Freedom of Speech and Caricature – Limits and Exceptions

Freedom of Speech and Caricature – Limits and Exceptions

As published in the Victoria Standard: February 2, 2015.

Where do we draw the line on freedom of speech and caricature? I support the general idea that anything goes and public disgust will silence the worst offenders without resort to official censorship. The reality of our commitment to free expression is exemplified by the application of certain exceptions that are far from universally-accepted.

Perhaps the main difference between negative portrayals of Arab Muslims and Israeli Jews is the power of anti-Israeli satire's dominant critic in Canada. While the Harper government took no action to discourage anti-Muslim cartoons; it is inconceivable that the Conservatives would quietly accept ugly caricatures of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other prominent Israelis.

Accusations of anti-Semitic hate would resound across the land and the inevitable Holocaust references would everywhere appear. Perhaps we might do well to remember the words of noted Zionist Nachem Goldman, who was shunned by his peers for daring to state, “…it is ‘sacrilege’ to use the Holocaust as a justification for oppressing others.”

I would be more sympathetic to those who seek to criminalize legitimate criticism of the Israeli state if the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) and their supporters offered similar advocacy to their Arabic and Muslim brethren. Such an expectation is simply reasonable.