Hezbollah spares no vituperation or vehemence in its agitation for Israel’s obliteration. It spares no effort to inflict physical harm on Israelis. It spares no expense to stockpile missiles with which to terrorize Israel. Of late Hezbollah has become Damascus despot Bashar Assad’s indispensable military mainstay.
All that should have sufficed to cause Israel’s institutions of higher learning to admit that Hezbollah is an out-and-out enemy – not only of this state but of fundamental human rights.
Nonetheless, such rationale failed to sway Tel Aviv University to cancel a scheduled address on campus by convicted Hezbollah collaborator Muhammad Kana’ane, an Israeli-Arab who served nearly five years behind bars for funneling funds and weapons information to the Iran-sponsored terrorists.
In the end, the university did cancel Kana’ane’s previously countenanced lecture but only on the grounds of “concern about harm to public order.” His active association with one of Israel’s prime terrorist antagonists apparently was not sufficient cause to bar Kana’ane in the first place.
For more than a week, students affiliated with the Likud, Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi had campaigned against the plans to host Kana’ane on a campus in a city that Hezbollah has repeatedly vowed to attack with rockets. During that entire period the university tacitly acquiesced to Kana’ane’s appearance, in keeping with de rigueur commitments to free speech.
Incomprehensibly, though, the university later saw fit to contend that the request for Kana’ane’s participation was too last minute to prepare for. This cannot but be judged as a curious and spurious excuse, only intended to head off accusations of stifling hallowed free-speech.
This excuse is every bit as objectionable as was putting up with Kana’ane’s guest status to begin with. Freedom-of-expression clichés seem to have eclipsed common sense and common decency at the much-respected TAU.
We might expect academicians to unfetter themselves from trendy rights discourse and admit that terrorism and freedoms are inherently contradictory and cannot coexist.
Terrorism’s raison d’être is to extinguish all our rights. Prohibiting Kana’ane’s propagandistic tour de force is not muzzling free expression but protecting it from his ilk.
Our ability to preserve our lives and ways of life hinges on restraints. Those who would annihilate us do not shy away from exploiting our pluralism. Uber-tolerant Israel, however, is not obliged to cast itself as the dupe who will do anything to be declared “nice.”
This issue must not be turned into another Left-Right confrontation.
The democratic and legitimate political divide within Israeli society should have no role here. If anything, all Zionist movements spectrum ought to unite behind the basic instinct to safeguard our existence and, no less, uphold minimal Israeli self-respect.
Anyone such as Kana’ane, who chose out of his own free will to commit treason against his country and its citizens, who chose to become an accomplice to aggression that aims at extinguishing Israeli sovereignty, should be regarded as one who has forfeited the rights liberally accorded by this society to both its proponents and its detractors.
The freedoms which our democracy bestows should not become a license to destroy it. Anyone with an inclination to go on living – and this presumably includes erudite professors – should acknowledge the reality that no freedom is unlimited and unconditional, especially not during time of war, such as exists between Israel and Hezbollah.
Democracy’s implacable foes can manipulate an artificial adherence to boundless free speech – and there are plenty of historical cases in point – to suppress free speech or even the crucial right to a life uninterrupted by bloodshed.
Those who are so moved by infractions of freedoms of expression would do better to turn their zeal toward outrages in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and all areas under Arab/ Muslim control.
Israelis, who enjoy freedoms unique in this region and second to none even in the greatest democracies, should not be afraid to stand up for these freedoms and to defend them against attackers who are dedicated to eradicating our freedom, indeed our very existence.
Being fair need not mean being feeble-minded.