Saying anything about Israel’s misbehavior can send you to jail.
There have recently been a number of incidents that would be of interest if one has concerns about the sorry state of free speech in Europe and the United States, the so-called “democracies” who tend to boast about their freedoms and the rights of their citizens. The chosen weapon in the US and elsewhere in the Anglo-sphere has been the designation “hate speech” which also covers “hate writing,” “possessing hate literature or films,” and even “hate thinking.” In Europe, where “hate speech” is often referred to using the English words, the expression is often preceded by the word “illegal” to make sure that the point about consequences is made and the potential penalty is clearly understood. Some Europeans have in fact been convicted and sent to prison when they have falsely believed they were exercising free speech.
Though the “hate” designation was originally coined to discourage racist language and other forms of expression it has increasingly been exploited by Israel and its associated Jewish support groups to criminalize any criticism of Israel or of Jewish group behavior. It has extended its reach by moving into subsets, notably “holocaust denial” and “antisemitism” which are also regarded ipso facto as hate crimes in a context in which Jews are always regarded as victims, never as perpetrators of violence.
Much of what is going on might be described in fairly simple terms: Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and its unprovoked lethal attacks on its neighbors might reasonably be described as “deplorable” or even genocidal in the case of the Palestinians. Beyond that, Israel, which pretends to be a democracy, operates a system of control over the Christian and Muslim minority within its own borders and also in the area it illegally occupies that is describable as “apartheid,” where the minority is compelled to accept limited resources and consistently harsh treatment from the dominant Jewish population. More to the point, the extremist government coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made the situation even worse for those non-Jews that it controls, with talk of introducing mass expulsions and imprisonments. The death toll of Palestinians at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces has also been going up, with more than 150 Palestinians killed this year, including 26 children.
To be sure, Israel has become a home for Jews that can no longer tolerate anyone else. Some ministers in the new government are particularly vile in their views but it is to be assumed that Netanyahu and others in his administration are genuinely supportive of turning Israel into a truly and even exclusively Jewish state, which is in fact how it legally defines itself. The one minister most cited for his cruelty and racism is Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Jewish Power party. Ben-Gvir has been charged with crimes 50 times, and convicted on eight occasions, including once for support of a Jewish terrorist group. He is a former supporter of the now deceased right wing fanatic Meir Kahane, and, like Kahane, envisions an Israel that is as Palestinian free as possible and centered exclusively on Jewish interests. He has called for deporting Arabs who aren’t loyal to a Jewish Israel, annexing all of the West Bank and exercising full Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, where the Muslim venerated Al-Aqsa mosque is located. He supports legislation defying international agreements to “divide” the Al-Aqsa site to permit regular Jewish worshippers and there have even been suggestions that the Israeli government will seek to rebuild the so-called Biblical Second Temple, destroyed in the First Century by the Romans, in that location.
Ben-Gvir is notorious for his provocations directed against Palestinian Muslims and Christians. He has led marches of armed settlers flaunting Israeli flags through Arab quarters of cities and towns and has even brought settlers and other extremists to the al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan and to interrupt Friday prayers. To cap the irony, he has been since November 2022 the National Security Minister, which gives him authority over the police, to include the so-called Border Police as well as the police forces located on the illegally occupied West Bank. Indeed, as a practical matter, Ben-Gvir is seeking to have the Knesset pass legislation explicitly conferring legal immunity on all Israeli soldiers for any and all killings of Palestinians. He has also pressed the parliament to institute a formal, judicially administered death penalty for “terrorists”, which would mean any Palestinian who physically resists the Israeli occupation.
Another extremist who has obtained a major ministry in the Netanyahu government is Bezalel Yoel Smotrich who has served as the Minister of Finance since 2022. He has recently completed a controversial trip to the United States where he met with American Zionist leaders. Smotrich is the leader of the Religious Zionist Party, and lives in an illegal settlement in a house within the Israeli occupied West Bank that was also built doubly illegally outside the settlement proper. Smotrich supports expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank, opposes any form of Palestinian statehood, and even denies the existence of the Palestinian people. He demands a state judiciary that relies only on Torah and Jewish traditional law. Accused of inciting hatred against Arab Israelis, he told Arab Israeli lawmakers in October 2021, that “it’s a mistake that David Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and didn’t throw all of you out in 1948.”
The increasing brutality of the Israeli government and its security forces have produced a reaction among many observers worldwide, so the supporters of Israel have engaged in their own first strike frequently using the “hate crime” weapon. They have basically turned the hate crime legislation to their advantage by convincing many nations to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of the “hate crime” antisemitism to automatically include criticism of Israel as being equivalent to hatred of Jews. When that doesn’t work the powerful Israel lobby can also resort to much more brutal threats. When Iceland sought to make illegal infant circumcision five years ago, regarding it as genital mutilation performed on an unconsenting child, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) threatened to unleash Jewish power to destroy their economy and international reputation as punishment for making their country “inhospitable to Jews.”
Now that the “hate crime” genie together with the associated links to holocaust denial and antisemitism have been released from the bottle, they are being used regularly to silence anyone who even indirectly criticizes prominent Jews like George Soros. Conservatives including Tucker Carlson and Elon Musk have recently been on the receiving end of the antisemitism label after referring to Soros and his “Globalist” agenda. It is my belief that Tucker was fired at least in part due to Jewish pressure on FOX as he had been very critical of groups like the hysterical ADL and its hideous director Jonathan Greenblatt.
Roger Waters, the former lead singer of Pink Floyd, has emerged as a powerful critic of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. As a consequence, he has been hounded by authorities in Europe, has had his concerts canceled, and has been threatened with legal action to make him shut up. The Biden Administration’s antisemitism Czar Deborah Lipstadt has also attacked him, saying “I wholeheartedly concur with [an online] condemnation of Roger Waters and his despicable Holocaust distortion.” She was referring to a tweet stating that “I am sick & disgusted by Roger Waters’ obsession to belittle and trivialize the Shoah & the sarcastic way in which he delights in trampling on the victims, systematically murdered by the Nazis. In Germany. Enough is enough. Holocaust trivialization is criminalized across the EU.” The State Department, speaking for the White House, then piled on adding that Waters has “a long track record of using antisemitic tropes” and a concert he gave late last month in Germany “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust… The artist in question has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people.”
One might observe that the depiction of Waters is basically untrue – he is a critic of Israeli crimes against humanity but does not hate Jews. One might also add how the fact that the United States State Department actually has a Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism speaks for itself and tells you exactly who is in charge in Washington. I wonder how much it costs to run Lipstadt’s mouth from a no doubt well-appointed office in Foggy Bottom each year? Maybe someone should do a cost/benefit analysis and give Debbie her walking papers.
Beyond that, several other recent stories show how it all often works in practice to confront and silence critics. Swedish pop star Zara Larsson is facing what is obviously a coordinated backlash on social media after criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. In an Instagram message to her 6.3 million followers, the 23-year-old declared the ongoing cross-border violence, which is killing mostly Arabs, was a “crime” against Palestinians. Her effort to be somewhat even handed was ignored, in the message, which she later deleted, where she wrote “We have to stand up for Jewish people all over the world facing anti-Semitic violence and threats, but we must also call out a state upholding apartheid and KILLING civilians, funded by American dollars.” She ended the message with the hashtag “#freepalestine.”
Larsson was hardly calling for targeting Jews or anything like that, but the reaction to her comment was symptomatic of the typical overkill response engaged in by Israel and its friends whenever anyone challenges the standard narrative of Israeli perpetual victimhood. Two other instances of comments about Israel leading to an overwhelming response to punish the perpetrators took place during the past month in the United States at college commencement ceremonies. The first was on May 12th, at a graduation ceremony for the law school of the City University of New York (CUNY), where Fatima Mousa Mohammed, a Queens native who was selected by the graduating 2023 class to speak during the May 12 ceremony, praised CUNY for supporting student activism, citing in particular the acceptance of student groups protesting against Israel’s brutality towards the Palestinians. She said “Israel continues to indiscriminately rain bullets and bombs on worshippers, murdering the old, the young and even attacking funerals and graveyards, as it encourages lynch mobs to target Palestinians homes and businesses. As it imprisons its children, as it continues its project of settler colonialism, expelling Palestinians from their homes. Silence is no longer acceptable.”
The response to Mohammed was immediate, including a scathing news report in the New York Post, a call by several Jewish groups to cut funding to CUNY and demands that the law school dean be fired. And the controversy again made news when a second student spoke out at a commencement at El Camino community college in Torrance California. Jana Abulaban, 18, strongly criticized Israeli government policies during her speech on June 9th.
Abulaban, who was born in Jordan in a family of Palestinian refugees, reportedly felt “inspired” by the speech of Fatima Mousa Mohammed and she told the audience “I gift my graduation to all Palestinians who have lost their life and those who continue to lose their lives every day due to the oppressive apartheid state of Israel killing and torturing Palestinians as we speak.’’
There was, of course an immediate reaction to the Abulaban speech coming from a variety of West Coast and New York pro-Israel sources. Brooke Goldstein, a claimed human-rights lawyer founder of The Lawfare Project, said, “This is yet one more example of the systemic Jew-hatred we’re seeing on our college campuses. When a student gives a commencement speech targeting Jews, trafficking in modern tropes of antisemitism, it’s clear that there has been a complete failure in that school to promote social justice for the Jewish people. If any other minority group were targeted like this, there would be consequences for the bigot. The Jewish community deserves no less.”
Of course, both women only spoke the truth about what is happening in the Middle East. Neither attacked the Jewish religion or Jews per se and only criticized Israel’s appalling behavior. When I last checked, Israel was a foreign country with both foreign and domestic policies that are considered very questionable by most of the world, so why should it be protected from being challenged in the United States? The two women were brave to speak up as they did, surely knowing that they would be targeted by the Jewish state’s many friends and supporters. Those of us who continue to speak out on Israel’s genocidal policies can likewise expect no less, particularly as both the federal as well as many state governments and also the media are now on a witch hunt directed against those who seek to speak the truth. But we must persevere. As Fatima Mousa Mohammed put it, “Silence is no longer acceptable.”