Friday, April 26, 2013

Nailing Racists or Nobbling BDS?

Baruch O'Farrell's parliamentary Inquiry into Racial Vilification Law in NSW* is now underway and our friends from the Israel lobby, seasoned actors all, have delivered the usual award-winning performance. Particularly strong this time around is their timing:

"On Yom Hashoah last week, Jews around the world commemorated what is arguably the most tragic example of the extreme consequences of racial vilification. That same day, a NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) delegation - comprising former president David Knoll, CEO Vic Alhadeff and Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) executive director Peter Wertheim - was arguing that NSW's racial vilification laws are inadequate in front of a Legislative Council inquiry. Knoll and Wertheim, both lawyers, have extensive experience in dealing with racial vilification cases. 'We note that we make this presentation on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the day each year, Yom Hashoah, that the Holocaust is remembered across the world,' Knoll told the committee, which was chaired by Member of the Legislative Council David Clarke... Using anti-Indian posters in shop windows as a practical example - echoing similar signs against Jews displayed in Nazi Germany - Knoll outlined how section 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 currently makes it difficult for racial vilification cases to be prosecuted. 'Requiring proof of actual or likely intimidation or harassment, or of a direct connection between a threat and likely harm to a person or property, constitute - as a practical matter - an insurmountable obstacle to prosecution,' he explained." (Board fronts Racial Vilification Law inquiry, The Australian Jewish News, 19/4/13)

So what do these Israel advocates want?

In their submission they state that a revamped law should target "public conduct that intentionally or recklessly incites racial hatred or racially harasses others." (And please note that they want "the publication of material on the Internet" included under the heading of "public conduct.")

"We do not," they stress, giving the game away, "advocate the criminal proscription of robust public debate on any topic, unless the manner of the debate descends to the level of such conduct."

Now don't you just love the proviso: unless the manner of the debate descends to the level of such conduct?

Since when, for dyed-in-the-wool political Zionists, has the honest defence of Palestinian rights ever not descended to the level of anti-Semitism?

Two aspects of their argument should give pause for concern:

The first is a reference to 'interpretation'. At one point in their submission they talk of a "slogan" being "interpreted as inciting people to exterminate Jews."

If BDS protesters were ever hauled into court, which I believe is the real agenda here, one can easily imagine what kind of interpretation would placed on their chant 'From the river to the sea/Palestine will be free'.

The second is a reference to 'perception'. "The vilificatory act may be perceived by the target person or group as extremely threatening."

So a Zionist alleging racial vilification need only assert that he feels threatened for the matter to end up in court?

The authors of the submission further state that "[t]he harm to specific minority groups who are the targets of vilificatory conduct goes well beyond merely 'offending' them. The harm is in the impairment of their ability to go about their daily lives with a sense of safety and security."

So, if a BDS protest outside a Max Brenner chocolate shop is enough to make 'Max' feel he's back in thirties Berlin with an impaired ability to go about his life with a sense of safety and security, then it's in the slammer with these BDS protesters, is it?

It is my fear that if the current legislation, revamped along such subjective lines, is used against BDS protesters, then a lot of good people could potentially be spending a lot of time in court, and possibly even in jail.

It is worth comparing the Israel lobbyists' nonsense with the submission of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, which argues that only "serious" racial vilification such as "action taken by certain individuals in the lead-up to the 2005 Cronulla Riots," should be the target of this law. In contrast with the kind of subjective elements proposed for inclusion in the legislation by the Zionist lobbyists, the  CCL wants there to be an "objective element to the offence [of racial vilification] which references the likely result of the offending conduct," that is "where a breach of the peace is likely to ensue."

[*See my 15/4/13 post And the Real Agenda is... for material on the genesis of this inquiry.]

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