Not having, or desiring, American-style guarantees of freedom of expression, European countries tend to have laws prohibiting what has come to be known as “hate speech.” Recently, some have advocated expanding these laws to include the most vicious forms of anti-Israel rhetoric. Ben Cohen argues against such an approach:
Meeting last week with a group of visiting American Jews, the head of the city government in Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, informed them that she had submitted an amendment to the European Union’s comprehensive strategy to combat anti-Semitism that would criminalize calls for Israel’s destruction. While the exact details of the proposal have not been explained, it’s reasonable to assume that a slogan like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is precisely a call for Israel’s destruction, would theoretically fall foul of the law.
Not every aspect of this problem is so easily analyzed, however. . . . Those academics and pundits who demean Israel as an apartheid state, carefully [claiming] at the same time that they scorn anti-Semitism in all its forms, will not be silenced by such measures and will wear any bans or restrictions as a badge of pride.
Rather than seeking to criminalize anti-Zionism in toto, European governments would be better off carving out those aspects that can uncomplicatedly be dealt with by the law, such as preventing the public display of Hizballah or Hamas flags on the grounds that these incite violence and promote anti-Semitic organizations, and allow civil society to adjudicate the broader political debates.
Additionally, the cause of defending Israel would be severely compromised, perhaps fatally, by the shuttering of anti-Zionist associations’ . . . clamping down on the free speech of Israel’s adversaries sends the signal, however much we might wish otherwise, that the Jewish state’s allies have lost the argument.
More about: Anti-Zionism, Europe and Israel, Freedom of Speech, Spain