Researching the recent clashes at Charlottesville in which counter-protesters traveled to the Virginia town to take on the neo-Nazis, I discovered some disturbing facts which reveal a sordid past and the threatening emergence of a troubling phenomenon in the United States, that of the protection of hate speech.
In order to make my point, allow me to make one remarkable admittance. In 1962, in Great Britain, a man named Oswald Mosley came to Manchester to lead a crowd of followers in a revival rally. He wasn’t a neo-Nazi. Mosley was a real Nazi. He was the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 30's and was an ardent admirer of Adolph Hitler. Had Germany defeated British in World War Two, Mosley would almost certainly have been appointed by Hitler as the Reich-Fuehrer governing Britain. For this reason, he was interned during the war. Some say he should have been hanged for treason.
Prior to the war, a huge riot took place in the East End of London when Mosley’s Fascists, who were riding a wave of anti-Semitism, were stopped in their tracks by London Jews and anti-fascists in a violent confrontation which became known as “The Battle of Cable Street.”
Mosley tried to revive his Nazi agenda after the war. He tried to hold revival rallies in London, the Midlands, and Manchester. He never reached the stage in Manchester. Angry Jews, me among them, joined other anti-Fascists, many of whom had fought to defeat fascism in Europe less than two decades earlier, to prevent this Hitler-wannabee from speaking. The huge crowd chanted, ”Down with Mosley,” and down he went, three times before the police dragged him away without him opening his mouth.
That was confronting real fascism, not the motley crew that assembled in Charlottesville with their stupidly offensive anti-Jewish banners. And I feel for those who find the KKK deeply offensive and for whom the KKK symbols are hurtful. I feel the same, if not more, about the swastika. But the Charlottesville hoodlums were a nasty shadow of the real Nazis or the once-powerful KKK who marched through the streets of New York in the 20's to attend the Democratic National Convention where many were delegates.
One can appreciate the depth of feelings of a generation who had suffered the Holocaust and confronted fascism taking a violent approach to the notion that “free speech must be protected, even hate speech.”
If any organization marched through the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to the Jews” expect a violent confrontation, and don’t condemn the violent protesters with the slogan of “the right to free speech, even hate speech.” I would protest as much against anyone chanting “Death to Arabs.” Such incitement must be criminalized.
Free speech must have its limits, and if the law does not appreciate this then the law is an ass.
So, don’t be surprised if violence occurs against the cries of “Khyber! Khyber! Al Yahud!” or “Jews to the gas!” on the streets of Miami, New York, and other American and British cities. Such free speech must not be protected. This is threatening incitement to behead and murder Jews. It must either be stopped by law, or stopped by protest.
And, when this happens, don’t allow any politician to say, “There was violence on both sides.”
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS, and Anti-Semitism.’