Saturday, July 29, 2006

Islam, Judiasm and Free Speech - A Double Standard? 

The new in-thing among the world press, or at least the European press, is to run anti-Semitic cartoons, including ones equating Israelis to Nazis. Seems many among the European press are adopting policies that until recently were confined to fringe hate groups and Islamic press. This offensive trend includes:

1. January 27, 2003. The U.K.'s independent publishes a cartoon of a naked Prime Minister Sharon eating a Palestinian child with attack helicopters in the back ground. The cartoon is a take off of Spanish artist de Goya's painting "Saturn Devouring His Children." The Political Cartoon Society awarded Dave Brown, the cartoonist, first prize in its annual "Cartoon of the Year" competition

3. May 17, 2006. The Italian communist newspaper publishes a cartoon equating Palestinian living conditions to Nazi death camps.

4. July 19. 2006. The U.K.'s Guardian publishes a cartoon of a fist in a leather glove with metal Stars of David cutting up a Palestinian child face. The cartoon is reminiscent of those used by the Nazis in WWII.

5. A cartoon in Norway's newspaper Dagbladet portraying Israel's Prime Minister as the Nazi Commander of Auschwitz. The cartoon was taken form the scene in Schindler's List in which the camp commander randomly shoots a Jewish prisoner from his balcony.

6. July 29, 2006, The U.K. Telegraph prints a cartoon comparing the Warsaw ghetto of 1943 with Tyre in 2006. The Israeli flag is displayed in each box.

Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in free speech and that everyone of these papers should have the right to publish these cartoons - no matter how vile and offensive they maybe. What I question is the double standard the publishing of these cartoons has revealed - free speech is broader when attacking an "unprotected" group, then when attacking "protected" groups.

The response to publishing the "Muhammad Cartoons," was that many western governments condemned the newspapers that published them, many academics and politicians fell over themselves trying to justify limits on free speech, and universities in the U.S., Canada, and other western countries refused to allow professors and students to show the cartoons. Most newspapers in the US refused to print the cartoons and the University of Illinois went so far as to fire the student editor of the school's newspaper for publishing them. There was a strong outcry on behalf of free speech too, which was all to often followed by the infamous "but."

In contrast to the soul searching and contamination that the Muhammad cartoons caused, the west's reaction to the anti-Semitic cartoons has been limited to a few letters to the editors. There has been no governmental condemnation of newspapers for printing them, no attempts to justify limits on free speech, no banning of the cartoons on college campuses and no firing student editors...why?

In my opinion, no government should condemn a newspaper for publishing cartoons, regardless of who finds them offensive (and yes I find many cartoons offensive). My point is that there is a double standard here - you can print offensive speech about Jews but not about Muslims. That is a problem.