Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stifling Arun Gandhi

Arun Gandhi, after his shameful attack on Jews everywhere and his apology/reiteration of that attack, has offered to resign from the institute that nepostically bears his name. And the Washington Post's relevant editors have apologized for having posted his editorial in the first place.
As “On Faith” readers know, a post by Arun Gandhi on January 7 has produced an enormous response from readers who found Gandhi’s initial remarks anti-Semitic and his subsequent apology insufficient. When we undertook this project over a year ago, we wrote that our goal was to shed light on a subject—religion—that too often generates heat. The Gandhi post failed to comply with that mission, and we can only ask our readers to extend “On Faith” a measure of forbearance and tolerance as the site endeavors to conduct a civil and illuminating conversation. We regret the initial posting, and we apologize for the episode.
Now, surely there will be arguments from the "anti-Zionists" complaining that the "Zionists" have stifled Arun Gandhi. Well, sure, for once the "anti-Zionists" are right about a critic of Israel being stifled. But for a damn good reason - not because of his views on Israel, but because of his hateful writing about Jews. And he should remain at least somewhat marginalized until he can at least express an apology that shows he understands why so many Jews were hurt by his comments.

The prevalence of hateful statements otherwise intimidates minorities, leading to an impoverished "marketplace of ideas." To allow any and all speech is an appealing ground rule for debate, because it's easy to implement and comes sort of close to allowing maximum diversity of ideas, but most people will allow that direct threats cannot be toleratede. Hate speech should be understood as slightly-less-direct threats, or perhaps as coded threats, with the same implications of excluding some from debate. So to best realize everyone's rights to free speech in a particular situation, it's often appropriate to exclude bigotry. It's better than excluding minority voices, through our inaction in the fave of veiled threats, on the basis of their ethnicity. The Washington Post is such a space where hate speech should not be tolerated. So is the M.K. Gandhi Institute that Arun Gandhi founded.

To argue against that, the discussion has to actually turn on whether his writings were antisemitic. That is something few "anti-zionists" will allow, so they will do everything they can to marginalize and intimidate Jewish voices.

No comments: