The Volokh Conspiracy

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Glenn Greenwald: Pro-Israel sentiment in the U.S. is at least as bad for freedom of speech as Islamist terrorists murdering cartoonists


Apparently, the real lesson we should be learning from the murder of "blasphemous" French cartoonists is that American pro-Israel activists are at least as repressive as Islamist terrorists. That's because the former have purportedly created a "taboo" against criticizing Israel-a purported taboo, I should note, that Greenwald himself and many other bloggers, along with every major American newspaper and left-of-center journal, violate regularly, and one that somehow doesn't stop professors hostile to Israel from dominating Middle East Studies Departments in universities across the United States, such that the actual taboo in such departments is to express sympathy for Israel. Here's the money quote, which comes at the end of Greenwald's post:

That [criticizing Israel] is a real taboo—a repressed idea—as powerful and absolute as any in the United States, so much so that Brooks won't even acknowledge its existence. It's certainly more of a taboo in the U.S. than criticizing Muslims and Islams, which is in mainstream circlesincluding the U.S. Congress—that one barely notices it any more. This underscores the key point: there are all sorts of ways ideas and viewpoints are suppressed in the west. When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication ofthose ideas as well, I'll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that's not the case, let's have equal application of this new principle.

The article is full of logical fallacies, and suggests that Greenwald doesn't understand why Charlie Hebdo was targeted (hint: it wasn't because of an allegedly offensive reference to Boko Haram's sex slaves), apparently doesn't understand what "blasphemy" means and certainly appears to believe that Der Sturmer-like anti-Semitic cartoons are the moral and logical equivalent of making fun of Moses or Muhammed.

Put another way, what Greenwald is saying, in practice, is that until hostility to Israel becomes popular in the U.S., such that there is not even a prospect of social sanction for expressing it, and such that anti-Israel sentiment is expressed as often as Greenwald thinks it should be, pro-Israel advocates are at least as bad as Islamist terrorists. This, let's remember, is from a guy who many, including some of my libertarian friends, hold up as a poster boy for civil liberties. I can only imagine what other profound lesson Greenwald thinks we should draw from the murder by Islamist terrorists of four French Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris today, but I'm guessing that it also has something to do with Israel.

UPDATE: Years ago, Greenwald, fresh from explaining that Israel's only legitimate response to rocket fire on civilians from Gaza was to commit national suicide, referred to me as an "Israel-obsessive." What do we call someone who responds to those defending freedom of speech against Islamist terrorists who just murdered French cartoonists with a post whose upshot is, "the needed response to these murders by Americans who value freedom of speech is to criticize Israel more?"