US failure to conform to Western standards outlawing anti-Semitic hate speech results in violence, enablement of genocide

Where is the threshold between condemning Israel and affecting Jews?

Assistant Professor in the Practice of International Politics, Columbia University, Lincoln Mitchell, criticizes the progressive blogosphere community's anti-Semitism, cloaked in anti-Israelism - in The Shooting, Anti-Semitism and Blogging, which is published today, June 11, 2009, in the Huntington Post:
You can't have it both ways, expressing righteous indignation when a white supremacist attempts to shoot visitors to the Holocaust Museum, while no longer being startled by the suggestion that the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States as well as millions of hard working, tax paying and voting Americans somehow don't have America's best interest in mind and are disloyal to their country, because of their support for Israel. Nonetheless, these suggestions are made almost daily in the comments section of this website.

The notion that one can be critical of Israeli policy without being anti-Semitic is, of course, true. Many, if not most, American Jews are critical of various aspects of Israeli policy while being far from anti-Semitic. However, the logic of this must end somewhere because too often this truism is interpreted to mean that anti-Israel sentiment can never be anti-Semitic. When it is suggested that Jews are subverting or controlling American foreign policy, putting what is good for Israel ahead of what is good for the US, or hoodwinking good Christians into supporting Israel, the criticism is no longer targeted on Israel. While one can criticize Israel without being an anti-Semite, suggestions of Jewish conspiracies or that Jews are not loyal citizens cannot so easily be made without being anti-Semitic. Historically, these have been at the core of the very definition of anti-Semitism

It is not just criticism of Israel that is the issue here. It is the regularity with which, in these comments and elsewhere, virtually every foreign policy issue is related back to Israel and somehow the Jews are blamed. Some friends and I play a game with foreign policy blogs on the Huffington Post where we try to guess how long it will take before Israel or the Jews are mentioned. Usually this occurs by the tenth comment, regardless of the ostensible topic of the piece in question. This is an obsession that is not healthy and goes beyond simply garden variety criticism of Israel.

Obviously the people making those comments are not going out and trying to kill Jews, but it is both a symptom and a contributing cause of a climate which facilitates, and which will very possibly continue to facilitate, violence of the sort we saw Wednesday.

This is an issue which should be of concern to all of the readers, bloggers, commenters and others who consider ourselves part of the Huffington Post community. We are all guilty of something, possibly hypocrisy, neglect or moral cowardice when we let these comments go unanswered and then loudly condemn acts of violence targeted at Jews. The connection, while not direct, is real. Those of us who call ourselves progressives have a special responsibility to speak out against bigotry in all forms, even when it starts out as being against Israel and seeps into anti-Semitism.

The author of Hitler's Willing Executioners (and son of a Holocaust survivor) Daniel Goldhagen explains how easily self-identifyingly moral people can evolve to tolerate - even commit - genocide. At the Los Angeles Holocaust Day Memorial in April, he relates first-hand interiews with contemporary genociders and genocide victims which he uncovered for his upcoming book, "Worse than War," being released as a PBS documentary in August.

"Hate speech or free speech? What much of West bans is protected in U.S." by Adam Liptak. Published in the NY Times, Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Canada, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France.

Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

"It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken," Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, "when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack."

Waldron was reviewing "Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment" by Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist. Lewis has been critical of attempts to use the law to limit hate speech.

But even Lewis, a liberal, wrote in his book that he was inclined to relax some of the most stringent First Amendment protections "in an age when words have inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism." In particular, he called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court's insistence that there is only one justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence.

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