An attempt is made to share the truth regarding issues concerning Israel and her right to exist as a Jewish nation. This blog has expanded to present information about radical Islam and its potential impact upon Israel and the West. Yes, I do mix in a bit of opinion from time to time.
The Human Rights Council concluded its
nineteenth session on March 23, 2012 and adopted, without a vote, yet
another resolution aimed at restricting freedom of speech throughout the
world. While its title,
as usual, suggests it is about combating intolerance based on religion,
its plain language shows that, once again, speech is the real target.
One of its sponsors, the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation (formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference
or "OIC" ), has, for over a decade, introduced speech-restrictive
resolutions at the United Nations. In the past, these resolutions
contained explicit language about "defamation of religions." Last year, however, when the OIC introduced Resolution 16/18 without the term "defamation of religions," the West's resistance to the OIC's efforts faltered (discussed here). The "defamation of religions"
concept had been easy for Western countries to rally against, in part,
because it seemed to attach rights to a concept (here, religion) rather
than to individuals. But, dropping that term was little more than a cosmetic change leaving speech-targeting language behind and the OIC's speech-restrictive agenda intact.
Resolution 19/25, like 16/18, specifically "condemns" certain types of speech and "urges States to take effective measures as set forth in the present resolution, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat such incidents." (emphasis added) In short, it is an explicit call to action for states to curtail certain types of speech.
The "advocacy" (read: speech) that the
resolution "condemns" and calls on states to limit is "any advocacy of
religious hatred against individuals that constitutes incitement to
discrimination, hostility or violence" using "print, audio-visual or
electronic media or any other means." This language almost directly
parallels International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights
Article 20(2), which reads: "Any advocacy of national, racial or
religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination,
hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law."
At the time Article 20 was being debated,
there was little doubt that it was about limiting speech; and indeed,
concerns were raised about the potential for abuse of the provision to
limit an essential right. Further, when the United States finally
ratified the ICCPR in 1992, it did so with an explicit reservation
to Article 20, reading: "That Article 20 does not authorize or require
legislation or other action by the United States that would restrict the
right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and
laws of the United States."
The language of ICCPR Article 20 and Resolutions 16/18 and 19/25 bears a striking resemblance to the "hate speech" provisions that have proliferated throughout Europe and that are already being used to silence speech (as the trials of Geert Wilders, Lars Hedegaard, and others demonstrate).
Further, conceptually, "defamation of religions" and "hate speech" were already linked in prior resolutions. It is puzzling, therefore, that the West was so easily duped into believing that dropping the "defamation of religions"
language was any kind of substantive victory. Although the most recent
resolutions stop short of Article 20's language, leaving out "shall be
prohibited by law," it hardly matters. The OIC's agenda can simply be
pushed instead through "hate speech" laws that already exist. (By its own statements,
the OIC has not changed its goals, nor has it abandoned the concept.)
The shift in wording has simply lost us allies in resisting it.
That a resolution without an explicit reference to "defamation of religions"
but that retained "hate speech" language would be more appealing to
European allies is not surprising. Most European countries have already
adopted some form of "hate speech"
laws -- but to terrible effect -- on freedom of speech. With regard to
this issue, the United States had stood alone—"hate speech" is currently
not proscribed here, although we appear headed in that direction: since
the United States supported the resolution, how could we expect our
Western allies to resist?
Our Secretary of State applauded
the OIC and described efforts leading to Resolution 16/18 as beginning
"to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against
freedom of expression." Far from demanding a "reservations clause" of
any kind, the United States, instead, sponsored a three-day, closed-door
meeting in Washington, DC last December on implementing 16/18 —a meeting in a series called the "Istanbul Process." Taking its lead from the US, the European Union then offered to host the next session, an initiative the OIC hailedas a "a qualitative shift in action against the phenomenon of Islamophobia."
In short, a mere cosmetic change in a
resolution has resulted in a radical shift in the West's—and
specifically United States' and therefore Europe's —policy toward the
OIC's efforts to restrict free speech..
If we do not wake up, recognize the
implications of that policy shift, and reverse course, this "mere"
cosmetic change may result in a radical shift in the protections for
freedom of speech in the United States.
Ann Snyder serves as a Senior Fellow of The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.
"Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of,
and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons
based on religion or belief"