Alex Rose

Free Speech

With the advent of several incidents featuring the Muslim Prophet Mohammed in a demeaning caricature, invariably there has been an outcry questioning the permissibility of denigrating a major religious leader. Each time an event of this nature occurs, a host of opinion pieces, TV interviews, editorials etc. go viral. Of course, the divide is not surprisingly very different in terms of population numbers. What is surprising is expressed by those who maintain that in the case of religion, it cannot be evaluated in common terms, but must be placed on a higher plateau.

However, a recall of the Skokie debacle in the 1970’s, where 40,000 Jews resided, consisting of a significant number of Holocaust survivors who were confronted by the will of Nationalist Social Party of America complete with Nazi regalia, serves an interesting background to .present day arguments. Indeed, had there been radical Muslims members of the Skokie community, would they have supported the free will arguments offered in favor of the Nazis?

Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes once said, “The First Amendment protects free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought we hate——-Whenever government gains the power to decide who can speak & what they can say, the First Amendment rights of all of us are in danger of violation. But when all people are allowed to express their views & ideas, the principles of democracy & liberty are enhanced. This extends even to that speech which is most hateful & offensive.”

In the end, the Skokie march did not take place for a variety of reasons. But, it could have and in terms of the rational expressed by Justice Holmes, the Skokie Holocaust survivors would have been subjected to a hell on earth once again

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.
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