political left, though not as far left as Ha’aretz, which only has a minuscule market share in Israel.

Among those MKs proposing the bill that would try to shut down the paper are MKs Eitan Cabel (Labor), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), Elazar Stern (Hatnua), Ariel Attias (Shas) and Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid).

Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) said today on a Galei Tzahal interview, that Yisrael Hayom is “Pravda“, and serves the interest of one person [the Prime Minister].

It is not clear to us what is stopping Bennett from convincing one of his own supporters to print a daily paper that would be pro-Bennett, or even improving his relationship with the religious-Zionist paper Arutz-7, so they’d give him better coverage in their free weekend paper.

Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid chairman), whose party supports the bill, used to write a column for Yisrael Hayom’s main competitor, Yediot.

Yisrael Hayom is owned by Sheldon Adelson, and typically takes a position that is pro whatever position PM Netanyahu recently put forward, though not always a right-wing position. It also publishes articles from those on the left side of the political spectrum. There is no denying that it is agenda driven, but name one newspaper that isn’t.

As an aside, Sheldon Adelson, may soon be purchasing the religious-Zionist paper Makor Rishon, after Makor Rishon over-extended itself financially with its purchase of Ma’ariv.

Some in the Likud say that Moses and Yediot are the driving force behind this bill.

The “Yisrael Hayom” law, as it is being called because it specifically only targets Yisrael Hayom, would require that the top four daily print papers charge fees relative to what the other daily print papers are charging – or more accurately no less than 70% of whatever the second lowest priced paper is charging.

To us, it looks like a blatant attempt to suppress the voices of political opponents and suppress freedom of speech and press in Israel.

Yediot has the same opportunity to build a different business model, take a different political line that is more palatable to most Israelis, or even accept that it won’t be number one in the market anymore.

The free Arutz-7 Shabbat print paper and the fee-based Makor Rishon have coexisted quite nicely for over a decade serving the Religious-Zionist market, each one with their own business model and message – proving that it can be done.

It appears that this is really an attempt to block the basic right for anyone to put down their soap box in the city square and freely express their opinion – if certain people are worried that that opinion is becoming too popular.

Eitan Cabel (Labor), one of the proponents of the bill, played a central role in shutting down the very popular right-wing religious Arutz-7 radio station.

Naftalki Bennett and Bayit Yehudi should really consider who its allies are in this fight and what it could mean for them next.

It appears that in Israel, those on the political left can’t stand that those on the political right have a voice that is heard, and those on the right are too short-sighted to see that suppressing both the free market and the free market of ideas is dangerous for all of us, and that is the real problem.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/mks-trying-to-kill-the-free-press-in-israel/2014/03/30/

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