Everything we know about fighting international terrorists we’ve learned from 19th century legislation against pirates. Pirates used to be a serious security concern on the high seas, and the emerging civilized nations got together to invent a new legal language to deal with them. It was decided back then that by virtue of their being enemies of civilized society, pirates should not be entitled to the legal rights that civilized people are encouraged to take for granted. They may be shot on sight without due process, they are not entitled to any protections and neither are their women and children.
It was a very wise legislation, which brought results rather quickly. The American and European navies launched periodic campaigns against pirates, most notably off the North African coast, and killed many of them.
I’m mentioning the piracy solution because our colleagues to the left, Haaretz, has just published a call by Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi on behalf of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, for all cultural and educational institutions “to have the courage and the principle to stand for, and safeguard, the very principles of free expression and the free exchange of ideas that make those institutions possible.”
The logic they’re using is based on the principle that, should we ignore the attempts to silence the BDS, some day our own voices would be silenced when we try to promote our own issues.
It’s a seductive argument. I happen to be a maximalist on the First Amendment. I completely believe in anyone’s right to say and publish absolutely everything, including a pop up, kindergarten edition of Mein Kampf. The only valid exception in my opinion is crying Fire in a crowded theater, but the theater really has to be crowded.
But I also believe that a strong, direct, occasionally forceful reaction to offensive speech should not be discarded out of hand.
So, for instance, I have no problem with those French Arab Nazis doing the semi-heil-hitler thing, and I don’t believe French police need involve itself in chasing and arresting them, it only makes them more popular. On the other hand, I also strongly support the French JDL for picking up a few of those heil-hitlerists, shoving them in the trunk of a car and going re-education camp on them with a baseball bat.
Did you know baseball was so popular in France?
There are several deeply dishonest things emanating from the Butler-Khalidi manifesto.
If the BDS program targeted many countries that practice policies which are offensive to the organizers, I would have tended to pay more attention to their arguments.
If they boycotted Saudi oil for the expulsion of a million African workers in 3 months, for repressing women, for the court-ordered mutilations.
If they boycotted Iranian goods for the jailing of dissidents and the weekly hanging of homosexuals.
If they boycotted the Gaza Strip for shooting rockets at Israeli civilians.
If they boycotted Turkey for going apecrackers on the Kurds.
In short, if they showed even a semblance of fairness and thoughtfulness in applying a heavy handed economic instrument as a means of improving human rights around the world, I would have at least recommended a dialogue with them. We bring our arguments, they bring theirs, we talk.
But Butler-Khalidi are not fair minded, and they’re not even representing a strictly intellectual and therefore peaceful attempt to influence Israeli policy.
Instead, they spearhead a program of bullying, intimidation, and threats—the very means they complain about—against Israel. Israel must succumb to economic threats, capitulate and accept the terms of a peace agreement, or else the BDS will impoverish it economically. Israeli goods will be barred from European and, increasingly, American markets; Israeli scientists will be ignored b y major academic programs; Israeli culture will be forbidden.