Liberal Democracy and the Limits of Tolerance: Essays in Honor and Memory of Yitzhak Rabin

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An irony inherent in all political systems is that the principles that underlie and characterize them can also endanger and destroy them. This collection examines the limits that need to be imposed on democracy, liberty, and tolerance in order to ensure the survival of the societies that cherish them. The essays in this volume consider the philosophical difficulties inherent in the concepts of liberty and tolerance; at the same time, they ponder practical problems arising from the tensions between the forces of democracy and the destructive elements that take advantage of liberty to bring harm that undermines democracy.

Written in the wake of the assasination of Yitzhak Rabin, this volume is thus dedicated to the question of boundaries: how should democracies cope with antidemocratic forces that challenge its system? How should we respond to threats that undermine democracy and at the same time retain our values and maintain our commitment to democracy and to its underlying values?

All the essays here share a belief in the urgency of the need to tackle and find adequate answers to radicalism and political extremism. They cover such topics as the dilemmas embodied in the notion of tolerance, including the cost and regulation of free speech; incitement as distinct from advocacy; the challenge of religious extremism to liberal democracy; the problematics of hate speech; free communication, freedom of the media, and especially the relationships between media and terrorism.

The contributors to this volume are David E. Boeyink, Harvey Chisick, Irwin Cotler, David Feldman, Owen Fiss, David Goldberg, J. Michael Jaffe, Edmund B. Lambeth, Sam Lehman-Wilzig, Joseph Eliot Magnet, Richard Moon, Frederick Schauer, and L.W. Sumner. The volume includes the opening remarks of Mrs.Yitzhak Rabin to the conference--dedicated to the late Yitzhak Rabin--at which these papers were originally presented. These studies will appeal to politicians, sociologists, media educators and professionals, jurists and lawyers, as well as the general public.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472110162
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 5/23/2000
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.41 (d)

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Liberal Democracy and the Limits of Tolerance: Essays in Honor and Memory of Yitzhak Rabin

By Yitzhak Rabin

University of Michigan Press

Copyright © 2000 Yitzhak Rabin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0472110160

The Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin

Mrs. Lea Rabin

Excerpts from her Address

The events of the past weekend diverted attention more than a little from the political process whose recent milestone is the withdrawal from Hebron. The process is to continue until the next heartbeats, and we can still expect many and long discussions into the dark night.

Permit me to return to what is called the peace process and the withdrawal from Hebron. When I was asked after the signing on Hebron, "Are you celebrating?" I answered "Not exactly." I quoted from the poem by Walt Whitman in memory of Abraham Lincoln, which the Israeli songwriter Naomi Shemer translated into Hebrew and which was read as a requiem for Yitzhak:

Oh, captain, my captain! Rise up and hear the bells; Rise up-for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills, For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths-for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning . . .
And again and again they will say: The victory was Yitzhak's. Yitzhak was the one who made the breakthrough. Yitzhak paved the way. It was he who formed it. Let them say what they will. This road was indeed his. The peace train that left Washington through the Cairo agreement and Oslo II, which was stopped, continues now its motion to its final station, to a peaceful coexistence, to peace. But I remember and I shall remember until my last day the moment Yitzhak fell before my eyes. I shall remember the day I departed from him, "his silent lips were pale." I lift my eyes to Mount Herzl, where he lies. The sound of his blood cries out to me, cries out to us from the ground. "Why? Why am I here? Why didn't I, Yitzhak Rabin, understand? Why didn't my friends understand how deep was the incitement, how real was the danger hovering over me?"

And the murderer? Our grandson Yonatan called him "the pistol." The Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] camp became fearful then and quickly declared: "It was a weed. Do not blame the whole camp." A weed? A single killer? I say to you today, and I am not afraid of Pharisees and not of Sadducees, but only of hypocrisy: The incitement against Yitzhak Rabin came from headquarters. It came straight from the heads of the political struggle. Do not search for ideology in the incitement against Yitzhak. Do not look for true concern for the fate of the Land of Israel in this incitement. Do not seek in the incitement worries for the fate of the settlers. They, too, the settlers, had they not been incited, should have known that Yitzhak was concerned about them, worried about their security. Underlying the Oslo II agreement, which now people attempt to present as a bad agreement, was Yitzhak's deep concern for them, for their families. The settlers knew that Yitzhak toiled day and night to guard their lives and their security in the framework of the agreement.

It was not the holiness of the graves that stood foremost among Yitzhak's concerns. The sanctity of lives was his guiding lantern. Yitzhak Rabin sanctified human life. Of every person. Yitzhak invested the best years of his life and most of his energy to preserving people's lives, soldiers and civilians alike. Every victim pained him greatly. There was no bloodletting there and no denigrating of a person's life. Anyone who could have accused him of spilling blood or holding people's lives cheaply simply erred in authenticating the basic foundations of Yitzhak's life. Yitzhak had a true and honest desire to create relationships that would enable peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians. At the basis of the peace process lies the assumption that the peace that would be established would guarantee security. No security arrangement would survive if mutual trust and respect were lacking.

Yitzhak did not spill Jewish blood, but they spilled Yitzhak's blood. They spilled it, and we did not understand; we did not read the writing on the wall. How great was the danger that hovered over us. We did not go out into the streets when they called him "Traitor" and "Murderer"; when they burned his picture; when they carried what was supposed to be his coffin and declaimed excited speeches.

People asked rhetorically about the Palestinians: Do they want the West Bank? Don't delude yourselves. They want Kfar Saba and Ra'anana and Jaffa. They called Yitzhak "an agent of Arafat." Did you hear those words? Do you remember them? Those words had only one purpose: We shall finish off the "traitor" and the "murderer" and clear the way to the government, and there in the government, God is great. God, you have chosen us to rule.

As to the question whether the time has not come to ask forgiveness from Yitzhak, Minister of Justice Zachi Hanegbi (Likud) said in wonderment: "We are taking a different road, the road of security, so there is no need to apologize and ask for forgiveness." Is there no need to apologize? No need to ask for forgiveness? Minister Hanegbi and others emphasize the road of security-as though there were one second in which Yitzhak did not place security foremost before him? How can historical truth be distorted?

It was so easy to murder Yitzhak because he possessed deep faith in Judaism, which inscribed on its banner "Do not murder." Yitzhak always said: "Am I not among my people?" Yitzhak never believed that the personal incitement against him would lead in the end to a deed that would cut down his life. He was determined in his belief that his path was the only way that had to be trod-the path that he directed, wove, and built; and for certain more than once he thought: "All right, let the dogs bark, the peace caravan will in the end pass through."

But the caravan was stopped on that wicked night, because we, like him, did not comprehend and did not surmise that this incitement machine would result in his execution.

Today I want to congratulate the Palestinians. I understand their great happiness with their entry into Hebron. But I am not celebrating. Celebrating is difficult without Yitzhak.

Yitzhak, who never uprooted one Jew from his land. Yitzhak, who worried so much for the security of every Jew. Yitzhak, who faced the fascist waves of incitement, the likes of which had never been; they followed him everywhere, they demonstrated violently, blocked roads, set tires on fire, yelled at him loudly. They painted him with a kaffiya [Arab headdress] and with the SS uniform, "with blood and fire, Rabin we will drive you out."

Now look, it is a miracle. There are no burning tires today; there are no Nazi slogans; there are no excited gatherings on the Jewish streets. The settlers accept the decree with quiet demonstration. We saw them singing and dancing in the streets of Hebron. It is sad and difficult for them, and we understand their distress. But there is no one to incite them to go wild, and indeed they do not go wild. Yitzhak was murdered. The wild incitement was translated into the language of deeds. Now there is no weed and no ultrareligious extremist camp. A cynical political goal cut off the life of Yitzhak Rabin, who never betrayed anyone, never murdered anyone, never spilled the blood of anyone. Yitzhak wanted to make peace: Yitzhak invested days and nights in every detail, in every byway, and in every path that would bypass settlements and would make the lives of the settlers safe. But in the political climate and the political language that were acceptable during those dark months, Yitzhak was a traitor, a murderer, one who spilled Jewish blood, and in the end, they spilled his blood.

I want to thank the University of Haifa for this gesture, for this commemoration. I shall not forget it. I believe that many of you will not forget it.

We shall remember.

Permit me to conclude with another section from the poem "O Captain! My Captain!":

The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

But I with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

The Cost of Communicative Tolerance

Frederick Schauer


In 1993, in the early months of the presidency of Bill Clinton, the Clinton administration led a public campaign against the increasing quantity and extremity of portrayals of violence to be found on television, in motion pictures, and in popular music. President Clinton, his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Attorney General Janet Reno all attacked much of the mass media for portraying violence both frequently and favorably, and thus for contributing to the level of violence existing in the United States.

In response to the president's public campaign against media violence, the entertainment industry, and especially the major television networks, all made the denial of the president's causal claim the centerpiece of their defense. Televised violence is causally inert, they claimed, at worst a symptom and not a cause of a violent society, and at best simply a form of entertainment with no effect on people's actual behavior. Consequently, they argued, efforts to control television and other media violence, whether through the law or through the forces of public opinion, would be an ineffectual use of public resources that would do little, if anything, to reduce the level of crime and violence.

The rhetoric of the entertainment industry regarding portrayals of violence is usefully contrasted with the rhetoric of the American Civil Liberties Union and others in their support, over the years, of the rights of racist and antisemitic organizations, most notoriously the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party, to speak, to march, to demonstrate, to parade, and to organize. Unlike the claim of causal inertness deployed by the defenders of television and motion picture violence, the American Civil Liberties Union and others have not, in their defense of Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, claimed that the words, pictures, and symbols of such groups have no negative consequences. The defenders acknowledge that the racist and antisemitic images and discourse of these groups can harm the individuals against whom racist and antisemitic invectives might be directed, can harmfully corrupt the level and nature of civic discourse, and can at times increase the probability of violent and unlawful acts being committed against people on account of their race or religion.

Yet in these cases, the admission, by the American Civil Liberties Union and by the courts, of speech's causal propensities, and the admission of speech's harmful consequences, has not lessened the strength of the free speech claim. And that is because the free speech rights of Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan are not a consequence of the ineffectualness or the harmlessness of their utterances. Rather, the Nazis and their ilk have free speech rights not because what they say is harmless, but despite the harm they cause by what they say. Whether it be because allowing harmful speech fosters a desirable attitude of tolerance, or leads to the increased discovery of truth, or respects the process of democratic participation in public deliberation, or manifests the self-expression, self-realization, or autonomy of speaker or hearer, the values underlying the right to free speech are values not themselves derived from the fact of speech's harmlessness and are not therefore undercut by the fact of speech's harmfulness on particular occasions.

This debate between those who defend speech because it is harmless and those who defend speech despite the harm it may cause reflects a deeper division in moral and political theory more generally. And this division may be thought of in terms of two different pictures of rights, pictures that are largely coincident with the two different postures about free speech I have just illustrated.

One picture of rights, the one that connects with the claims of the defenders of television and motion picture violence, is that rights are what we have to keep bad people from doing bad things. Under this view, there are bad people in the world, or at least there are people who do bad things, and often such people occupy positions of power, commonly in the government. Sometimes these people do bad things by putting their own selfish interests ahead of the interests of others, or ahead of the common good. Sometimes they do bad things out of ill will or spite. And sometimes these people may be well-meaning but do bad things out of ignorance of the facts or confusion about goals. Under one picture of rights, rights address these pathologies, and rights are the instruments that block the implementation of such ill-guided or simply confused policies or practices. Rights keep authoritarian police officers from targeting innocent suspects, they keep corrupt politicians from implementing policies for private financial gain, they keep power-hungry ideologues from imposing their views and their morals on others, they keep policymakers from enacting policies designed only to entrench the personal power of the policymakers, and they keep those in power from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and the like for no reason other than a dislike of those who are different from themselves.

This picture of rights is well known, in part from the rhetoric routinely employed by various civil liberties organizations as they seek funds to combat these forces of evil, and in part from more serious scholarly efforts to understand rights as impediments to something like what Cass Sunstein has referred to as "naked preferences." But although this picture of rights is well known, one of its necessary implications is far more rarely acknowledged: If rights are what keep bad people from doing bad things, then the recognition and enforcement of rights brings great benefits at no cost. If rights, for example, prevent evil police officers from pursuing the innocent, and if the pursuit of the innocent brings no social benefit, then keeping evil police officers from pursuing innocent citizens is an unalloyed social good. Similarly, if the diversion of public funds to the pockets of corrupt politicians benefits no one except the corrupt politician, then rights that might prevent corrupt politicians from engaging in self-serving behavior would again bring nothing but good. And, finally, if rights prevent people from imposing their moral or religious views on others or discriminating for no reason other than irrational prejudice, then preventing the moral imposition or preventing the irrational discrimination is a public benefit with no costs except perhaps to the unjustifiable preferences of a small number of people, preferences that themselves bring no good and are thus justifiably stifled.

Now let us consider a different picture of rights, one partly captured by Ronald Dworkin's idea of rights as trumps and by Robert Nozick's related formulation in terms of side constraints. In both of these versions, the central idea is a Kantian conception of rights as impediments to otherwise optimizing welfare or utility maximization. More simply, rights represent limits on the means that may be used to pursue certain ends. If our baseline principle of policy-making is some variety of utilitarian or consequentialist welfare maximization, it may turn out that at times the aggregate or general welfare might be maximized by engaging in, for example, torture, or murder, or racial discrimination, or gender discrimination, and so on. Yet if there are certain things that it is simply wrong to do, and if people have rights that mirror these wrongs such that they have rights not to be wronged in this way, then people will have rights against certain things being done to them even if doing those things will actually increase the aggregate welfare or utility. So if it is wrong to torture, to take the stock example, and if people have rights not to be tortured, then they have rights not to be tortured even if and when the torture will, say, reveal the plans for terrorist attacks and thus increase the aggregate welfare. Similarly, if people have a right to the privacy of their home, they may, as in the United States under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, have a right to impose high burdens on police officers who would seek to enter the home for the purpose of obtaining evidence and thus impose costs on the apprehension of crime and consequent costs on society at large.

Although the side-constraint picture of rights is commonly associated with nonconsequentialist moral theories of the kind advanced by Kant, Nozick, and Dworkin, a very similar picture can be derived from rule consequentialism as well. It might be the case that the complexity of calculation, the distortions of ignorance, or the complications of coordination among agents with different interests would cast doubt on the ability of individuals to engage in successful act-based consequentialist calculations. When that is so, various rules might be put in place to prevent such likely suboptimal case-by-case calculations and thus maximize the aggregate welfare in the long term even if not in every individual case. One form of such a rule is a right, and thus a picture of rights that prevents individual decision makers from engaging in case-by-case decision making, but does so only in the service of long-run utility and not in the service of deep deontological commitments, can still be understood on the side-constraint model. For here, just as in the deontological model, the rights will prevent even well-meaning decision makers from taking decisions that, in individual cases and in the short run, even if not in the long run, might produce a net increase in the general welfare.

Under this side-constraint picture of rights, whether of rule utilitarian or of deontological origin, rights are no longer exclusively targeted at bad people doing bad things but are instead constraints on even the welfare-increasing decisions of well-meaning and well-informed decision makers. Rights are no longer just an unqualifiedly desirable impediment to the evil and the ill-informed, but an impediment to what appear to be wise policies, an impediment whose virtues are either virtues in and of themselves independent of consequences, as in the deontological version, or virtues whose long-run benefits are less likely to be perceived in the face of more salient short-term costs.


Excerpted from Liberal Democracy and the Limits of Tolerance: Essays in Honor and Memory of Yitzhak Rabin by Yitzhak Rabin Copyright © 2000 by Yitzhak Rabin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
The Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin 24
The Cost of Communicative Tolerance 28
Protest and Tolerance: Legal Values and the Control of Public-Order Policing 43
Freedom of Speech and Political Violence 70
Boundaries of Freedom of Expression before and after Prime Minister Rabin's Assassination 79
The Dual Threat to Modern Citizenship: Liberal Indifference and Nonconsensual Violence 99
The Paradox of Israeli Civil Disobedience and Political Revolt in Light of the Jewish Tradition 114
Should Hate Speech Be Free Speech? John Stuart Mill and the Limits of Tolerance 133
Holocaust Denial, Equality, and Harm: Boundaries of Liberty and Tolerance in a Liberal Democracy 151
The Regulation of Racist Expression 182
Freedom of the Press and Terrorism 200
Reporting on Political Extremists in the United States: The Unabomber, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Militias 215
Pragmatic Liberalism and the Press in Violent Times 232
Protecting Wider Purposes: Hate Speech, Communication, and the International Community 251
Riding the Electronic Tiger: Censorship in Global, Distributed Networks 275
Contributors 295
Index of Court Cases 299
Index 301
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