Monday, May 18, 2015

Free Speech

As the Tory government announce intentions to bring in legislation aimed at combatting "extremism" with Cameron saying "The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy". Couple this with their their desire to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace by  British “bill of rights” we should all be aware of the potential of those laws being extended and expanded in scope.

In Canada, the pro-Israeli Conservative government of Stephen Harper intends to list the boycotting of Israel as a “hate crime” to counter the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) campaign. It assumes that anyone opposed to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the policy of land-grab is not only an anti-Semite, but is also anti-democratic. The former Canadian Foreign minister John Baird has described Canada’s Boycott Israel movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism”. Steven Blaney, Canada’s “Minister of Public Safety”, says that boycotts of Israel cannot be separated from anti-Semitic hate speech and the recent attacks against Jews in France. Cloaked in clich├ęs Canadians are told that their government will show “zero tolerance” towards groups advocating a boycott of Israel.

If you decline to buy Israeli-produced oranges at a British supermarket in solidarity with the Palestinian people, this doesn’t make you akin to a Holocaust denier. To criticise Israeli policies in regards to the blockade of Gaza doesn’t turn you into into a Jew-hater. Jewish members of boycott-Israel groups may well be put on trial in Canada for anti-Semitism.

All this will be accomplished by a proposed small amendment to the existing law on hate-crimes by re-defining hate speech to include statements made against “national origin.” Thus statements or speeches critical of Israel may now be classed as statements against Jews.

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