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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Israel's warped view of civil rights

Evelyn Gordon raises an important point about freedom of speech in her criticism of the annual report of the ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel - similar to the ACLU in the US).
Take, for instance, its criticism of the proposed “Nakba Law.” The original bill (a private initiative, not government-sponsored) would indeed have seriously curtailed freedom of speech: it barred any commemoration of the Nakba — the Arabic term for Israel’s establishment, which literally means “catastrophe.” But public outrage forced its revision even before the Knesset began discussing it. Thus the proposal actually being considered would merely deny public funding to organizations that commemorate the Nakba.

Yet according to ACRI, even this “not only violates the rights of the Arab minority, but crosses a red line in suppressing freedom of expression for us all.”

That reflects a serious misunderstanding of freedom of expression, which merely allows people to express their views without fear of state-sponsored criminal or civil penalties. It does not require the state to finance these views. And it especially doesn’t require the state to finance views it deems detrimental to society’s welfare.

Indeed, ACRI undoubtedly would oppose state funding for some views — for instance, that Israel should expel all its Arabs. Yet if a group’s “right … to express its pain at what it considers to be a catastrophe” necessitates state funding for Nakba commemorations, on what grounds could the state refuse to finance expressions of right-wing extremists’ pain at what they consider a catastrophe — the existence of Israel’s Arab minority?

Nothing could be more inimical to Israel’s welfare than having 20 percent of its citizens teaching their children that the state’s very existence is a catastrophe that must be mourned. And no government should finance such views.
Indeed. There's a huge difference between my right to say something and my non-existent right to have my right to say something funded by the government. It's something that the ACRI has never understood. (Yes, I realize that the ACLU has a sometimes limited understanding of this issue as well).

Perhaps it's because the ACRI is only interested in protecting the rights of the politically correct Left. The picture at the top of this post should have been protected as freedom of expression. The woman who drew it without asking for government funding - and attempted to affix it to a Hebron storefront in 1997 - was arrested and sent to jail for two years.

I don't recall hearing the ACRI complaining about that.


At 9:59 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

In a free society, people are free to express their views. It doesn't mean the government has to pay for those views to be communicated. ACRI is a Far Leftist Israeli NGO that is interested in protecting the views of Arabs and Far Leftist Jews to undermine the State Of Israel. Its about as committed to "civil rights" in Israel as J-Street in the US claims to be pro-Israel.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger sarah leah said...


ACRI = ACLU - that says it all.


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