How Hate Speech Laws Violate Equality

Since at least 2017, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission has sought to broaden the definition of hate speech, seeing that existing laws had been "unable to be utilized in respect of religious hate speech directed at Muslim New Zealanders, who, for the most part, belong to a variety of ethnic minority communities in New Zealand”.

In the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks, Justice Minister Andrew Little has now pledged to work alongside the HRC to “fast-track” (a term you never want to hear when freedoms are at stake) a widespread review that would include deciding if hate speech (including the aforementioned religious hate speech) should be established as its own separate offense.  

It was interesting (and potentially telling, regarding the HRC’s unhelpful ideological bent) that Jews weren’t mentioned in the 2017 HRC text considering how vulnerable we currently are to demonization from both the Hard-Left and Right. Internationally, more than 50% of the hate crimes recorded against a religious group are directed at Jews, who often make up less than 1% of a country’s population.

If the government wants to protect Islam, with the reasoning that religious hatred attacks the dignity of a community, why not afford this to Judaism?

Or even Zionism?

Anti-Israel protests are carnivals of hate. Full of open taunts such as swastikas scrawled across Israeli flags, symbolic blood on hands in a perverse pantomime of the blood-liberal conspiracy and demands for the destruction of the Jewish homeland from the “river to the sea”, activists nevertheless dismiss allegations of racism outright. Criticism of Zionism, as we’re told, isn’t antisemitic, as Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism or even Jews per se. But this is not true, as the more seasoned agitators well know. The biblical “prophets” fill literally hundreds of pages in the “Old Testament” with their lamenting the loss of Israel and the promise of return. The early political Zionists may have been more influenced by the nationalist fervor of the late 19th century than their religious tradition, but Theodor Herzl (author of “The Jewish State” 1896) understood the importance of tying the concept to the biblical narrative. Use of the term “Zion” (a synonym for Jerusalem) that first appeared in the Davidic saga (Samuel 2) where the seeds for the messianic promise of return are sown, is quite deliberate. Only the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) could give the idea of a Jewish homeland legitimacy and a sense of permanence. As Chaim Weizmann would later say to the UN Special Committee on Palestine in 1947 -

“(Moses) might have brought us to the United States, and instead of the Jordan might have had the Mississippi. It would have been an easier task. But he chose to stop here. We are an ancient people with old history, and you cannot deny your history and begin fresh."

Do “anti-Zionist” protests, an attack on a Jewish religious concept, undermine the dignity of our local Jewish community? Considering that “Zionist”, which formerly meant a supporter of Jewish self-determination in historic Israel, to many now means a militant, or even heartless and murderous Jew, a colonizer, thief and manipulator of foreign governments, what should save its misuse, a misuse clearly designed to vilify Jews and supporters of Israel, from being part of new religious hate speech laws?

The honest answer is there is no good reason why you wouldn’t include Zionism if this is the direction the government wants to take. But you could bet that the very same people pushing for restrictions now would be the chief force opposing any penalty for the criticism of Zionism. And herein lays the inherent corruption of hate speech laws and why they will always violate equality: in choosing which group deserves privilege, a far greater statement is made about those whose dignity they’d deny.   

Dane Giraud