Freedom of speech and the march of radicalization
Op-ed: Voicing irritating opinions is legitimate, but when the stars of the Israeli discourse are the followers of such terrorists as Samir Kuntar and Baruch Goldstein, this slippery slope must be stopped. Sometimes, silencing is the proper thing to do.
That same university was scheduled to host another conference, titled “Fifty years of Israeli Occupation and Palestinian Resistance: Where is the Prisoners’ Movement Going?” in honor of the publication of a study conducted by Dr. Maya Rosenfeld. Three participants were invited to this conference. All three are Palestinian activists for prisoners’ rights—in other words, for terrorists’ rights. The three are from the Abu Jihad Center for Prisoner Movement Affairs.
So no, it’s not just the margins. The radicalizing comments are taking refuge under the wings of freedom of speech, and have even reached academia, sometimes even led by academia. Rosenfeld, who belongs to the ultra-radical left and whose study was supposed to be the focus of the canceled conference (and it’s a good thing it was canceled), has the right to her opinion, that militaristic Israel is to blame for Gaza’s troubles and should be punished by the world. Rosenfeld and her three guests would have likely competed over who would produce more anti-Israel statements. After all, One of the participants, Ashraf al-Ajrami, once lauded arch-murderer Samir Kuntar. Is this what an academic conference looks like, or is it a propaganda conference?
The conference held in Ginsburg’s presence raises questions as well. It isn’t obvious that “he has the right to make these comments,” because we are talking about racism and encouragement of violence. It should just be noted there is a difference: Rosenfeld’s conference was academically-sponsored; the conference starring Ginsburg wasn’t. Nevertheless, the Hebrew University let a conference with this mega-racist take place on its premise.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Haifa University once canceled a conference featuring “The King’s Torah” author, Yitzhak Shapira. Sometimes, silencing is the proper thing to do.
When the Finance Ministry and Hebrew University legitimize the march of radicalization, Israeli discourse plummets into an abyss. Instead of raising arguments against the occupation, IDF soldiers are presented as brutal and the Jews are accused of having a lust for money. And instead of presenting reasoned arguments against a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial service, bereaved parents are called “traitors” and even “Nazis.”
And the march of radicalization receives justifications. The three magic words, “freedom of speech,” are said—and the audience is asked to stand to attention. Some even quote Voltaire: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” With all due respect to Voltaire, who spread his anti-Semitic views as part of freedom of speech, it’s not the Torah and it doesn’t come from Sinai, and there is no need to give every racist the most distinguished stage or offer a double and even triple stage to the most insane margins in each camp.
It has even reached Army Radio. “The slope is becoming slippery,” journalist Yael Dan said following the cancellation of the propaganda conference for the prisoners. Granted, one is allowed to voice irritating opinions, even very irritating opinions. But when the stars of the discourse are Samir Kuntar and Baruch Goldstein’s followers, this slippery slope must be stopped.