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Freedom of Speech or Sedition?

I am a ferverent supporter of freedom of speech; it is a right that is almost sacred in my book. After all, it is only in societies where one is allowed to criticize and critique, particularly those in power, where minority rights may be upheld. Yet, it is well known that in the United States, at least, that there are limits to this freedom. You may not shout “fire” in a crowded place without there being a fire. In addition, hate speech, in which one incites others to violence, is not covered by the First Amendment. However, I must wonder, where the rights and limits end; when the discussion is no longer about freedom of speech, but rather about treason and sedition.

Azmi Bishara, former head of Balad (one of the three Arab parties in Israel), is known to have been involved in “assisting the enemy in a time of war, [having]contacts with a foreign agent, and passing information to an enemy” (i.e. Hezbollah). Clearly his “speech” (i.e. conversations, messages, and such) with Hezbollah and Syria are not covered by his right to freedom of speech. But how about something slightly less severe? For example, what if you call for the destruction of your State, and publicly declare disloyalty to it? Is this freedom of speech or sedition? This is exactly what a new Knesset Member* from the Balad party has done.

Newly elected MK Haneen Zubai is in favor of Iran’s nuclear proliferation as a nuclear Iran would be able to effectively challenge the State of Israel (which would, also, help in the establishment of a Palestinian State, as she believes that a MAD-like confrontation in the Middle East would be beneficial to both the Palestinian cause and regional security at large). She has stated, “It would be more supporting me to have a counter-power to Israel.” Moreover, in the past she has given statements rejecting the concept of a Jewish State and expressed a disloyalty to it. “There is no logic in demanding that I be loyal to an idea to which I do not agree to begin with,” she says.

Zuabi has every right to call for the destruction of her country (as though in any other country in the region she would have that right), and even say that Iran’s nuclear proliferation aspirations are a good thing. But what is the next step? Bishara, as an MK, spoke at P.A., Syria, and Hezbullah rallies, where he would call for the destruction of the State of Israel; free speech, yet treason. It would appear that Zuabi is headed in the same direction. Furthermore, these people are not just citizens, the proverbial “man in the street.” Rather, these are Knesset Ministers, leaders of the nation, members of the government. So when does it end? At what point is it no longer freedom of speech, but rather sedition?

* kudos to Warren for pointing out my translation mistake! 🙂

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31 Comments

  1. Tom Morrissey

    4/1/2009 at 7:20 am

    Supporters of free speech say, “I support free speech.” Opponents say, “I support free speech, but…”

    The Constitution does not prohibit per se “hate speech” (a vernacular, not a legal, term), but rather a narrow class of so-called ‘fighting words’, “‘no words being ‘forbidden except such as have a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person to whom, individually, the remark is addressed'”, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 573 (1942) (citation omitted). US courts limit the fighting words doctrine to speech likely to cause imminent lawless action– as in, ‘let’s get together and lynch the mayor’.

    However, I can preach hatred til the cows come home. The greatness of the First Amendment lies in its protection of expression that most of us would find highly offensive.

  2. Warren

    4/1/2009 at 7:35 am

    What’s a Knesset Minister? When did Balad join the government”?

  3. Ezzie

    4/1/2009 at 9:45 am

    Tom – Israel is not the US. It also does not have the same “freedom of speech” as the US. It is shocking that MKs can be allowed to actively call for arms against a country.

    If such a thing happened in the US, yes, the Congress would put the person on trial for treason.

  4. Tom Morrissey

    4/1/2009 at 10:48 am

    In the US, criminal liability attaches to those who seek to overthrow the government by force or violence, or by assassination of a government official. It’s lawful to call for a change of the government via peaceful, non-violent means. Aiding external enemies is one thing, but what’s wrong with Zubai’s expressing her disagreement with the idea of a Jewish state?

    It’s admirable that Israeli democracy accommodates her point of view. And as a practical matter, how would Israel benefit from the Lieberman approach of requiring loyalty oaths of Israeli Arabs?

    In a country which is, after all, a Jewish state, and which denies Israeli Arabs some of the privileges of citizenship (e.g., that of serving in the armed forces), and– perhaps most significantly– lacks a founding document/ constitution and an attendant history of constitutional discourse, what would you guys do if you were Israeli Arabs?

  5. themicah

    4/1/2009 at 10:51 am

    I don’t think any of her quotes in that JPost article are treasonous. She is expressing a political opinion: that she thinks having a regional power that can counterbalance Israel would be a good thing. She’s not offering to help the Iranians achieve that power, nor is she promoting that the Iranians do anything to actually harm Israel.

    I happen to disagree strongly with her, but none of her words are designed to promote insurrection, or to aid Israel’s enemy in any overt way. While some other MKs in the past may have been treasonous, nothing she says in this article rises to that level.

  6. Ephraim

    4/1/2009 at 12:58 pm

    Bishara, Zubai, and everyone like them are traitors and by their words and deeds are offering aid and comfort to the enemy. As members of the government their words and actions are a threat to the continued existence of Israel. They should all be stripped of their citizenship and deported. Any political party that advocates the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state should also be banned.

    That also goes for any Jewish Israelis who advocate the destruction of their own country and who are actively working to make it happen.

  7. Tom Morrissey

    4/1/2009 at 1:27 pm

    Doesn’t that simply exacerbate tensions with Israeli Arabs?

  8. dahlia

    4/1/2009 at 2:34 pm

    Tom:
    a) if I say Johnny should die, and then you kill Johnny, am I not guilty of inciting violence? Am I not liable for his death? Balad calls for the dis-establishment of Israel as a Jewish State, making it only a democratic one. As such, there would be no reason to oppose the so-called “Palestinian Right of Return.” In this case, within 50 years tops, there would be nothing even close to a majority of Jews in the country, and the nation of Israel, as she defines herself, that as a homeland for the Jews, would be destroyed. Could one not argue that this is no different than calling for a military invasion?

    b) Arabs are not prohibbited from serving in the Israeli armed forces. The Druze do, as do some Bedoin tribes. The other Arabs are not required to do so. However, there is a fundemental difference as to not being required to do something and being prohibited from it. Just because many (most) Arabs chose not to join the IDF does not mean they are not allowed to.

    c) You are correct that Israel does not have a Constitution. However, it does have a set of Basic Laws. Israel’s High Court rules on things as being in the spirit of or against the Basic Laws (i.e. constitutional or unconstitutional). Further, I believe my friends who are studying law would be rather confused as to why they are taking classes of the history of High Court cases and studies of the Basic Laws, if Israel does not have a history of constituional discourse.

    d) I did not argue for Lieberman-esque types of laws. I simply posed a question as to where free speech ends and sedition begins, and used Zubai as a case study.

    Warren: the Knesset is the Israeli parlaiment. As such, a Knesset Minister is a Parlaiment Minister. Balad is a part of the opposition, clearly.

    Ephraim: Balad was banned, but the High Court overturned the banning saying that it went against the Basic Rights to ban the party. However, the fundemental problem I have with this is the hypocracy. Why should a party which calls for the destruction of its own state (Balad) be allowed to be part of the government, but a party which calls for the expulsion of some of its citizens (Kach) is ruled illegal for inciting racism? Either both parties should be allowed, or both parties should be disallowed.

  9. Ephraim

    4/1/2009 at 3:11 pm

    Well, if Israel is afraid of taking issue with what is the obvious treachery and sedition of the Arab Knesset members because they are afraid of”exacerbating” tensions with Israel’s Arabs, what does that say about the Arabs? That they support “their” representatives when they say “Israel should be destroyed”. If that’s how they feel, they should leave, and Israel should help them do it.

    There is no doubt that the Arabs in Israel, or a significant portion of them, anyway, are a fifth column. One day, Israel will have to deal with this. If I were an Arab in Israel, I probably wouldn’t like living in a Jewish country either. But, like Mick Jagger said, you can’t always get what you want.

    That’s why I think that it would be better for both Jews and Arabs if the Arabs left. Before everybody freaks out, I am NOT advocating expulsion by any means; if an Arab decides that he is OK living as an enfranchised minority in a predominantly Jewish state, fine, let him stay. After all, aren’t the advocates of the dissolution of Israel always pointing out how nice it was for the Jews when they lived under the protection of the Muslims for all those wonderful Golden Ages in Spain and whatnot and how great it would be if we went back to that? Well, so now the shoe’s on the other foot and Arabs are living as a minority in a Jewish state. There are worse things that could happen. Just ask the Arabs in Umm el Fahm, who go apeshit every time the dirty Zionists suggest that the border be redrawn so they can live in “Palestine” without moving an inch. They know which side of the pita the humus is on.

    But for those who can’t get down with that, there are other places they can go. Like Dearborn.

  10. Ephraim

    4/1/2009 at 3:15 pm

    Oh, yeah: what Dahlia said about Kach. Jews are such freyers. Ban the Jewish racists, but lean over backwards to let Arab racists into the government to show how liberal we are. Pathetic.

    Ban both or none.

  11. Grand Muffti

    4/1/2009 at 7:26 pm

    ” if I say Johnny should die, and then you kill Johnny, am I not guilty of inciting violence?”

    Only under very particular circumstances…and ones far more direct than anything that is being attributed to Balad.

  12. Ephraim

    4/1/2009 at 8:09 pm

    Ummmmm…..Muffti?

    Bishara is accused of spying for Hizballah and telling them where to aim their rockets during the last Lebanon fracas, among other things. The man is a traitor who actively aided the enemy in time of war and helped to kill Israeli citizens. He chose to flee Israel rather than stand trial. Taking it on the lam is pretty much an admission of guilt

    He should be extradited so he can get a fair trial, after which he should be stood up against a wall and shot.

  13. LB

    4/1/2009 at 8:13 pm

    Like Ezzie said, Israel does not have the same laws regarding freedom of speech as the US.

    “It’s admirable that Israeli democracy accommodates her point of view.” That is, in fact, not true. Section 33 of the Israeli Penal Code has two of relevant clauses.

    *144-B forbids language intended to incite acts of hatred or violence against parts of the population, on the basis of race or national origin.
    *144-D(2) forbids language in praise / in favor of violence against other people.

  14. dahlia

    4/2/2009 at 12:52 am

    Ephraim: I would like us to be careful not to generalize. The Druze in Israel have tied their lot to that of the Jewish nation. When Sheikh Tarif signed that treaty with Ben Gurion saying that the Druze will serve in the army and this hit people will not only live in, but fight for, the Jewish State of Israel, he knew that a) the Druze would have far more rights and opporunitites under a Jewish State than any other (as their religion prohibits a Druza state), but also b) that should Israel be defeated, that his people would be massacred. The other Arab states (i am hesitant to use the term nation), and in particular the people of Hamas-stan and Judea and Sumaria (the West Bank for those unfamiliar with the term), hate the Druze of Israel more than they hate the Jews because they see the Druze as traitors to their Arab bretheren. And they are Arabs. I have a very good friend who is Druze and he is proud of his country. While there is likely a fifth-column element in the State of Israel, I would be quite hesistant before I extended that to the Druze simply because they are Arabs.

    LB: is it your opinion that her words fall in either of the two categories that expressing a wish for s strong Iran and a disloyalty to the Jewish State is “intended to incite acts of hatered or violence” against anyone in Israel or that she is “in favor of violence?”

  15. LB

    4/2/2009 at 1:12 am

    dahlia – in general, yes, I think she intended to incite hatred and violence against Israel. However, she was very careful in her wording, and I do not believe that what she said here is grounds for prosecution.

    In any case, I thought it would be useful to provide some context, since the American version of freedom of speech (regardless of its virtues) does not apply here.

    Unfortunately, the AG has decided not to prosecute, or even investigate those who have broken the law, inciting violence against security forces even.

  16. noam

    4/2/2009 at 3:21 am

    Daglia

    These are two different cases: If Bishara is guilty of aiding the enemy in times of war – and that’s an “if” – he should stand to trail and face the consequences. Zuabi’s talking is totally legitimate. One can say that MAD will make the Middle East more stable. I don’t agree, but it is a legitimate theory. You should ask yourself would it made you jump if it was a Political Science Professor saying that, and not an Arab MK.

    One more thing: calling for Israel to be “a country for all its citizens” rather than a Jewish country is not the same as calling for the destruction of Israel.

  17. Tom Morrissey

    4/2/2009 at 3:35 am

    Dahlia, I don’t understand the logic behind the notion that a wholly secular democratic Israel requires implementing a Palestinian right of return. Poland and the Czech Republic are both democracies, yet Silesian and Sudeten Germans haven’t reclaimed their lands.

    From a purely realpolitik point of view, how does the status quo damage Israel? Arabs vote for their local representatives, who get to blow off steam in the Knesset. This is better than the obvious alternative, right?

    Finally– if the nature of Zionist democracy is a matter of debate and a work in progress for Israeli Jews, why can’t Israeli Arabs weigh in on the issue?

  18. dahlia

    4/2/2009 at 12:04 pm

    L.B.: I appreciate you’re weighing in and bringing in the relevant facts. I think they help enlighten our discussion. I was simply curious to read your thoughts on the matter.

    Noam:
    a)I agree that Bishara should stand trial. It’s a shame that he won’t return to Isael as he doesn’t want to be imprisoned. I believe he is currently in either Syria or Lebanon. His choice; Israel did not expell him.

    b)Actually, I think I might be more appalled if a Political Science Professor said it. I would be the most appalled if it was said by a Jewish MK.

    Tom Morrissey:
    a)I was unaware that either the Czech epublic of Poland had official state religions. If they do, then the comparison is clearly logical. However the key to the issue here is that one of the fundemental reasons for which Israel rejects the “Palestinian Right of Return” is based upon the fact that it would make a Jewish majority impossible, making no Jewish state. If Israel is not a Jewish State there are no grounds to reject this proposal (other than the obvious one that it took the Palestinians too long to file requests with the U.N., but you know as well as I do that this is a weak arguement).

    b) They are more than welcome to “blow off steam.” I don’t have to agree with it. I can, also, condemn it. I’m not advocating her arrest. I am, however, advocating a discussion of her statement. Or should I not be allowed a freedom of speech if it is used to criticize another’s?

  19. Tom Morrissey

    4/2/2009 at 12:22 pm

    Dahlia, Germans don’t get to return to Poland en masse not because Poland has/lacks a state religion, but because their departure in 1945 is a fait accompli. Similarly, and especially if they have their own state or are awarded compensation, Palestinians will have as much of an entitlement to Israel as the Canaanites.

    It’s Wroclaw, not Breslau, because a whole bunch of Poles live there. Similarly, Israel will always be a Jewish state because a lot of Jews live there. No one asks if Lithuania is a Lithuanian state, or Armenia an Armenian state.

    Nor is Israel the first or only state with a fairly small, though restive, national minority. Perhaps a difference set of decisions could’ve been taken in 1948. But Arabs are there to stay, right? If they choose to marignalize themselves by electing radicals who will never form part of the government, that’s their democratic choice, eh?

  20. Grand Muffti

    4/2/2009 at 12:54 pm

    Ephraim, agreed (generally). Muffti was just commenting on a purported analogy between a death wish uttered and a death compared to the claim that Israel should “[Balad calls for the] dis-establishment of Israel as a Jewish State, making it only a democratic one. As such, there would be no reason to oppose the so-called “Palestinian Right of Return.” ”

    The analogy seemed stretched massively. But spying against a country when you are int its government is most certainly treason.

  21. Ephraim

    4/2/2009 at 2:13 pm

    Dahlia, wasn’t talking about the Druze, or even the Beduin. I’m talking about the Arab citizens of Israel who insist that they are “Palestinians”. People who feel that way should get out of Israel and go live in “Palestine”.

    And Tom is right. If the “Palestinians” have a “right of return”, then the Sudeten Germans should be able to go back to the Sudetenland. Of course, they don’t have that right, and they’re not going back. They willingly cooperated with Hitler (or were used by Hitler) in his destabilization and eventual invasion of Czechoslovakia. After Hitler was defeated, the Czechs, quite understandably, kicked them out. The situation with the “Palestinians” is exactly analogous. They helped the Arab sates in their attempted destruction of Israel and they paid the price. End of story.

    The people who support the “Palestinian” “right of return” (which has never been a “right” for any other group of refugees anywhere or at any time) do so precisely because they believe that the Jews are usurpers in “Palestine” and do not have a right to their own country.

    I mean, what was Czechoslovakia, anyway? Another gerrymandered “nation” that has now naturally devolved into its constituent parts, just as has Yugoslavia, another phony “country”. Yet people once thought that these places were legitimate, genuine countries. Israel is far more real than either of those places.

  22. dahlia

    4/2/2009 at 4:48 pm

    Tom Morrissey: to clarify your point, you do not believe that the “Palestinians” have any more of a “right of return” to Israel as do the Germans to Poland, correct? If this is your stance, then I agree with you entirely. However, I do not believe that this point is contingent upon the existence of a Palestinian state (Ephraim, I am referring to one other than Jordan, of course), but rather based on the fact that those who flee or are expelled do not have a right of return (and in particular, even if they did, their grandchildren or their great-grandchildren certainly do not bare this same right). However, as you have likely noticed, the Palestinian peace negotiators still keep this as an important thing to achieve. With regards to the right sof the minority, of course I believe they have the right to a democratic voice. I, also, have the right to disagree with their extremist statements.

    Ephriam: I agree completely.

  23. Tom Morrissey

    4/2/2009 at 7:28 pm

    As a matter of negotiating strategy, the Palestinians would be crazy to give up the ‘right of return’, and Israel makes a mistake in trying to make that a precondition for negotiations. In the end Palestinians will receive some form of (EU/US-funded) compensation for giving the right up, which will wnable refugees to settle in the new Palestinian state…. So when that happens in 2035, remember you heard it here first.

  24. themiddle

    4/2/2009 at 8:29 pm

    Israel has not made that a precondition for negotiations. In Camp David and at Taba, there was discussion and proposals regarding Palestinian refugees. According to the Israeli negotiators, they offered and received tacit consent, that the Palestinians may “return” original refugees (as in, the real ones and not their children or grandchildren) to Israel in proportion to the number of such refugees that had been absorbed by other Western countries.

    In addition, Israel proposed an international fund into which it would contribute handsomely of $30 billion dollars to be given to the Palestinians for “reparations.”

  25. Ephraim

    4/2/2009 at 9:57 pm

    Tom, that’s what any reasonable person would think.

    But the “Palestinians” aren’t reasonable. They do not desire to build a state because they are not a people. The professional “Palestinians” are just a front organization for the destruction of Israel under the guise of a phony nationalism.

    I mean, look at the Fatah vs. Hamas situation. By simply pretending to negotiate with Israel, Fatah has lost its legitimacy as the “sole representative of the Palestinian people” to Hamas. Why? Because Hamas doesn’t even make a pretense of desiring peace. Since all of the “Palestinian” organizations are fronts for other actors (e.g., Syria and Iran) they will do what their masters tell them to do, which is to not negotiate with Israel, all the while making up a story that the lack of peace is Israel’s fault. It will always be like this, since the “right of return” is part of a strategy, not a tactic.

    The “Palestinian cause” has never been about helping the Palestinians. It has always been about destroying Israel. The ascent of Hamas makes that crystal clear: Hamas doesn’t stand for “Palestinian” nationalism; indeed as part of the Muslim brotherhood, they specifically disavow any such thing as “Arab nationalism” since it goes against their desire for a unitary caliphate. That goes double for the bogus idea of “Palestinian” nationalism. It’s just a mask they wear to fool stupid Westerners.

    Israel should donate to some sort of reparations fund after the Arabs pay back what they stole from the Jews, with compound interest. Israel should come out about a bazillion dollars ahead on that exchange.

  26. noam

    4/3/2009 at 3:08 am

    Dahila,

    I think You missed my second point. What I’m saying is that Zuabi made an observation. She didn’t call Iran to bomb Israel. She just said that WMD on both side will make the area more stable. I disagree, but I don’t see why her statement is Illegitimate.

  27. Ephraim

    4/3/2009 at 3:31 am

    Noam, that might make sense if the Iranians were sane, which they are not. Iran has stated that they intend to nuke Israel. Any Israeli who thinks it’s cool for a bunch of anti-Semitic apocalyptic Muslim fruitcakes to have the Bomb obviously wants Israel to be nuked. Such a person should not be in the Knesset. She may sound reasonable, but the only problem with that is that she is obviously lying.

    It’s really sort of like a Jew saying he has no problem with the Nazis getting the bomb.

    Yes, I think the Iranian government is just as bad as the Nazis, at least in their intentions. Let us hope and pray they don’t get the means to do what they have said they will do if they gt the chance.

    Oh, BTW, Israel is no threat to Iran insofar as Iran doesn’t threaten Israel. The reverse cannot be said.

    Not with a straight face, anyway.

  28. Warren

    4/4/2009 at 1:55 pm

    The Knesset is indeed the Israeli parliament, but it is made up of “Members of Knesset”. There is no position called “Knesset Minister”, not in Hebrew, nor in English.

    The Cabinet, on the other hand, is composed of ministers.

    While most ministers are usually also Members of Knesset and there are an awful lot of them right now (29 are MK’s only one is not), most MK’s are not, and no MK’s from the opposition are.

    Zubai is a Member of Knesset, not a minister.

  29. dahlia

    4/5/2009 at 2:09 am

    Warren: well done. i have fixed it in the article and given you credit for it. thanks!

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