Redefining Free Speech: Opposing Israel Is Not Anti-Semitism

Ongoing moves by Zionist lobby groups and American legislators to define anti-Semitism as criticism of Israel is an assault on free speech everywhere, writes Professor Stuart Rees.

Claims about western values usually include praise for the freedom enjoyed through governments’ respect for freedom of speech. Yet, even in democratic states, those principles are being treated as outmoded, not least in regard to criticism of Israeli policies towards Palestinians.

Other countries also ride roughshod over freedom of speech. Control of the media and suppression of dissent is spreading like wildfire in Sudan, Serbia, Hungary, China, Russia, Egypt, India and elsewhere. Reference to the disregard of free speech in these other countries needs to be made in anticipation of the response, ‘When examining human rights abuses, why single out Israel?’

I am doing so because widening interpretations of anti-Semitism, designed to protect Israeli policies from scrutiny, represent a serious challenge to western commitments to freedom of speech.

I will highlight this controversy, over the stifling of free speech, in regard to specific issues;

  1. The definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA);
  2. The 2018 passing of the Israeli Nation State Law of the Jewish people; and
  3. The Anti-Semitism Awareness Bill before the US Congress.

Read the article by Stuart Rees in New Matilda.