Freedom of self-hatred

Some Western countries intuitively understand that when freedom of speech becomes freedom of incitement, things have gone too far; Israel, on the other hand, has no idea where the boundaries lie.

Lara Logan 311 (photo credit: COURTESY: CBS News correspondent Lara Logan)
Lara Logan 311
(photo credit: COURTESY: CBS News correspondent Lara Logan)
While covering the popular uprising in Egypt a few of weeks, CBS reporter Lara Logan was attacked in Tahrir Square by a mob of about 200 people. They succeeded in seizing her away from the rest of her crew and security guards. What happened later is still not entirely clear. Some say she was dragged by the mob with shouts of “Jew! Jew!” (she isn’t, by the way) and was brutally gang-raped in a secluded portion of the square. She was eventually rescued by some Egyptian women and about twenty Egyptian soldiers who whisked her away to safety. Logan was subsequently flown to the US where she spent several days in the hospital.
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The event raised anger and indignation in the US and throughout the world. But an American left-wing journalist, Nir Rosen, held a lighter opinion of the traumatic event, using it to mock the poor woman on Twitter. Nir Rosen is known for his verbal attacks on Israel and for siding with Palestinian terrorists, who have the right, he claims, to fight back Israeli oppressors.
This time he used the incident in a smear campaign against CNN reporter Anderson Cooper, and also to present the near-lynch in Tahrir Square as an effort by Logan to gain publicity.  “Lara Logan was probably groped like thousands of other women.” He quipped “She had to outdo Anderson [Cooper]… At a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger…” His comments were harshly criticized by the media; the terminology he employed angered his peers as well as his employers at New York University. He had been teaching several courses there and was immediately forced to tend his resignation. The day after his comments were released, Karen J. Greenberg, NYU’s executive director said, “Nir Rosen is always provocative but he crossed the line yesterday.”
Kicked out onto the street, Rosen didn’t even attempt to appeal.
The unceremonious ousting of the foulmouthed professor brought to mind another case of academics crossing the lines. In the recent past it was uncovered that a few Israeli professors, employed by prestigious universities, had advised their colleagues abroad (mainly in England) to launch a boycott against Israeli universities and academics on the basis of Israel’s policy in the West Bank.
That news stunned many people. Not least of all, it was the most repulsive example of biting the hand that feeds. These academics owe so much to the Israeli universities, including their salaries, research and prestige. The sad irony is that many of them frequently travel abroad at the expense of Israeli taxpayers – and perhaps even more vexing – at the expense of funds provided by philanthropic Jews abroad who love and support Israel. And yet they have no scruples when appealing to European and American professors to boycott their own universities. I am filled with disgust for these people, who it seems are destined to be eternal sufferers of the chronic Jewish disease of self hatred.
However, I was even more disturbed by the reaction of the Israeli universities. When asked by public leaders to fire those professors who are inciting people and institutions against Israel, the heads of the Israeli universities refused to do so. We live in a democracy, they argued, and even though the professors’ actions were deplorable, the latter still have the sacrosanct freedom of speech and the full right to express their opinions.
I am a staunch believer in freedom of speech. But I don’t condone the freedom of incitement. I believe in everybody’s right to criticize his own country and to fight for their convictions. But I can never excuse someone who overtly acts to intentionally harm his country, his countrymen and his institution, and then pathetically hides behind the refuge of freedom of expression.
And if indeed, freedom of speech is the pillar of their defense, what then of academic fraternity, which claims to transcend all borders of faith and politics? Academics have always taken pride in their worldwide network which cooperates in spite of political differences between countries. Countless moral, social and humane campaigns have been initiated by scientists of all races, creeds and political persuasions. It seems then, that a malignant case of self-hatred takes precedence over the integrity of academic freedom. 
Let’s return now to the Lara Logan case. The professor who insulted her could have easily defended his comments on freedom of speech grounds. By the same token, NYU’s executive director could have insisted that even though his words invited condemnation, it was still within his rights to speak freely. But strangely, in the hothouse of freedom that is the United States, the incident did not invoke a single mention of freedom of speech. Americans understand that even in a free and democratic society there still remain some things that are better left unsaid. Perhaps it’s time for Israelis to learn a thing or two from their US brethren.
The writer is a former Labor Party MK and the official biographer of David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres.