Israel Stands Up for Free Speech (Would Obama?)

Judge: Offended by film? Don’t watch it


Court rejects Arab leaders’ request for temporary ban on anti-Islam film; Judge postpones permanent ruling until response from Google is submitted…


Judge Miriam Mizrahi decided against provisionally blocking access to the film, deciding instead that the court would await a response from Google before issuing a final ruling on the matter.


“The freedom of speech is our guiding principle, and such things take time,” she said.


The petitioners attempted during the hearing to press the judge on the matter, but to no avail, with the judge suggesting that “for the time being, anyone who finds the film offensive should avoid watching it.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration actually sought to get youtube to take the thing down, entirely.

Google Inc., which owns YouTube, has already blocked access to the film in Libya, India and Indonesia after deadly protests in several countries, but it has rejected a request by the White House to pull it from the site altogether.

The Obama administration was, of course, entirely wrong to request that youtube remove the thing and kudos to Israel for standing up for free speech. A question does occur to me, however.

How would we feel if the movie was anti-Semitic hate speech? Would we favor its removal or would we consider it a matter of freedom of speech and, therefore, support its presence at that popular media sharing site? My suspicion, naturally, is that if it was an example of anti-Semitic hate speech we, at my blog Israel Thrives, would generally be in favor of seeing it removed.

It would obviously depend on the specific nature of the work, but I am not opposed, on principle, to the suppression of anti-Semitic material, so how can I favor the continuation of Innocence of Muslims on youtube?

This is not an easy question, is it?

There are at least two significant differences, however.

The first is that the publication of anti-Semitic material does not send Jewish people into frenzies of violence.  It simply does not.  The Arab-Muslim world bubbles with Jew hatred and they publish all sorts of material, and broadcast on the airwaves all sorts of mierda, that is grossly anti-Semitic.

And, yet, somehow, we never seem to riot.  Some of the Arab countries like to show anti-Semitic films during Ramadan that have big audiences that, for example, show evil Jewish / Israeli men capturing innocent Arab or Palestinian children for the purpose of cramming them into barrels studded with pointy spikes so as to get Muslim Baby Blood for our Passover matzoh.

And we look up from our books and our computers and our shovels and we shrug and roll our eyes because we cannot allow anyone’s reactions to interfere with freedom of speech.  We cannot allow ourselves to be bullied into giving up fundamental values.

But the second point is also very important.  The fact of the matter is that anti-Semitism is a genocidal form of racism.  Racism varies between groups, but what distinguishes anti-Semitism from other forms of racism is the obvious fact that the consequences are sometimes genocidal.  We are still within living memory of the Holocaust.  My father’s side of the family, as I have occasionally mentioned, got wiped out during Operation Barbarossa in the Ukraine during World War II.  They weren’t soldiers, they were merchants and they were craftspeople and they were slaughtered because German anti-Semites spread hatred toward us.

If I publish some stupid cartoon of Muhammed, however, this does not cause anyone to want to murder Muslims other than, perhaps, other Muslims.  But if people publish tracts and articles and books claiming that the Jews secretly control this or that government or that “Zionists” or “Israelis” or “NeoCons” love to wage war and to kill children, this incites the hatred of the entire world against us.

We are .2 percent of the world’s population.  We are maybe 14 million people.

Islam represents 1.5 billion people and is one of the oldest and proudest empires that the world has ever seen.

And that makes for a very big difference, indeed.

About the Author
Mike Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at the Times of Israel and at his own blog, Israel Thrives ( He has in recent years given conference papers on American cultural and intellectual history at The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Dublin, Ireland, as well as at the Western Historical Association in Phoenix, Arizona and the American Cultural Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at