Shoot­ing the foot

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis -

If there is one is­sue which is at the top of ev­ery­body’s agenda this week, it is that much-touted, hard-won and of­ten hard to de­fend be­lief: free­dom of speech. We have learned, at some cost, that free­dom of speech is the hall­mark of a free and demo­cratic so­ci­ety, how­ever dif­fi­cult and un­pleas­ant it can be at times to hear the words ex­pressed in such free­dom. And if there is any group who ought to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of free­dom of speech, it is surely the Jewish com­mu­nity. We are, af­ter all, fre­quently on the re­ceiv­ing end of the an­tithe­sis of free speech. The Board of Deputies and the Fair Play Cam­paign have got it ex­actly right with their re­sponse to the Pales­tinian Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign’s plans to stage a tar­geted boy­cott of two su­per­mar­kets, Waitrose and Mor­risons. Don’t boy­cott, urged the Board; “buy­cott” in­stead, by buy­ing as many Is­raeli goods as pos­si­ble. So it is all the more dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand the at­ti­tude of the Manch­ester Zion­ist Cen­tral Coun­cil to a planned se­ries of lec­tures by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Is­rael branch of Physi­cians for Hu­man Rights. Rather than go to the lec­tures and chal­lenge the con­tent, which was the sen­si­ble thing to do, the ZCC del­uged health pro­fes­sion­als at three ma­jor hos­pi­tals with emails and sought the with­drawal of the lec­ture in­vi­ta­tions. Re­sult, can­celled lec­tures, be­wil­dered nurses and doc­tors, and an out­raged Is­raeli lec­turer. The sound of shot feet res­onates through­out north-west Eng­land. As we said, free­dom of speech is a valu­able com­mod­ity.

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