On limits of political expression, here and there

My audience has weighed in. According to one, I was not sensitive enough in recognizing how dastardly was Ahmed Tibi in referring to Anastassia Michaeli as "cos amok." According to another, Tibi really is a traitor, in speaking out so forecefully in favor of Palestinian interests while serving in the Israeli Knesset.
It is not only my audience who expresses the second point. A Likud MK said that Tibi "should be removed from the Knesset and put behind bars.” An MK from a a party even further to the right than Likud (National Union) asked the Attorney General to begin criminal proceedings against Tibi. This MK said, “Your office has not hesitated to prosecute right-wing activists for less severe speeches. . . The time has come to stop Tibi’s party.” A more moderate Kadima MK said that Tibi was stretching his right to free speech, and predicted that the public''s tolerance would soon "explode."
The cause of this accusation is a comment by Tibi that there is "nothing more praiseworthy than martyrdom." and, while speaking at a event of the Palestinian Authority, "the martyr is the ultimate source of pride . . . the symbol of the homeland."
It appears that Tibi was again exercising his linguistic skills, as in his condemnation of Michaeli. Then the Knesset did not accept his explanation that "cos amok" referred to a person who had run wild with a glass of water. He was suspended on the basis of an alternative interpretation that he was employing an Arabic term for a loose woman.
The usual meaning of a "martyr" in the local context is a Palestinian celebrated for dying as a terrorist. However, Tibi asserts that the term means someone “killed by the occupation or died for a national cause. This includes children and Israeli Arabs killed in Land Day riots. . . . All of these were killed for their homeland, which is a praiseworthy value.
Tibi explained that he specifically mentioned names at the Palestinian ceremony, and did not include in his list of the praiseworthy any suicide bombers."
Tibi is not the only one in the sights of Israeli politicians.
The ranking Muslim religious authority in Jerusalem, Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, recently quoted a passage from a Hadith (the collection of Muhammad''s expressions) that calls for killing Jews.
The incident recalls the actions of Jerusalem''s infamous Mufti Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini from 1921 to 1937. That Husseini (perhaps a member of the same extended family as the present Mufti) used his position to incite violence against the Jews. He later fled the British authorities, eventually to Germany, where he collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haj_Amin_al-Husseini
No less a figure than Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked the Attorney General to investigate the present Mufti for incitement.
For his part, the Mufti has explained in comments in ways that rabbis as well as Muslim and Christian clerics have used to justify what others view as political extremism. He was only quoting sacred text. It is not possible to alter a Hadith. However, he did not apply the Prophet''s words to the present conflict. Indeed, Israel Radio reported him saying that he endorses efforts to settle the dispute between Israel and Palestinians in a peaceful manner, as promoted by the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?ID=254628&R=R1
Israelis ought to be careful in accusing Arabs of "going over the line" of acceptable free speech. It is widely conceded that members of a national parliament and religious leaders, as well as professors, enjoy considerable freedom in expressing their views.
No doubt that Israeli Arab politicians identify both with Israel and with the Palestinian national movement. Does that cross a line? It is arguably the same line that Israel urges Jewish (and other) politicians elsewhere--most notably in the United States--to approach in expressing their support for Israel.
It is possible to go too far across that line. According to Israeli judicial authorities, former MK Azmi Bishara, a Christian Arab, crossed a line that separates the advocate from a traitor when he supplied information about Israeli forces to the enemy during the Second Lebanon War of 2006. Jonathan Pollard crossed a similar line when he supplied Israel with secret material obtained while working as a civilian intelligence analyst with the American Navy.
The lines are delicate, and subject to dispute. While a political scientist can contribute to clarification up to a point, and emphasize the struggle about nuances and multiple meanings of words that are employed, it is judicial authorities who earn their living by having to decide that someone has gone too far in the direction of a criminal action.