Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Hate speech II: Analysis of alleged Israeli examples

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Preamble: This is the second part in a series. For an understanding of the motivations, rough criteria, terminology, general take on the topic, etc., please read the first part.

Remarks:

  • The examples are taken from http://realnews247.com/examples_of_hate_speech.htm, original title “EXAMPLES OF HATE SPEECH”.
  • The numbering is preserved from the original. Some amount of change might have been made to formatting and typography. The contents themselves have been copy-and-pasted, and (barring accidental over-correction with the spell-checker) all language problems, bracketed comments, and whatnots were already present.
  • The quotes are given by an opponent and have often traveled over several instances, both of which imply that they might have been distorted before they arrived here. Below, I will silently take the quotes as correct, but I extend the warning that this is not necessarily the case.
  • There is minimal or no context, which makes the exact interpretation tricky. While I do repeatedly address context below, I am unlikely to have done so consistently at all points where it is needed, and the reader is encouraged to keep this problem in mind. (Note that the same sentence, even individual words, can have very different interpretations depending on context. Consider “One more step and you are dead!” said by a robber to a victim, by an explosives expert to someone standing in a minefield, and by one child to another.)
  • Many of these examples likely originated in Hebrew (or another non-English language). Throughout, it is important to keep in mind that the translation into English might have changed something for the worse. Similarly, there might be issues of idiom that give a false impression, which is also to keep in mind. (Consider e.g. several animal comparisons below, which might or might not give a different impression to a Jew or someone from Israel. By analogy, the English (and Biblical) expression “pearls before swine” indicates, usually derogatorily, an inability to appreciate something—but it does not otherwise compare someone to a swine.)

1. “There is a huge gap between us (Jews) and our enemies -not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.” Israeli president Moshe Katsav. The Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001

There is no sign of hate.* Assuming factual correctness, there is nothing worthy of disapproval (short of diplomacy).

*See an excursion on hate in the first part for why I do not discuss e.g. contempt, which seems quite likely to be present in this case. (However, even claiming contempt amounts to speculation.)

The factual correctness, in turn, could very well be acceptable, e.g. when looking at some neighboring Arab countries. Certainly, groups like Hamas have done nothing to remove credibility from the claim. (Reservations have to be made for exactly who is included in “our enemies”, however.) That there is a considerable difference in many aspects of morality, culture, etc. is hard to dispute. There is room to dispute which version is the better, but the quote does not make any explicit claim in this regard— and I suspect that an overwhelming majority of the Western population would prefer the Jewish versions.

Ability is a more controversial topic. However, absent more detailed information about what the speaker means by “ability”, it is hard to fault the claim: There are a number of meanings and interpretations in which a huge gap in ability is (or is very likely to be) present, as can be seen e.g. by the respective number of outstanding scientists, average I.Q., economic progress, success at warfare, and similar. (There is still room to discuss why there is a difference in ability and, e.g., whether it will disappear over time. However, the quote does not make any claim in this area and cannot be faulted.)

The statements are potentially vulnerable to an accusation of over-generalization. However, since the quote speaks of groups and not individuals, this is not very dire; and even statements normally considered harmless can fall short of the ideal in this regard, and do not necessarily reflect the level of insight or the intended message of the speaker. (For most of the remainder, I will not explicitly go into this sub-topic, leaving a corresponding reservation implicit.)

(Unfortunately, I suspect that some irrational readers will go through something approximating “he claims that there are differences between groups of people; ergo, he is a racist; ergo, he is wrong, evil, and should be banned from speaking”.)

2. “The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more”…. Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel at the time – August 28, 2000. Reported in the Jerusalem Post August 30, 2000

If by “Palestinians” e.g. some organization or official counter-part is intended (Hamas, PLO, …), and if the analogy with crocodiles refers specifically to the meat as a metaphor for a hunger for Israeli compromises and retreats, then the claim could be entirely beyond reproach.

If not, it could conceivably have a hate component and it could conceivably be unfair; however, nowhere near to such a degree that e.g. censorship is warranted.

3. ” [The Palestinians are] beasts walking on two legs.” Menahim Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, “Begin and the Beasts”. New Statesman, 25 June 1982.

Likely a genuine case of speech worthy of disapproval, but not to the point of allowing censorship. Hate is not obvious.

Even here, however, reservations have to be made, especially if this is a translation. For instance, within the English language, the claim “humans [in general] are beasts walking on two legs” could be a mere biological or philosophical observation.

4. “The Palestinians” would be crushed like grasshoppers … heads smashed against the boulders and walls.” ” Isreali Prime Minister (at the time) in a speech to Jewish settlers New York Times April 1, 1988

Unfortunately, this quote lacks too much context to be interpretable; however, it sounds more like a statement of own strength or a re-assurance for someone who fears a Palestinian attack—should the Palestinians attack, they would be crushed, etc. In this case, it is hard to see something that is even remotely hateful, worthy of censorship, or similar.

5. “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, New York Times, 14 April 1983.

Apart from an undiplomatic formulation, the claim it self is harmless. The gist appears to be that once settlement has taken place, the Arabs would be helpless to change the situation, which might quite possibly have been true or believed to be true by the speaker. More worthy of discussion would be whether the mentioned settlements* were justifiable, however, that has no effect on the evaluation of the quote.

*If the type of settlement outside of Israel proper is meant, which causes so much controversy today, the answer could conceivably be “no”.

Note that the Arabs are not claimed to be cockroaches, or generally likened to them; what takes place is a comparison of situation and ability to act in that situation.

6. “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.” Golda Meir, March 8, 1969.

I have doubts as to whether this claim is factually true; however, there is nothing that could reasonably be considered e.g. hateful or worthy of disapproval in it. (And my doubts could be faulty: Golda Meir would have been in a far better position to judge the matter than I am.)

7. “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed.” Golda Maier Israeli Prime Minister June 15, 1969

The word “Palestinian” has a confused history and has historically even been used to refer to Jews. The modern meaning appears to have been introduced (unilaterally by the PLO) through the Palestinian National Charter as late as 1968. The quote is dated in 1969, which implies both that the quote can be seen as (at the time) correct and that there might have been very strong legitimate controversy around the term “Palestinian”.

Apart from factual correctness there is nothing that can reasonably be attacked.

8. “The thesis that the danger of genocide was hanging over us in June 1967 and that Israel was fighting for its physical existence is only bluff, which was born and developed after the war.” Israeli General Matityahu Peled, Ha’aretz, 19 March 1972.

Not only is this statement perfectly harmless (unless untrue)—it actually puts Israel in a negative light, implying e.g. that it had engaged in historical revisionism.

9. David Ben Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister): “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti – Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif (The Jewish Paradox), pp121.

Again, nothing that could be even remotely considered hate or worthy of condemnation. On the contrary, it shows and asks for understanding for the Arab position!

9a. Ben Gurion also warned in 1948 : “We must do everything to insure they ( the Palestinians) never do return.” Assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians will never come back to their homes. “The old will die and the young will forget.”

The underlying policy of preventing return might* be criticized; however, the statement it self appears harmless and cannot be hate speech. The part “The old will die”, notably, is merely a statement of consequence of the policy: The older people, who would be more interested than the younger in returning to their homes, will eventually die (naturally, of old age, whatnot), and will then cease to be a source of protest. There is no implication that they e.g. should be lined up and shot.

*In the heated situation, such measures might have been a (real or perceived) political necessity. More information would be needed to judge this.

10. “We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves.” Chairman Heilbrun of the Committee for the Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat, the mayor of Tel Aviv, October 1983.

Finally, something that not only truly is worthy of condemnation, but which might* even be worthy of legal restrictions. Even here, however, a hate component is speculative—a willingness or even wish to kill someone is not necessarily rooted in hate; ditto other evil deeds.**

*Note that I (here and elsewhere) speak of the statement, not the implied actions. Should these actions be realized, we land in a very different discussion.

**But, in all fairness, the presence or absence of hate is quite secondary with such an extreme statement.

(With reservations for the lack of context.)

11. “Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.” – Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, October 3, 2001, to Shimon Peres, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio. (Certainly the FBI’s cover-up of the Israeli spy ring/phone tap scandal suggests that Mr. Sharon may not have been joking.

Cannot by any stretch be seen as hate speech or otherwise worthy of disapproval (except in as far as it could be damaging to Israeli–U.S. relations or be factually untrue). If there is anything derogatory about it at all, it is also directed towards the U.S.—not the Arabs or Palestinians.

12. “We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces – Gad Becker, Yediot Ahronot 13 April 1983, New York Times 14 April 1983.

In these three sentences, we have: Firstly, a statement of opinion that many others will disagree with, but which is within the realm of freedom of opinion and not open to any other objection than disagreement. Secondly, a derogatory generalization; which, however, is made understandable if we look at the history of Israel up to that point; and which is neither hate nor worthy of censorship. Thirdly, something which, depending on context and intention, might be a harmless statement about self-defense, a promise of mindless aggression, or anything in between. Lacking the context, a conclusive evaluation is not possible.

13. “We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinian refugees] never do return” David Ben-Gurion, in his diary, 18 July 1948, quoted in Michael Bar Zohar’s Ben-Gurion: the Armed Prophet, Prentice-Hall, 1967, p. 157.

This seems to be a variation of one of the statements in 9a (or the same statement outright).

15. “We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai.” David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff. From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978.

This is a description of a military strategy—not hate or something worthy of condemnation. Note the year and the then situation, as well as the implication of the first sentence: Israel had hitherto been on the defensive—and was indeed fighting a war of self-defense. (See also an excursion on war in the first part.)

16. “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” Israel Koenig, “The Koenig Memorandum”

A second instance of true awfulness, both in terms of the stated end and the means to that end; possibly, even something relevant for the law. It is not a given, however, that an element of actual hate is present—it could equally well be what is seen as pragmatic necessity.

17. “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” Moshe Dayan, address to the Technion, Haifa, reported in Haaretz, April 4, 1969.

Again nothing, barring factual correctness, even remotely problematic. It might describe an existing problematic situation, but that cannot be considered hate speech. Indeed, if anything, the statement puts the Israelis in a negative light.

18. “We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!'” Yitzhak Rabin, leaked censored version of Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979.

Far too little context to make a judgment. The result could be anything from something harmless to something in great violation of human rights. However, there is no indication of hate and, barring additional information, no obvious reason to e.g. censor it.

19. Rabin’s description of the conquest of Lydda, after the completion of Plan Dalet. “We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters” Uri Lubrani, PM Ben-Gurion’s special adviser on Arab Affairs, 1960. From “The Arabs in Israel” by Sabri Jiryas.

For starters, I am seriously confused as to who is supposed to have made this claim. Rabin? Lubrani? Similarly, it is unclear how many hands it has been through.

There is no obvious sign of hate. There might (more likely) or might not (less likely) be something worthy of condemnation—depending on the context.

20. “There are some who believe that the non-Jewish population, even in a high percentage, within our borders will be more effectively under our surveillance; and there are some who believe the contrary, i.e., that it is easier to carry out surveillance over the activities of a neighbor than over those of a tenant. [I] tend to support the latter view and have an additional argument:…the need to sustain the character of the state which will henceforth be Jewish…with a non-Jewish minority limited to 15 percent. I had already reached this fundamental position as early as 1940 [and] it is entered in my diary.” Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department. From Israel: an Apartheid State by Uri Davis, p.5.

The first half of the quote is just an abstract discussion of opinions of what situations have what consequences, with no sign of hate, no actions that could in anyway be criticized, no disputable issues.*

*Objections might be raised against surveillance; however, the quote does not say that surveillance is something good—it merely discusses ease and effectiveness. I also do not think that the despicable “Big Brother” meaning was intended, but rather e.g. the keeping of an eye on enemy leaders and enemy organizations. To boot, surveillance might have been or been seen as a pragmatic necessity at the time. (It is not obvious when the claim was made; however, from the mention of 1940 with regard to the same speaker, it seems reasonable to assume that it fell within a time when there was a constant war threat or actual war.)

The second half remains free from hate and actions, but could conceivably be disputed due to the “15 percent”: Is such a restriction justifiable?* However, there is nothing that could require e.g. censorship.

*Answering this question would require more context: For instance, if reaching this target involved forcefully evicting Palestinians already legally present, it does not look good. On the other hand, if this is achieved by encouraging Jewish immigration and discouraging non-Jewish immigration, it might be perfectly fine. (Note that the Jewish immigration to Israel was very large for long stretches of time, making the latter possibility far more plausible than in most other countries.)

21. “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.” Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.

Merely a statement of tactics or of cause and consequence. From appearances, the grabbing refers to areas not occupied by others with no true harm done to anyone. The ethics of settlements (if outside Israel) can, again, be disputed; however, not to such a degree that e.g. censorship is warranted or hate can be diagnosed.

22. “It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism,colonialization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.” Yoram Bar Porath, Yediot Aahronot, of 14 July 1972.

This seems like a mere statement of fact, even an admitting of certain evils that were necessary to create Israel—possibly even, depending on context, a call for compassion and understanding towards mistreated Arabs. There is no hate and (likely) nothing to disapprove of.

I am not a fan of eviction and expropriation, except in the extreme circumstances; however, they likely were necessary to implement the internationally agreed plans, and criticism should then be directed towards these plans. (I do not yet have an opinion on whether the situation behind the plans was such as to be “extreme circumstances”.)

23. “Spirit the penniless population across the frontier by denying it employment… Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” Theodore Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, speaking of the Arabs of Palestine,Complete Diaries, June 12, 1895 entry.

The actions implied are problematic, especially since Herzl (presumably) wrote with an eye at the future. This is a strong candidate for condemnation, but not censorship. There is no sign of hate.

(However, in fairness to Herzl it should be added that he wrote in a time when e.g. waging war to gain land, colonizing less developed countries, whatnot, was still widely considered acceptable. A use as e.g. anti-Israel rhetoric, which might be the intention of the collector, would be highly misleading through this alone. The more so, as the statement pre-dates Israel by more than fifty years…)

24. “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” – Rabbi Yaacov Perrin, Feb. 27, 1994 [Source: N.Y. Times, Feb. 28, 1994, p. 1]

A rare case where the label “hate” actually is plausible—or it might just be “contempt”. It is worthy of condemnation for being ridiculously out of line with reality;* however, not of censorship.

*I assume that the claim was not followed by e.g. “So feel free to kill them.”, because if it had been, it would be astonishing if the collector had not included that part.

Summary: While there are instances that involve hate, they are few. Ditto those worthy of legal action or censorship. More are perfectly harmless. The collector draws on one of the most controversial and extended conflicts in modern time, and while he has taken the trouble to draw examples from a very wide time-frame (the oldest example is from 1895!), he still had to resort to the inclusion of nonsensical cases… (Also note the remarks at the beginning of the text and the excursion on war in the first part, which could put yet another light on these cases.) The bar of entry is surprisingly low;* and even the average level is not high enough to indicate that the supposed hate-speech epidemic would need severe counter-measures.

*Compare the motivation given in the first part.

Excursion on the worst examples:
It might be tempting to point at the worst examples to motivate counter-measures. However, in order to get that proportion, even among these examples, high enough to justify the current demands, we would need to turn most “could-be-bad-depending-on-context” cases into “bad” cases. Moreover, the proportion of similarly bad cases among those currently accused of being hate speech on the Internet is likely to be considerably lower: Firstly, the character of the Israeli situation and the Israel–Arab conflicts imply that the likelihood of extremer statements is considerably increased (cf. various remarks). Secondly, there is good reason to assume that the above list was cherry-picked for the greatest possible effect, exaggerating the proportion even compared to other alleged Israeli hate speech from the same time periods. Thirdly, many of the examples are decades or more old, making predictions generally hard to perform; and, with a more PC climate, likely to err on the side of over-estimation. (Unsurprisingly, this is supported by the examples looked upon in the third part.)

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Written by michaeleriksson

July 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm

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  1. […] Preamble: This is the third (and likely concluding) part in a series. For an understanding of the motivations, rough criteria, terminology, general take on the topic, etc., please read the first part (and, optionally, the second part). […]


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