When does free speech become sedition?

Neturei Karta leader Rabbi Moshe Hirsch shakes hands with the Devil, 2003

Neturei Karta leader Rabbi Moshe Hirsch shakes hands with the Devil, 2003

In a democratic state where freedom of expression is cherished, can we place limits on expression when the very foundation of that state is attacked? Is there a point at which the state can say “if that’s how you feel, go live somewhere else?”

News item,

Three members of the radical ultra-Orthodox sect Neturei Karta were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion that they had vandalized a Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial earlier this month as well as several additional sites commemorating fallen IDF soldiers in the Jordan Valley.

“Hitler, thank you for the wonderful Holocaust” was one of the slogans spray painted some two weeks ago on the open campus of Yad Vashem, Israel’s main Holocaust memorial site…

Judea and Samaria District Police found spray cans in the suspects’ homes as well as posters inciting against the state and PLO flags, Army Radio reported Tuesday…

The three, aged 18, 26 and 27, call themselves the “Palestine Jews.” They confessed to the crimes and remarked that they had committed the act out of hatred toward the Zionist entity and the state.

There is no doubt that if they are convicted of the crime of vandalism they should be punished. But is the state required to tolerate residents who express hatred of “the Zionist entity” in any form?

In the US, almost all such expression is permitted (there are exceptions). But the population here is almost 312 million people, and only a tiny proportion of those want to overthrow the Constitution. Israel has about 7.6 million, and when you include fanatics like the “Palestine Jews,” Arab nationalists, Islamists, and extreme leftists or anarchists, it becomes a significant proportion of the population.

Consider the extreme academic Left, which literally dominates academic departments in some Israeli universities. They regularly call for a binational state, support boycott-divestment-sanctions, compare Israel to Nazi Germany, sign petitions favoring a right of return for Arab refugees, etc. (details are here).

Another example is the Israeli Arab (oops, ‘Palestinian resident of Israel’) organization Adalah. Supported by the US-based New Israel Fund, Adalah is openly anti-Zionist, advocating for a right of return, for Israel to admit its guilt and compensate Arabs for the nakba [disaster] that was the founding of the state, change its flag and national anthem, and give Arabs a veto power over all decisions of the Knesset.

Then there is the Islamic Movement in Israel. The leader of its Northern Branch, Ra’ed Saleh, openly supports Hamas and has incited riots in Jerusalem several times with claims that Israel is trying to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque.

The vandals of Neturei Karta have been around for years, appearing at anti-Israel demonstrations around the world. They were paid by Yasser Arafat and even visited Tehran where they embraced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There are other Hareidi extremists that are less well-known, but also oppose the Jewish state, while accepting its charity and protection.

When does this become too much for a small state which does not lack for external threats?

There is a word for the behavior of the groups described here — sedition — and a surprising number of liberal democracies have laws against it. Perhaps Israel should as well?

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One Response to “When does free speech become sedition?”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I have long believed Israel is far too tolerant of Naturei Karta, and the other groups of hate- filled anti- Zionists who identify with the state’s enemies. Perhaps Legislation against Sedition and enforcement of the Law is the right answer. But I would recommend something even harsher, Expulsion. This is no reason the State should have to tolerate and support those whose whole being is in its undermining.
    As to this specific action. It seems that whatever the maximum sentence is for such a crime the
    perpetrators should certainly receive it.

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