FAQ # 3 - Freedom of speech and opposition: legitimate protest
 
 
 
   
 

As much as one's freedom includes the right to freedom of speech, it should also include the right to be heard – in the street, the press, the media, in parliament – and the readiness of significant people to listen.

If no-one hears protest because the media do not want to broadcast or print it, because there is no political dialogue or parliamentary debate, then opposition views and protest remain within the opposition. In such cases, even the most respectable and law-abiding opposition will feel frustrated and deprived of legitimate status.

[In many democratic countries, the right to free speech excludes harmful incitement, incitement to racial hatred, slander, libel, while legal minors may be protected from some forms of freedom of expression (advertising, media); the law differs from country to country, as do public prosecution policies; legal interpretation and severity of sentencing also vary in the Courts of Law.]

These are the main conundrums of legitimate protest:

a. Not all non-violent protest will necessarily fall within the law (civil disobedience);
b. Legal protest may be within the letter of the law but go beyond the spirit of the law and beyond accepted behavior; there is a thin line between normative or accepted behaviour and the language of potential incitement - or deliberate escalation into a hostile environment;
c. For all opposition, there is always an extreme periphery which will act outside the law, threatening both the mainstream opposition and the right to govern;
d. For the survival of democracy, the space for opposition is vital. The democratic judiciary acts therefore to protect democracy, by declaring some restrictive laws unconstitutional or determining certain actions to be in conflict with the principles of constitutionality or International Law;
e. On the other hand, a democratic government has a right to govern, and democracy must therefore act through its legal system to judge whether the opposition, or persons belonging to it, have over-stepped the line of due and legal behaviour.

What is going on in Israeli society, will there be a civil war?

The best estimate is that there is a great deal of resentment, and a highly flammable situation, in terms of emotions [See B:6]. To an extent. it may be all part of the psychological warfare that is going on for and against Disengagement – the opponents being far more organized because they feel threatened.

Even if Disengagement passes relatively peacefully, it will be traumatic for the people evacuated, their extended families and friends. Even if and when they are all successfully integrated into new environments, employment and schools, it is a major life event; many will not have a successful passage into a new life. In political terms, however, it can be expected to leave an enduring scar, but one that will heal with time. However, if a hostile environment is all-pervading during Disengagement operations, and it cannot be contained, the consequences would be further-reaching.

What do Jewish sources say?

Points to Ponder

References

Hebrew

The limits of protest (legitimate protest) – the Rabin assassination – texts, presentation and assignments
http://www.snunit.k12.il/minhal/word/4205.doc

English

198 Methods of Non-Violent Protest
http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations.php3?
orgid=88&typeID=15&action=printContentTypeHome

G.A.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   
 
 

 

 

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08 Nov 2005 / 6 Heshvan 5766 0