Robert Fisk: Taking Away the Right to Protest Empowers Terrorism
A stencil portrait of Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper exhorts Canadians to resist his policies. (sweetone / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Depriving people of the right to express moral outrage through boycotts—as Canada's Harper government intends to do with critics of Israel—increases the probability that some will resort to violence as a means of political expression, writes Robert Fisk at The Independent.
Of course, some politicians welcome increases in violence because the ensured existence of a lively "enemy" provides them with justification for maintaining and expanding their power. (See the ongoing U.S. "War on Terror.") Not a small number of politicians build their entire careers on this premise.
[T]he totally pro-Israeli Conservative government of Stephen Harper intends to list the boycotting of Israel as a "hate crime". This is not only ludicrous, stupid, pointless and racist because it assumes that anyone opposed to Israel's vicious and iniquitous policies of land-grabbing in the West Bank is an anti-Semite, but it is also anti-democratic. Those who believe in non-violence have always espoused boycott movements on the grounds that economic pressure rather than bombs is a moral way of putting pressure on a country that violates international law. …
This is preposterous. If I decline to buy Israeli-produced oranges at a British supermarket, this doesn't make me a Nazi murderer. To criticise Israel doesn't turn Canadians into Jew-haters. A number of liberal Jewish groups have protested against Harper's proposed extension of existing 'hate laws' – far too many Jewish organisations have praised it – on the grounds that it assumes that all Jews support Israel or approve of its actions. And since Jews are also members of boycott-Israel groups, Harper's expanded definition of the law would have to put Jews on trial in Canada for anti-Semitism. …
The dark little catch in all this is that last year Canada changed its definition of hate speech to include statements made against "national origin", not just race and religion. Thus statements or speeches critical of Israel – like a number of public lectures I have given in Canada – may now be classed as statements against Jews (even though Jews are often among the organisers of my own speaking engagements in America). And, in due course, editorials in papers such as the Toronto Star can be deemed anti-Semitic and thus worthy of being denounced as a "hate-crime".
This extended definition of 'hate crime' will put a lot of civil society groups under the cosh. The United Church of Canada and Canadian Quakers could find themselves in court and judges, however much they personally recoiled from Israel's abuse of Palestinians, would have to abide by this outrageous piece of legislation and exercise "zero tolerance" against the free speech of those who condemn war crimes by Israel in the Middle East.
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