Thursday, February 15, 2007

Muzzling dissent, "progressive" style

There has been quite a bit of bandwidth taken up lately regarding creating "an open atmosphere for debate about US-Israeli foreign policy".

Yet just days ago, Daniel Pipes, Middle Eastern author and historian was, in effect "muzzled" at U.C. Irvine, and it was largely ignored by the mainstream media, the alternate progressive press, and by blogs dedicated to "creating an open atmosphere" about this issue. There were no links to youtube videos, no transcripts of the Muslim Student Association students declaring "it's just a matter of time before the state of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth", no reactions of the audience who bought tickets and traveled miles to see this speaker.

In San Francisco, Elie Weisel was not only pressured and intimidated - he was assaulted. Ultimately he did not make his scheduled appearance at a local conference.

There are many ways to suppress open debate. Threats, intimidation, heckling, and disruption in the name of free speech are simply a way to silence opposition. Why are these techniques of muzzling dissent acceptable to otherwise progressive thinkers? Why is there silence, rather than condemnation when these "techniques" appear in our communities and our classrooms??

It was a dark day in Berkeley, home of the free speech movement when six years ago a protest lead by Jewish Voice for Peace and the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance, among others, prevented former Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking at a local venue. One of the organizers, Penny Rosenwasser later wrote "what a great victory, to let him know his voice is not welcome here!" It is incredibly hypocritical to insist not only that YOUR voice be heard where it's not invited, but that voices that disagree with you can't even be heard at all--anywhere- - by those who want to hear them. Those who disagree with us (on the modest proposition that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state) get to spread their anti-Israel venom in many different public venues, including many institutions of higher learning. Yet they seem so afraid to allow a dissenting viewpoint to be heard-- anywhere.

To Ms. Rosenwasser and to the Muslims Students Association at U.C. Irvine, and to any others they feel their voice should be heard at the expense of others: It is not a great victory to silence dissent. The hypocritical and one-sided silencing of dissent makes me wonder- what are they so afraid of? Is it the truth?

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
-Noam Chomsky


  1. Apparently censorship still thrives in Berkeley, California:

    I found this reference here, of all places:

    From the forest itself comes the handle for the axe Says:

    It was a classic “pot calling the kettle black” moment.

    On Sunday evening, Feb. 4th, I set up a small table outside the Berkeley Jewish Community Center, with stamped postcards, reminding
    Secretary of State Rice of the importance of remembering the young soldiers of the IDF, kidnapped by Hamas and Hezbollah. Inside the BJCC was a fund-raiser for Rabbis for Human Rights, sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace and Women in Black. The attendees of the fund-raiser were quite responsive to concerns regarding the Israeli soldiers, deprived of their human rights under the Geneva convention. After all, the mitzvah of Pidyon Shvuyim, freeing the captives, has always been a high priority in Jewish society. Dozens of postcards were signed. However, I was extremely disheartened when a BJCC employee came out and told me that the organizers of the fund raiser wanted me to leave.
    Are the divisions within our community so insurmountable that we can’t all agree that the mitzvah of freeing the captives is relevant and important to us all? Perhaps the progressives who have expressed concerned about the silencing of voices in the Jewish community should look no further than among their own ranks. How could they justify the “muzzling” of someone on a public sidewalk?

    Why are these groups so afraid of any expression of support for Israel?

  2. I am glad to see this piece on BlueTruth. Obviously, I'm sorry to know how true this is.

    Some weeks ago I was at the SF JCC, the speaker was an Israeli official, I think the local consul.

    The talk was interrupted repeatedly by a group of individuals, obviously previously coordinated to stand up individually at timed intervals, shouting the standard anti-Israel lies.


    Personally, I have seen anti-Israel activists try to stop speakers that attempt to represent the pro-Israel side. They just don't want this side to be heard.