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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Misoziony, hate speech and freedom

Continuing on my musings of misoziony...

If we accept at face value the claim that the rabid misoziony of Israel-bashers is not motivated by Jew-hatred, would it still qualify as hate speech?

To wit: Yesterday there were protests at Columbia University supporting a black professor who saw a noose hung on her office door. It is obvious that this was a purposeful act of hate, a veiled threat of violence and a purposeful evocation of historic lynchings of blacks.

Why isn't anyone considering this free speech? Why is such an act not protected as is offensive art or flag burning is?

The answer seems to be that there is a visceral horror at the pure racism that this event evokes. We have become conditioned to treat racism and selected other types of bigotry against ethnic or religious groups as reprehensible.

Now, there is no doubt that if someone left a sign on her door saying "death to blacks" or, more likely, a worse word this would also be considered beyond the pale and a clear example of hate speech. So would "death to Arabs" or "death to Italians" or "death to Jews" (at least in America.)

Would "death to America" or "death to Israel" qualify?

A quick Google on "death to..." various countries found that the vast majority of references were to Israel and America, with a fair number for the UK and Canada, a few for Western European countries and a smattering for Arab countries. Practically all of the links referred to Arabs and Muslims saying these words. (For example, there was an uptick of "Death to Denmark" references in the wake of the Mohammed cartoon kerfuffle.)

It is a fair bet that when Arabs say "death to..." some nation, they are advocating actual deaths of human beings, not an abstract concept. The fact they celebrate actual deaths of Israelis and Americans would seem to prove that point (notwithstanding that Sami al-Arian claimed otherwise.)

Is this hate speech? Is the hatred of a nation - and its people - as reprehensible as the hatred of an ethnic or religious group?

Last year, Salt Lake City allowed a "death to Israel" rally to take place. The same words can be heard at leftist rallies across the nation, by people who wholeheartedly support Palestinian Arab "resistance" - meaning terror against Israeli civilians.

Saying "death to Israel" is not just an expression; it is a call for mass murder and it is just as bigoted and hateful as any threats against any group. The question is, why is it so easily tolerated as free speech when equivalent expressions against other groups are considered disgusting hate speech?