Anisa Abd el Fattah, as you may recall, filed a complaint with the Justice Department asking it to "take the steps necessary to end" various "practices," apparently including "statements made that may reach the level of hate speech," "various organizations['] and individuals['] ... provid[ing] misleading and highly politicized information," and more, by (among others) "the 'Jewish lobby.'" As I described in the original post, these "practices" consist mostly of constitutionally protected speech, which led me to criticize the complaint. (Abd el Fattah, incidentally, is a former CAIR board member and apparently the current head of the International Association for Muslim Women and Children, "an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians," as well of the National Association of Muslim American Women [NAMAW].)
Abd el Fattah has sent me and others an e-mail in response (paragraph breaks and emphasis added):
While trolling the net today, I came across ... [your material] commenting on the NAMAW letter of complaint to the Justice Department against the Jewish Lobby.
The position that you appear to take on this issue is very interesting, especially since I have never heard Jewish academicians argue so robustly for the right of people to have free speech rights to deny the holocaust, or to compliment Hitler, or to say that Israel should be wiped off the map. Every time any such statement is publicized, in whatever context, Jewish people raise a fuss, and the speaker is ordained, an "anti-Semite," in an effort to deny their right to free speech by making the price of such speech so high that it wont be utilized.
I'd like to ask if you believe that there is one standard of free speech for Jewish people, and another for other Americans. I'd also like to know why you sought to characterize our position as "against" free sppech and civil rights for Jews, without asking me if that is actually our position, or even allowing me to give my opinion on the 1st amendment, prior to your posting your opinion about what you thought I meant or said, or what you feel compelled us to submit a complaint. I have cc'd several others on this e-mail, since I want my comments to be public, so they cannot be misrepresented, and also your response, should you decide to respond....
Let me respond in turn:
(1) I can't speak to what Anisa Abd el Fattah has heard; but a quick search reveals that quite a few Jewish "academicians" have spoken out in favor of free speech rights for Holocaust deniers and for Nazis and Hitler sympathizers more broadly. Harvard law professor (and noted commentator on Jewish matters) Alan Dershowitz, in the Jerusalem Post, Mar. 17, 1998: "Even Holocaust denial speech — among the most offensive imaginable — should not be censored." Nadine Strossen, law professor and ACLU President, 25 S. Ill. U. L.J. 243, 279 (2001): "I support free speech for Nazis and other anti-Semites not despite my background and my first-hand experience with the evils of anti-Semitism, but rather, precisely because of that fact." Me: "Holocaust denial laws are ... pernicious." There are plenty of other such examples. (I can't give similar examples as to statements urging that "Israel should be wiped off the map," because I know of no incidents in America where anyone has even suggested that such speech should be restricted, and thus of no scholars who have had occasion to disagree with such suggestions.)
(2) Let me turn, though, from my view and the view of many other scholars, Jewish and otherwise, and look a bit at Abd el Fattah's. She writes that "[any time a statement] deny[ing] the holocaust, or ... compliment[ing] Hitler, or ... say[ing] that Israel should be wiped off the map ... is publicized, in whatever context, Jewish people raise a fuss, and the speaker is ordained, an 'anti-Semite,' in an effort to deny their right to free speech by making the price of such speech so high that it wont be utilized."
Now, I would hope that when people compliment Hitler or deny the Holocaust, or say that Israel should be wiped off the map — not just that Israel is in error in some way, but that it should be wiped off the map — it isn't just "Jewish people" but other people as well who would protest.
But beyond this, what exactly is wrong with inferring that people who "compliment Hitler" are likely anti-Semites (in all but the most unusual of contexts)? Are there are a lot of people who have nothing against Jews but compliment a man who is remembered for (among other things) deliberately arranging the slaughter of six million Jews? Shouldn't we "raise a fuss" about such compliments — not by asking federal prosecutors to "take the steps necessary to end" the statements, but by condemning the speech? If the "price of such speech [is made] so high" because people widely condemn the speech and the speaker, that is the exercise of free speech, not a denial of free speech.
Likewise, it's possible that some Holocaust deniers are not anti-Semites. And it's possible that some people who want Israel "wiped off the map" (a term that both in its tone and its substance suggests a violent destruction of the nation and likely a substantial chunk of its inhabitants) are not anti-Semites. (Note that I'm not speaking here simply of disagreement with Israel's policies, but a call for it to be "wiped off the map.")
Still, it's a fairly plausible inference that these speakers are indeed anti-Semites. And even if they aren't anti-Semites, it's quite proper for "people [Jewish or otherwise to] raise a fuss," and impose a social price on such speech by persuading people to strongly condemn it. People who make these statements should "have free speech rights" to do so free of the Justice Department's "tak[ing] the steps necessary to end" the speech. But they naturally have no right to make the statements free of others' making statements disagreeing.
So I'm rather puzzled by Abd el Fattah's reaction. Does she think that when people "deny the holocaust, or ... compliment Hitler, or ... say that Israel should be wiped off the map," people shouldn't "raise a fuss"? Does she think that "compliment[ing] Hitler" is not likely to be evidence of the speaker's "anti-Semit[ism]"? And if she doesn't take such views, then how can one explain her e-mail?
(3) As to "why [I] sought to characterize [the letter's] position as 'against' free sppech and civil rights for Jews": The letter calls on the Justice Department to "take the steps necessary to end" various "practices," which apparently include — for the reasons I gave — First Amendment-protected speech by "the 'Jewish lobby'" and others. Sounds like a restriction on free speech to me.
Nor did I see much reason for asking Abd el Fattah "if that is actually our position, or even allowing me to give my opinion on the 1st amendment, prior to your posting your opinion about what you thought I meant or said, or what you feel compelled us to submit a complaint": The letter (which Anisa Abd el Fattah sent out as a press release) seemed to speak for itself, and I didn't see need to ask for further clarification.
This having been said, I'd be delighted to hear Anisa Abd el Fattah's views on the First Amendment more generally. I have e-mailed her asking for those views, and I'd be glad to post them and respond to them later.
Related Posts (on one page):
- A Heartwarming Tale of People Coming Together:
- Anisa Abd el Fattah on the First Amendment:
- Anisa Abd el Fattah Responds:
- Correction Regarding Anisa Abd el Fattah and CAIR:
- Former Member of CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) Board Files Complaint with Justice Department About (Among Others) "the 'Jewish Lobby'":