When is it right to censor free speech, and what speech do you censor? Most think incitement to racial or religious hatred ought to be silenced, but does that still apply if you’re silencing somebody who has already been through the worst imaginable racial hatred?
These are the questions facing us this week, after learning that Holocaust survivor Marika Sherwood’s speech at the University of Manchester earlier this year had been censored, because in it she told Israelis: “You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me.”
Was the university right to stop her saying that?
Yes, because comparing Israeli actions to Nazi actions is anti-Semitic by today’s definitions? Or no, because if a Holocaust survivor hasn’t earned the right to speak about persecution, who has?
It’s an incredibly tricky one. Is anybody really accusing a Jewish survivor of the Budapest ghetto of inciting racial or religious hatred? Intervening in free speech in a free society should only be done as a last resort, but a Freedom of Information answer published this week, shows Sherwood’s speech was censored by Israeli diplomats, who called it “provocative”. Are there some lines you just don’t cross, and if so, did this survivor cross it? Answers on a postcard.
Stalemate that needs patience and alchemy
These days, it can count as a success when an official from a rival Palestinian camp can visit the other’s territory and not get lynched. So it was this week, after a visit to Gaza by Rami Hamdallah, whose office is in the West Bank.
The idea, we’re told, is that Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah will reconcile and unite in leadership of the Palestinian people. But we have been told that for 10 years. We’ve watched the feud from afar.
Even this week, as his prime minister was in Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas was pouring cold water on Hamas’ overtures. The mediators this time are the Egyptians. May they possess both patience and alchemy.