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December 22, 2015 1

Israel’s Choice: Incitement or Civility

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in the Times of Israel.

As we see in Amer­ica these days, when peo­ple are feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble and inse­cure, politi­cians and dem­a­gogues play on those fears to offer solu­tions that are often anti-democratic and that will ulti­mately weaken, rather than strengthen society.

 So it is in Israel. The coun­try faces con­tin­ual ter­ror­ist vio­lence against its cit­i­zens — more fright­en­ing in some ways than intifadas because of the ran­dom and inti­mate nature of the attacks. And as hos­tile anti-Israel cam­paigns grow around the world, some Israelis turn to sim­plis­tic solu­tions. Those include blam­ing ter­ror on those who dis­agree with them polit­i­cally and engag­ing in behav­ior that verges into incite­ment. Such trends risk sti­fling the cul­ture of free expres­sion that Israel can be so proud of.

In recent days, this phe­nom­e­non has man­i­fested itself in the con­tin­ued attacks on Pres­i­dent Reuven Rivlin for his insis­tence on speak­ing to all seg­ments of Israel’s diverse soci­ety. It has shown up in an ugly video cre­ated by Im Tirtzu, a right-wing advo­cacy group, to name and dele­git­imize left-wing Israeli activists as “for­eign agents” in what can only be con­sid­ered an act of hate­ful incite­ment. It also appears in a broader Knes­set bill that would bar non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions funded by for­eign gov­ern­ments from any con­tact with gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary authorities.

All of these together rep­re­sent a seri­ous threat to Israel’s robust demo­c­ra­tic tradition.

Let’s be clear: when a group like Break­ing the Silence airs alleged atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Israeli sol­diers abroad — instead of through the estab­lished legal chan­nels for deal­ing with such alle­ga­tions — it under­stand­ably raises the ire of Israelis who are proud of the Israel Defense Forces, the force that stands in the way of Israel’s destruc­tion at the hands of its ene­mies. And it is fair to raise ques­tions about whether such groups play a con­struc­tive role or con­tribute to Israel’s iso­la­tion in the world.

There is, how­ever, a line that should not be crossed. And of late, there are too many cross­ings of that line.

Pres­i­dent Rivlin has been a par­tic­u­lar tar­get of these attacks. Already dur­ing last sum­mer, when Rivlin harshly con­demned the arson attack in Duma, he was widely con­demned on social media for speak­ing out. This included the post­ing of pic­tures of him wear­ing a kef­fiyeh and a Nazi uni­form. Incite­ment of this nature is rem­i­nis­cent of the attacks against for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin that pre­ceded his assas­si­na­tion 20 years ago.

 More recently, when the Israeli pres­i­dent spoke before the Haaretz con­fer­ence in New York, which also fea­tured a panel dis­cus­sion with Break­ing the Silence, Israel’s Chan­nel 20 harshly crit­i­cized him on their Face­book page say­ing the pres­i­dent “mustn’t spit in the face of the sol­diers,” and that his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the same con­fer­ence with Break­ing the Silence is “con­tempt of the presidency.”

The pres­i­dent used his podium to high­light the impor­tance of speak­ing with groups with whom he stren­u­ously dis­agreed, a prin­ci­pled exam­ple of the type of plu­ral­ism that define open soci­eties. Indeed, he specif­i­cally called out his com­plaints against groups such as Break­ing the Silence, as did for­mer Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Knes­set law­maker Tzipi Livni.

 A trou­bling inci­dent in the effort to dele­git­imize and sti­fle left-wing crit­i­cism of Israel was the egre­gious video pro­duced by Im Tirtzu paint­ing left wing activists as com­plicit in Pales­tin­ian stabbings.

 An orga­ni­za­tion has every right to be crit­i­cal of polit­i­cal activ­i­ties it deems harm­ful to the nation. But this kind of fear tac­tic — of blam­ing left-wing groups for the ongo­ing wave of Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism in order to dele­git­imize them — is a form of incite­ment that crosses over into hate speech. Whether one agrees or dis­agrees with the work of the non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions men­tioned — and ADL strongly dis­agrees with groups like Break­ing the Silence, which refuse to con­tex­tu­al­ize Israeli mil­i­tary actions and to con­sider the hos­tile cli­mate to which they con­tribute — accus­ing them of sup­port­ing Pales­tin­ian ter­ror is poten­tially libelous, and cer­tainly unde­mo­c­ra­tic and dangerous.

This kind of incite­ment against Pres­i­dent Rivlin or against left-wing orga­ni­za­tions and activists should be rejected and con­demned. Israel has trag­i­cally expe­ri­enced what such incite­ment can lead to. Luck­ily, many have spo­ken up.

At the same time, respon­si­bil­ity for how one deals with del­i­cate issues, par­tic­u­larly at a time of great vul­ner­a­bil­ity in soci­ety, falls on all sec­tors of soci­ety. Those on the left who are crit­i­cal of Israeli poli­cies have a right to offer those crit­i­cisms. But they also should be mind­ful of the impact of those crit­i­cisms on the aver­age Israeli and on embold­en­ing forces around the world who are hos­tile to Israel.

For civil soci­ety to work in a demo­c­ra­tic coun­try, civil lib­er­ties must be pro­tected. The right to voice one’s views must be guar­an­teed, and one’s secu­rity in doing so must be reassured.

If civil lib­er­ties are dimin­ished in Israel, Israel will be diminished.

But out­side of Israel, it is essen­tial to rec­og­nize that, in any soci­ety, if a citizenry’s sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and inse­cu­rity reaches a break­ing point, pub­lic sup­port for civil lib­er­ties dimin­ishes accord­ingly, while calls for secu­rity increase. In fact, it is worth reflect­ing on the remark­able resilience of Israeli democ­racy in the face of the unre­lent­ing exter­nal threats that it has faced since its establishment.

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February 12, 2015 3

The Right to Be Forgotten Has No Place in the U.S.

right-to-be-forgottenThe right to be forgotten—the right of Inter­net users to request that search engines remove links to out­dated or embar­rass­ing infor­ma­tion about them­selves from search results—is once more in the head­lines in Europe. Recently, fol­low­ing up on a pre­vi­ous Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice rul­ing that indi­vid­u­als have the right to ask search engines to remove links to “inad­e­quate, irrel­e­vant, or no longer rel­e­vant” infor­ma­tion about them­selves online, Euro­pean reg­u­la­tors and judges have called for Google and other search engines to apply the Right to Be For­got­ten around the world, regard­less of which coun­try the search engine serves and where the search takes place. How­ever, the Advi­sory Coun­cil that Google appointed to look into the issue has rec­om­mended that Google limit its response to European-directed search ser­vices, such as google.fr (used in France) and google.de (used in Ger­many) and not extend it out­side the Euro­pean Union. That Coun­cil, in a new report, found that there is “a com­pet­ing inter­est on the part of users out­side of Europe to access infor­ma­tion via a name-based search in accor­dance with the laws of their coun­try, which may be in con­flict with the delist­ings afforded by the rul­ing.”  ADL agrees with their recommendation.

Last Novem­ber the Anti-Defamation League adopted a pol­icy posi­tion that “indi­vid­u­als should not have the right to have links to old and/or embar­rass­ing infor­ma­tion about them­selves removed from Inter­net search results.” Doing so is tan­ta­mount to tak­ing a scalpel to library books, allow­ing peo­ple to tear from pub­lic record things about them­selves from the past that they sim­ply do not like. The Right to Be For­got­ten could allow, for exam­ple, a white suprema­cist to erase all traces of his his­tory of big­oted rhetoric before run­ning for pub­lic office, deny­ing the pub­lic access to make a fully informed decision.

The Inter­net has pro­vided the largest and most robust mar­ket­place of ideas in his­tory, open­ing lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion around the world. As the Inter­net brings the world closer, how­ever, coun­tries must be cog­nizant of the impact that their laws and reg­u­la­tions have in other parts of the world. In the United States the First Amend­ment pro­vides much stronger pro­tec­tions for free speech than the laws do in Europe. Amer­i­cans, and search engines based in the United States, should con­tinue to respect the laws and found­ing prin­ci­ples of our coun­try, deny­ing the right to be for­got­ten here.


El Dere­cho a Ser Olvi­dado No Tiene Lugar en Esta­dos Unidos

El dere­cho a ser olvi­dado —el dere­cho de los usuar­ios de Inter­net a solic­i­tar que los motores de búsqueda elim­i­nen de los resul­ta­dos de búsqueda los vín­cu­los a infor­ma­ción desac­tu­al­izada o ver­gonzosa sobre sí mis­mos— está una vez más en los tit­u­lares europeos. Recien­te­mente, a con­se­cuen­cia de un fallo ante­rior de un tri­bunal de jus­ti­cia europeo según el cual los indi­vid­uos tienen el dere­cho de pedir que los motores de búsqueda elim­i­nen los enlaces a infor­ma­ción en línea “inade­cuada, irrel­e­vante o no per­ti­nente” sobre sí mis­mos, los jue­ces y reg­u­ladores europeos han pedido a Google y otros motores de búsqueda aplicar el dere­cho a ser olvi­dado alrede­dor del mundo, inde­pen­di­en­te­mente del país del bus­cador y de donde se real­iza la búsqueda. Sin embargo, el Con­sejo Asesor que designó Google para inves­ti­gar el tema, ha recomen­dado que Google lim­ite su respuesta a los ser­vi­cios de búsqueda enfo­ca­dos a Europa especí­fi­ca­mente, como google.fr (uti­lizado en Fran­cia) y google.de (usado en Ale­ma­nia), y que no la aplique fuera de la Unión Euro­pea. El mismo Con­sejo, en un nuevo informe, encon­tró que hay “un interés con­flic­tivo de parte de los usuar­ios fuera de Europa por acceder a la infor­ma­ción medi­ante una búsqueda basada en el nom­bre de con­formi­dad con las leyes de su país, que pueden estar en con­flicto con la opción de elim­i­nación ofre­cida por la sen­ten­cia”. La ADL está de acuerdo con su recomendación.

En noviem­bre pasado la Liga Antid­ifamación adoptó una posi­ción política según la cual “las per­sonas no deberían tener el dere­cho a que los enlaces a infor­ma­ción vieja o ver­gonzosa sobre sí mis­mos sean elim­i­na­dos de los resul­ta­dos de búsqueda en Inter­net”. Hac­erlo equiv­al­dría a aplicar un bis­turí a libros de la bib­lioteca, per­mi­tiendo a la gente arran­car de los archivos públi­cos cosas sobre sí mis­mos que sim­ple­mente no les gus­tan. El Dere­cho a Ser Olvi­dado podría per­mi­tir, por ejem­plo, que un supremacista blanco bor­rara todos los ras­tros de su his­to­ria de retórica intol­er­ante antes de pos­tu­larse para car­gos públi­cos, negando al público la posi­bil­i­dad de tomar una decisión com­ple­ta­mente informada.

Inter­net ha pro­por­cionado el mer­cado más grande y robusto de ideas en la his­to­ria, abriendo líneas de comu­ni­cación alrede­dor del mundo. Sin embargo, a medida que Inter­net acerca al mundo, los países deben ser con­scientes del impacto que sus leyes y reg­u­la­ciones tienen en otras partes del mundo. En Esta­dos Unidos, la Primera Enmienda pro­por­ciona garan­tías a la lib­er­tad de expre­sión mucho más fuertes que las leyes en Europa. Los esta­dounidenses y los motores de búsqueda con sede en Esta­dos Unidos deben seguir respetando las leyes y prin­ci­p­ios fun­da­cionales de nue­stro país, negando el dere­cho a ser olvidados.

 

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September 24, 2012 0

“Zionism” Blamed for Anti-Islam Film At Protests in Houston, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

Protests held in Hous­ton, Los Ange­les and Wash­ing­ton D.C. last Fri­day and Sat­ur­day accused Zion­ists of hav­ing a hand in the pro­duc­tion of the anti-Islam film, Inno­cence of Mus­lims.

The ral­lies, which were spon­sored by the Mus­lim Con­gress, a Shi’a orga­ni­za­tion founded in 2005, also fea­tured plac­ards and slo­gans accus­ing the Amer­ica and other West­ern nations of har­bor­ing dou­ble stan­dards regard­ing what con­sti­tutes free­dom of speech.

Sign at Mus­lim Con­gress protest in Houston

Pro­test­ers at the Hous­ton rally, which was co-sponsored by the Islamic Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter (IEC), a Houston-based Shi’a mosque and pri­vate school with a record of employ­ing stereo­typ­i­cal anti-Semitic nar­ra­tives in its pub­li­ca­tions, held a ban­ner that read: “Insult of Islam = Free­dom of Speech? Inquiry on Holo­caust= Anti­semitism? Dou­ble Stan­dards!” Pro­test­ers also chanted slo­gans blam­ing Zion­ists for the film’s pro­duc­tion and held posters with “Yes to Moses, Yes To Jesus, Yes to Muham­mad, No to Zion­ism” writ­ten on them.

Although they were billed as “peace­ful protests” to “honor Divine Prophets, includ­ing Abra­ham, Moses, Jesus and Muham­mad,” a Mus­lim Con­gress press release issued after the events called the film “a by-product of a cul­ture cre­ated by … war-profiteers, and the Zion­ist lobby.”

The same release included a res­o­lu­tion call­ing for lim­its on free­dom of speech and asked for “all Amer­i­cans of faith [to] stand together against the plans of the Zion­ist to dis­unite us, as the Zion­ists respect nei­ther Judaism, Chris­tian­ity or Islam.”

The Mus­lim Con­gress has reg­u­larly fea­tured anti-Semitic speak­ers such as Abdul Alim Musa of the extrem­ist As-Sabiqun group and Moham­mad al-Asi at its annual conventions.

Sim­i­lar to the protest in Hous­ton, pro­test­ers in front of the Los Ange­les Fed­eral Build­ing held up posters denounc­ing the film and blam­ing the vio­lence seen in sev­eral Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries on Zion­ism. One poster read, “Yes to Torah, Yes to Bible, Yes to Quran, No to Zionism.”

PressTV, the Iran­ian government’s pri­mary medium for pro­mot­ing anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries to English-speaking coun­tries, described the Los Ange­les protest as a reac­tion to the anti-Islam film pro­duced “thanks to Jew­ish dona­tions total­ing USD five million.”

The false claim that the film was the work of an “Israeli Jew” ini­tially spread when the film­maker said in inter­views that his project had 100 Jew­ish back­ers who had invested $5 mil­lion to pro­duce it. It was later revealed that the film was cre­ated, pro­duced and pro­moted by sev­eral Chris­t­ian anti-Muslim activists con­nected to a net­work of anti-Muslim organizations.

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