In The Land Of Free Speech Another Case Study: Mary Robinson
by Robert Fisk
Behold Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, would-be graduation commencement speaker at Emory University in the United States. She has made a big mistake. She dared to criticise Israel. She suggested--horror of horrors--that "the root cause of the Arab- Israeli conflict is the occupation". Now whoah there a moment, Mary! "Occupation"? Isn't that a little bit anti-Israeli?
Are you really suggesting that the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel, its use of extrajudicial executions against Palestinian gunmen, the Israeli gunning down of schoolboy stone-throwers, the wholesale theft of Arab land to build homes for Jews, is in some way wrong?
Maybe I misheard you. Sure I did. Because your response to these scurrilous libels, to these slurs upon your right to free speech, to these slanderous attacks on your integrity, was a pussy-cat's whimper. You were "very hurt and dismayed". It is, you told The Irish Times, "distressing that allegations are being made that are completely unfounded".
You should have threatened your accusers with legal action. When I warn those who claim in their vicious postcards that my mother was Eichmann's daughter that they will receive a solicitor's letter--Peggy Fisk was in the RAF in the Second World War, but no matter--they fall silent at once.
But no, you are "hurt". You are "dismayed". And you allow Professor Kenneth Stein of Emory University to announce that he is "troubled by the apparent absence of due diligence on the part of decision makers who invited her [Mary Robinson] to speak". I love the "due diligence" bit. But seriously, how can you allow this twisted version of your integrity to go unpunished?
Dismayed. Ah, Mary, you poor diddums.
I tried to check the spelling of "diddums" in Webster's, America's inspiring, foremost dictionary. No luck. But then, what's the point when Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "anti- Semitism" as "opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel".
Come again? If you or I suggest--or, indeed, if poor wee Mary suggests--that the Palestinians are getting a raw deal under Israeli occupation, then we are "anti-Semitic". It is only fair, of course, to quote the pitiful response of the Webster's official publicist, Mr Arthur Bicknell, who was asked to account for this grotesque definition.
"Our job," he responded, "is to accurately reflect English as it is actually being used. We don't make judgement calls; we're not political." Even more hysterically funny and revolting, he says that the dictionary's editors tabulate "citational evidence" about anti-Semitism published in "carefully written prose-like books and magazines". Preposterous as it is, this Janus-like remark is worthy of the hollowest of laughs.
Even the Malaprops of American English are now on their knees to those who will censor critics of Israel's Middle East policy off the air.