My wife and I attended a wonderful Israeli street festival in Northern Virginia last Sunday. We each enjoyed a falafel, while Israeli music played from the nearby stage, people strolled around amongst the booths and some children visited the petting zoo while others had their faces painted. As we were leaving, the day took a sudden and irreparable crash. I spotted a van driving around with a banner on its side proclaiming that Israel is an apartheid state.
Really? Really? Right now you want to do this? This mutt, undoubtedly hiding under the vast protection of the First Amendment like a bully shadowing his mother’s apron, had no legitimate reason to be at our Israeli street fair. His ONLY purpose was to cause trouble; to cause alarm and annoyance; to harass and upset; to inflame and hurt. If he truly wanted a public debate, he could have raised the issue in a variety of other ways. Did he want a comment from the llamas in the petting zoo? How about from the local farmers offering samples of their bread, tomatoes or apples? Perhaps from the young moms schlepping their children around while waving small Israeli flags in the late spring breeze. This guy was there to harass us. That’s it. A trouble maker.
When the Nazis wished to march in Skokie Illinois, in the late 1970s, they were initially denied a permit since the town was heavily Jewish and punctuated by survivors of the shoah. The Jewish world was outraged by the request and the government officials supported that outrage. It was patently obvious that Skokie was chosen for one reason: maximum shock vale. To be fair, the Supreme Court of the United States eventually heard the dispute and issued a narrowly defined holding protecting free speech and assembly (Nationalist Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 US 43 (1977). However, the Nazis never did march in Skokie but were persuaded to march in nearby Chicago where a much more diverse city population confronted the marchers. In 1978, a Holocaust museum was established on Main street in Skokie.
Bullies like the Palestinians, BDS, KKK and the Neo-Nazis misuse the American Constitution, especially its First Amendment, as both a sword and a shield: whenever it suits their nefarious purposes, they manipulate Jeffersonian intent to further their hateful goals. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, a former KKK sympathizer, if not member, and a freedom of speech purist, however, once reasoned that: “The very reason for the First Amendment, is to make the people of this country free to think, speak, write and worship as they wish, not as the Government commands.”
The pristine clarity of Justice Black, notwithstanding, hate speech is meant to incite. It has no legitimate purpose. And a pro-Palestinian banner at an Israeli street festival is as hateful as a swatstika.