A European anti-extremism group chaired by Tony Blair has suggested a law that would make it illegal to “maliciously vilify” Israelis or Jews, writes Stephen Oryszczuk.
The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) initiative, which was debated at a House of Commons event last week, said the law would “suppress intolerance” and introduce the concept of “group libel”.
It would also make Holocaust denial illegal in the UK, as it is in other European countries, and it would make “approval of totalitarian ideology” a criminal offence too.
The law had a mixed response from the panel. David Anderson QC, the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, felt the law went too far, saying: “Speech should only be a crime when there is an element of threat”.
Maajid Nawaz, the co-founder and chairman of counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, which challenges Islamist extremists, agreed that there were problems with the approach.
“Legislating against extremism is counter-productive,” he said, adding that it was important not to over-ride free speech. “No idea should be above scrutiny.”
However, Prof. Yoram Dinstein from Tel Aviv University argued that such a law was needed, because legislation “establishes the lowest common denominator”.
He added: “The Model Law follows perfectly David Cameron’s speech week at the Party Conference. He talked about passive tolerance, we talk about not being tolerant of the intolerant.”
ECTR President Moshe Kantor said: “The Model Law recognises the need for legislative measures to address intolerance, which is the poisonous root from which extremism grows.
“For too long we have turned a blind eye to extremist behaviour that is damaging but not illegal. We have been too tolerant of the intolerant. It is time to legislate against acts that are unacceptable, but for which we currently have no recourse.”