The Limits of Free Speech 67

In a world where individual freedoms are held light, this blog values freedom of speech higher than is currently fashionable. I do not believe that freedom should apply only to views I agree with.

The Israeli attack on Gaza is unconscionable. It is wildly disproportionate and plainly the attacks on schools yesterday were only the most blatant examples of Israel’s continual breaches of the laws of warfare – war crimes. But it is only an episode in the terrible ethnic cleansing and destruction of the Palestinian people by the Israelis who have stolen their land.

Let me say it loud and clear. I do not believe in Israel’s right to exist. It is a militarised, evil entity founded on a racist premise and a lot of religious hokum. It shuld be replaced by a single, secular state in which the Palestinians are free to live, and in which they receive either their stolen lands or genuine equivalent financial compensation, in either case plus damages.

I shall be attending Saturday’s demonstration from Hyde Park. I needed some new shoes anyway.

I have not deleted a single pro-Israeli comment from discussion on these pages, though I disagree profoundly with many. I have deleted three anti-Jewish comments. I should make it plain that I am in profound disagreement with those commenters who conflate Israel with Jews in general. We have had commenters excusing anti-Jewish comments on the grounds Jews are not a race, and positing claims of a world conspiracy of Jews and freemasons. I have only deleted three of these, because in general I believe the suppression of any opinion to be an evil which requires major justification. I find it hard to define the exact line which leads to deletion.

The great John Stuart Mill said it was legitimate to express the opinion that all corn merchants are thieves of the people’s bread; but it was not legitimate to shout the same thing to a howling mob at night carrying torches outside a corn merchant’s house. He was, as ever, right.

So almost any opinion can be expressed here. But I would be grateful if those people who have a serious grudge against Jews in general, would go and express their views on their own websites.


Michael has overstepped the mark by a posting about “Jews with their Satanic Smirks” (long overdue yellow card) and then introducing the Protocols of Zion (automatic red card offence). All of his 31 comments have therefore been deleted.

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67 thoughts on “The Limits of Free Speech

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  • George Dutton

    "But I would be grateful if those people who have a serious grudge against Jews in general, would go and express their views on their own websites"

    Or better still NOT express them at all.

  • Tristan

    I think Mill was wrong, it is perfectly legitimate to express that view whenever you like – you hold no responsibility for other people's actions.

    Also, the state has no place placing an injunction against shouting 'Fire' in a crowded theatre. However, it is reasonable for the theatre owners to make it a condition for entry that you shall not do that (in our society it is probable that it need not even be explicitely stated – the assumption being that it is verboten unless explicitely stated that it is allowed).

  • Craig


    I don't think that is true. If you deliberately incite someone to an action there is a measure of guilt. Lady Macbeth was guilty!

    Actually you are free to express almost any view on this site, except the view that John Stuart Mill was wrong about anything.

  • George Dutton


    When we pay a visit to the bottom of our hearts we find there the things that are known to be the ultimate truth.

    Craig is speaking the ultimate truth.

    You would do well to pay that place a visit.

    Sadly many never go there.

  • Craig


    That's very kind, but I don't think I know the ultimate truth. Honest and informed views, yes.

  • john

    It's hard to say any country has a "right" to exist, however it is a clever linguistic trick to make this a supposed premise of any negotiation.

    Countries exist due to a balance of potential force of arms and mutual recognition. Humans as social animals recognise that limiting superficial self interest is better in the long run. Israel has failed to understand this, following only the dictates of what it perceives to be its interests, which have left it in a position where it is both disliked and distrusted by its neighbours and increasingly the rest of the world. A little more intelligence would show a more secure path.

  • Antipholus Papps

    the assumption being that it is verboten unless explicitely stated that it is allowed)

    Are you posting from Scotland Tristan? Because in Common Law countries like England and Wales, the exact opposite is the basis of our liberty – that you are free to do anything unless explicity stated that it is forbidden!

  • lwtc247

    Bashing of Jews because they are Jews is simply wrong, but there is an unaddressed issue here. It is an issue amongst others which never gets a fair hearing.

    Should an honest and intellectual debate be in danger of breaking out, up pops the Ziobrigade flicking their slurrs left right and centre in the attempt to, usually successfully, the collapse and ruin of peoples lives. Something in more ways than one they are unsurpassed masters – as any Palestinian will tell you.

    The problem is that Israyhell is the physical expression of Zionism (a sickening philosophy if ever I heard one) and large amounts of self declared Jews lend support to Israyhell because it they believe it is just the political side of Judaism (which it most certainly isn't) and therefore, God will be pleased with them for supporting it. The Christian Zionists hold similar ideas.

    Subscription to the Israyhell is also based on a lack of critical thought, wanting to belong to a strong and powerful 'body' as well as the easily induced or manipulated feeling to unite after the suffering of WW2. Not forgetting the distortions of their religion scribed by very human Rabbis each subject to the shortcomings of all humans, some ideas being supremacist hate and oppressive/exploitative of usury to the Gentiles (why Jesus went amok berserk with the money changers). Jewish history itself explains their past rebelliousness against God, characterised by the two twice over destruction of the temple, the exile and oppression in Babylon and when the Rabbi's plotted against Jesus who threatened their power monopoly.

    But these Zionist Jews are highly secular. Quite a number of them eat pork, Some russian Jewish immigrants work on pig farms. In other words they themselves dont understand or have any intention to follow Judaism in any way other than some wish-washy fashion, kind of similiar to many Christians in the UK.

    Nobody with half an atoms worth of intelligence can look at Israyhell today and say that "That's God's country in action that is". The Zionist scum are not the least bit religious, in fact the hate the Jews, calling Jews who reject Zionism as self hating Jews. Funny how no one ever calls that Zionist slurr anti-Semitic. Humm…

    'Jew' has therefore become synonymous with 'Zionist'. I do think the distinction should be made, and I'm careful to do so myself, but gien what I've just said, it's hardly surprising and understandable how such a thing has come about.

    Some knowledgeable practicing Jews reject Israyhell and also, some Muslims long for the Israel of old – the real Israel – that of Solomon and David – the Monotheistic prophets who command respect of Muslim, Christian and Jew alike.

    The solution most certainly isn't a secular state, the solution is a single state that the inhabitants want! I speculate it's a theocracy, with Islam overseeing the region while protecting and offering assurances for Jews and Christians to remain in practice their faith according to their established rituals of worship. That's the solution.

    Imposing secularism reminds me of British meddling of old. When will we ever respect what the people themselves want.

    Land must be returned to those from whom it was stolen. Sorry children of thieves. Your 'inheritance' has no claim – ongoing injustice cannot be whitewashed. Once the land has been returned THEN the Palestinians can decide to sell it legitimately if they so desire. Those war criminals face trial for their horrific acts of butchery.

    There. It has been said… Who'll be the first ridiculous idiot to call me an anti-Semite or a holocaust denier… Come on… I'm waiting…

    Israel's Right to Exist and Defend Itself ?" on Stepiblog

  • Craig


    These land issues are not unique to Israel. There is a parallel situation in Cyprus, for example and the question of incoming settlers in traditional greek or turkish land.

    Wholesale reverse ethnic cleansing is not possible, or humanitarian. In practice, there has to be a degree of return and a degree of compensation. These are complex issues. But the answer can't involve kicking millions of Israelis out of the lands currently comprising Israel. They have to be part of a new secular state.

  • lwtc247

    I agree. Cyprus is also a problem. The Turks should pull out. I half suspect their aggression was tolerated as it was useful to the manefestation of a 'strategy of tension' in the region as well as something to provide a rallying point for the Turks.

    Australia… Cede control to the Aboriginees – TODAY. Then ask them if what you can do as a citizen in their land.

    Same for North America, return large swathes of North America to the 'indigenous peoples' and so on…

    Why not?

  • writerman

    Much as reversing time is an interesting idea I don't think, apart from in science fiction, that it has much practical application in the real world. Israel is where it is, as are the Israelis/Jews, and they are highly unlikely to be moving anywhere, anytime soon.

    Ripping Israel out of the Middle East, or wiping it off the map, is not only undesirable, it's also a fantasy and counterproductive in the extreme. Any country with two to three hundred nuclear warheads and the ability to deliver them anywhere in the region, especially when its neighbours have none, is a very powerful adversary indeed, and that's without factoring in the American nuclear garantees to Israel.

    One can of course argue that the creation of Israel was in itself an attempt to 'reverse history' or 'time' and create a Jewish state where one probably never existed in the first place, at least not for two thousand years. So basing a modern state on a fantasy version of history and sanctioned by a fantasy deity on top of that, is doubly absurd, only going to show how frighteningly powerful nationalist mythology really is when given its head.

    Perhaps a 'solution' to the Middle East crisis would be to create a version of the European Union in the region, as place where citizens where 'loyal' to money and capitalism, not religion and nationalism. On balance I'd prefer this to endless destruction and bloodshed. Israel would slowly evolve from a piece of grit in the Arab oyster into a valuable pearl, rich and secure. Of course this would mean Israel giving up the 'dream' of militant/militeristic Zionism in favour of integration into the Middle East as just another minority group. This may seem 'unrealistic' though personally I think it's preferable to the prospect of eternal war and the nightmare of attempting to destroy everyone who doesn't bow to the ideology of militant Zionism and the primacy of Israel as the regions dominant power.

  • Craig


    Well, Cyprus is more complex than that. The problem started when a Greek Cypriot leadership tried unilaterally to declare union with a Greek military dictatorship, and commenced massacring Turks.

    The Turkish army was quite right to invade. They were wrong to stay.

    Why not? Because it's daft. Humans have been migratory throughout history. Where do you draw your arbitrary date to decide who should be where? 50, 100, 200, 1000, 2000 years ago?

    it's a serious question. The Zionist answer is 3000 years ago, for example. The true answer is that any answer is mad. Shall we move Poland East again? The basic starting point must be that people now are where they are.

  • ken

    Craig, Is this OK for a comment? Heard on the radio this morning. Prof Steven Rose was being interviewed about the need for more people to donate their brains to science on their death. BBC Radio 4:

    Prof Steven Rose: One of the most exciting areas we've got is the new windows into the brain given by the imaging techniques. We all know those marvellous false-colour pictures, they're supposed to show, for example, spots in the brain associated with moral conscience . I must say I'd be very interested to know whether those spots of moral conscience have completely disappeared from the Israeli cabinet…..

    Evan Davis: (Cough) Well, (embarrased laughter) well, let's leave that one aside. Erm, but as you say, this whole territory is just beginning to be explored.

    Prof Steven Rose: Yes it is. Neuroscience is probably the hottest area of research in biology ……….. etc.

    Well, driving through the South London traffic this morning I nearly went up the kerb as I thought of taking my hands off the wheel to applaud him. And to be fair to the BBC, I half expected the comment to be removed from their "Listen again" feature on their website, but no, the interview is all intact, so hats off to the BBC for once.

    No doubt the good Professor now has a mailbag bursting with vitriolic hate mail so I sent him an email of support via the Open University. Others may be minded to do the same. Well done to him.

  • writerman

    Freedom of speech – one each!

    A chap I briefly met over Christmas at a party draws cartoons for a living. He draws pretty well though his politics are useless and he's not exactly the sharpest knife in the draw.

    Over the last few years he's become rather famous/infamous, as have a couple of his cartoons, so famous he's under police protection and there's a price on his head.

    We have a chat about freedom of speech and censorship as we were standing by the buffet. I couldn't resist it, as real people have been killed because of what he drew, though, not being all that smart I don't believe he knew for a minute the trouble his silly cartoons would cause. I know I would never have drawn them myself.

    I mentioned that absolute freedom of speech didn't actually exist in my opinion, and I'd been warned specifically not to call the leader of a 'facist' party a 'facist' because this would be judged as slander by the courts. To my surprise the cartoonist replied that when he started working for the 'facist' paper who started the whole mess in the first place, he'd been given total freedom to draw whatever he wanted – apart from cartoons about President Reagan, God and erotica! I wasn't surprised.

    What surprised me was that he repeated this story a couple of weeks later in an interview in the press, but like I said he isn't very bright or particularly sophisticated. I doubt he even remembers me, as I tend to keep a rather low profile between outbursts.

  • writerman

    I think nationalism, or industrial strength tribalism, is a very dangerous social phenomenon indeed. I've lost members of my family to it. A granny and three aunties in a ditch with bullets in the back of their heads, just for starters! Then there's the Austrian estate and the beaufiful country house that should be mine! Talk about unfair, what a view I could have had from my study! Though I suppose the tribe my ancestors took the Carpathian valley from in the 11th century might see things differently!

    The point of all this is that I despise nationalism and what it can lead to. To me nationalism and it's mythology disgusts me. In the last hundred years alone my large European and now African family has been a real mongrel. English, Scottish, Irish, German, Polish, Danish, French, Swedish, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Malian… what a bunch, what flag am I supposed to fight for, who cares!

  • amk

    lwtc247 "Imposing secularism reminds me of British meddling of old. When will we ever respect what the people themselves want."

    If you have differences of religious opinion in an area, you will have secularism or you will have conflict. Palestine has for centuries included Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews. There are likely many further subdivisions of each.

    France, Belgium, US and others are secular precisely as a reaction to religious disputes.

    Craig, how would you propose dealing with the West Bank settlements? How do you expect the Israelis and Palestinians to trust each other enough to share a state?

    I agree that a one state solution is optimal, but as far as I can see only a two state solution based on the 1967 boundary, in accordance with international law, is the best that can be reasonably expected.

  • mary

    @Ken 12.56pm

    Very good.Thanks for that. One error – it was the NuLabour conduit, Mr Naughtie, doing the interviewing and not Evan Davis.

  • amk

    lol@michael getting banned.

    There is of course a difference between the right to free speech, and an entitlement to use Craig's megaphone.

    Still, a banning policy declared up front would be appreciated, if time to write it could be found.

  • George Dutton

    "Free Speech"

    I wish the BBC had some.

    Wednesday, January 07, 2009

    "How the BBC Newsnight and Today programmes unquestioningly help peddle Israeli lies"…

    06 January, 2009

    "BBC blackout on Gaza"…

    "Breaking Through the News Filter"…

    Kirsty Wark (friend of many New Labour MPs, goes on holidays with them) on Newsnight said that it's all a matter of incompetence with New Labour. No mention of corruption on planning application etc etc. So the truth is it's all about incompetence according to Newsnights Kirsty Wark and thats all she could say about what has happened so that is what she and the BBC want us all to believe. Problem is many will.

    "If Kirsty and Jack thought Majorca was hot"…

    "Wark faces new probe threat over film"…

    "TV's Wark paid herself £200,000 as firm made loss of £1m"…

    Ah Paxman…

  • amk

    "The only statement I care to make about the Protocols is that they fit in with what is going on. They are 16 years old, and they have fitted the world situation up to this time." – Henry Ford

    I assume you mean a later comment?

  • ingo

    It is my view that a right to existence in a world community, regardless of borders that still exist, on the map or in our moral inaptitudes, in a world increasingly dependent on each other, cannot be granted by birthright or some 2000 year old possible existence in some place, but has to be earned by humane, peacefull interactions that amrk us out as intelligent, a human trait too easily assumed, but as yet only achieved by some.

  • George Dutton

    "Her opponents, however, should take some comfort that, apparently, no senior individuals within the local party have been disciplined for their "dissent". . . a punishment which Ms Moffat was understood to favour."…

    "a punishment which Ms Moffat was understood to favour."

    How New Labour off her.

  • Craig


    to describe the cramped internment camp that is Gaza, plus the still much occupied and separated West Bank, as a "State" is a laughable con.

  • lwtc247


    Interesting choice of words that: 'reversing time'. Where did that come from? Introduced by your good self no less. The impossible, quack-pot construct wasn't thrown out there to try and discredit the natural justice of rightfully returning what was brutally stolen from the Palestinians is it?

    And what's with this "Wiping it off the map" business? What does that mean? Why introduce that novel collection of words into the pot?

    I suggest you read some history about the prophets Solomon and David before you say the Jewish state never existed. Unless you call all history 'fantasy'

    As for scrapping the godless, stolen fake state of Zion, IMO it would be the most significant step towards world peace we would witness in our lifetime, and God knows the suffering, scarred Palestinians would certainly welcome it. On that basis alone, it has merit. Why don't you allow for their (the Palestinians) desires and what are your reasons for saying it would be counterproductive? – How so?

    If you read what I said saying, you might have come across the notion Israyhell isn't a religious state at all. It's a secular zone of occupation that delivers insincere platitudes to a religion that's been turned into plasticine.

    Don't believe in God, fine. But the people there – the Palestinians do. As do the many Jews there who are duped into supporting Israyhell under false pretences. And of course the Christians do too.

    And I reject the way to try and tie nationalism with religion and offsetting it against money and capitalism. Comradeship and unity by religion was around long before these stupid little 'countries' idea popped up. Empires of old were multi national. Think of spheres of influence rather than modern bordered countries. And I think we're coming to the conclusion that the worship hasn't worked.

    Funny how nationalism is often ugly when context of the restoration of Palestine is abound, yet no mention of it is made in respect of Israyhell.

    The bloodshed is because of occupation and oppression! End that and you end the bloodshed. The Palestinians welcomed, sheltered and helped the Jews in WW2. Unknown to the Palestinians at the time was that the Zionists while lapping up the good will of the Palestinians were plotting to steal it and ethnically cleanse the place. How nice.

    The resistance of the Palestinians against the barbaric filth fest meted out to them is totally Justified.

    The grit can merge seamlessly into the ME. All it has to do is cede administration back to the Palestinians. It's easy. I have seen countless sympathisers and supporters of Zionism propose things which have as a precondition of existence of Israyhell

    THAT my dear friend, is the very essence of the problem.

    @ Craig.

    Why not? Because it's daft. Humans have been migratory throughout history. Where do you draw your arbitrary date to decide who should be where? 50, 100, 200, 1000, 2000 years ago?" – I'm glad you mentioned that, 'cos it's a common argument against restoration of lands to the original stewards.

    People say 'can't be done' simply because of the failure of imagination, and the 'cut off point' is equally applicable to the initial theft.

    Should the Palestinians be given the land back 6 months after it was stolen? 6 years? 60 years? How can the passage of time negate the crime? Why shouldn't they be given it back after 6 months, 6 years or 60 years?

    However from the positive point of view, i.e. in respect of returning of lands, there is an means by which the claim can be upheld and that is when the remaining people are still affected by it – being oppressed, unsettled, scarred as a result of having their land stolen from them.

    I'm 100% sure you believe the people of the Chagos archipelago should have their lands returned to them. I am right yes. The reason is because the people are lives are still tainted by their dispossession.

    The Australian aborigines are another tragic example. As are the North American 'Indians' as are many indigenous tribes in South America

    That's how you measure it.

    My knowledge of the Cyrpus problem is admittedly poor, but I did say the Turks should pull out – that is clear. And I didn't venture an opinion on the legitimacy of the Turkish military response.

    If you look at it in reverse it is even more daft NOT to return lands or make reparations to those lives are still touched by the effect of the theft.

    Look at the Stone of Scone – The Angles pinched it and the Scots felt it should be returned. No Scot would say "It's been so long now that it doesn't matter". Look at the Egyptian sarcophagus, Cleopatras needle in Paris, The Eigen marbles? I don't think many dispute giving those back, and peoples lives are far less touched with those issues of theft than with historical theft of land.

    Many answers are mad, but for those who live the suffering consequences, some answers are a lot less mad than others.

  • lwtc247

    @ amk.

    You should read about the pluralism in the Megrib, Andalucia, areas of the Byzantine Empire under Constantine the Great, The Caliph Saladin (esp Jerusalem) and the Islamic 'empire' under many Caliphs, Modern day Iran, and Malaysia.

    Part of the success in the expansion of the realm of influence of the Islamic 'empire' was due to the fact people liked what they saw of it. It is no coincidence that Islam decrees protection to people of other faiths under the mantle of an Islamic administration, and the glory of Israel of old was somewhat similar. Jerusalem, like Babylon, Fez, Samarkand(!) even under monotheism. It has proven to bring about peace. It's the detachment or deviation by the state, from the guideance of God, that brings about these problems. But most importantly I think the people of Palestine want a theorcaric society.

    btw… Nice to see the Iranian Jews protesting against the Zionist entity's latest debauchery.

  • amk


    "to describe the cramped internment camp that is Gaza, plus the still much occupied and separated West Bank, as a "State" is a laughable con."

    I agree, but I fail to see how that addresses my point.

    "Humans have been migratory throughout history. Where do you draw your arbitrary date to decide who should be where? 50, 100, 200, 1000, 2000 years ago?"

    We can hardly let people believe that if they can hang on to land for long enough their descendants get to keep it.

    The establishment of international law under the UN is workable. That would mean Israel within the Green Line stays, the West Bank settlements go.

    I see "craig" has been b&hammered.

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