by H. Millard (c) 2001

ext to the Bible, the most important book in Judaism is the Talmud. The Talmud is the compilation of oral law that evolved over the centuries. It tells Jews how they should live their lives, down to the most mundane details.

Over the centuries, in various countries, the Talmud was censored, banned and burned so that people couldn't read it. The Catholic Church had thousands of copies of the Talmud burned in Paris in 1240. More were burned in 1264. Then in 1564 the Church said that the Talmud could be distributed so long as it was censored to remove what some today would call hate speech. References to non-Jews as "goyim" (cattle), for example, were removed as were all negative references to Jesus.

Even with the censoring, much of the hate speech remained in the Talmud, as it does today. A few examples of this hate speech might be instructive. In the Sota tractate, a Christian church is called "Beth Tiflah," which translates to mean either a house of foolishness or a brothel. In "Midrasch Talpioth it says that Christians were created for the sole end of ministering to Jews day and night, and that non-Jews are animals in human form. The examples of this intolerant language abound in the Talmud. If you doubt it, you can read it for yourself, because unlike some Jewish groups today which are pressuring governments, Internet providers, publishers and others to censor non-Jewish free expression, there are no organized non-Jewish groups pressuring governments, Internet providers, publishers and others to censor Jewish free expression.

section of Torah scrollAccording to THE ESSENTIAL TALMUD, by Adin Steinsaltz "[T]almudic study has been prohibited [at times] because it was abundantly clear that a Jewish society that ceased to study this work had no real hope of survival." Thus, by destroying the Talmud, one could also destroy the Jews. In essence, Steinsaltz is simply saying what most thinking people know: words and symbols are important to the survival of a distinct people. Remove their words and symbols and you can destroy a people. This is so, because all humans are dependent on words and symbols in their thinking processes. Keep them from being able to read and express themselves and you destroy them as a people. To repress their free speech rights is to repress them as a people. I belabor this point, because, this is precisely what is being done to non-Jews today, and ironically those who are now the censors and the ones who are trying to destroy non-Jewish philosophical, religious, political and social thought are primarily some Jews. You'd think that those Jews who are trying to censor free speech of non-Jews would have learned something from history, but apparently they didn't.
Under pressure from Jewish groups, the French government is now trying to stop Yahoo! from allowing online auctions that sell Nazi paraphernalia, even though Yahoo! is located in the U.S.

confisticated stuff in GermanyAlso under pressure from Jewish groups, the German government arrests German citizens if they raise their arms the wrong way or if they possess certain books or symbols.

In the U.S., the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles sells a CD called "Digital Hate 2001," in which almost 3,000 Web sites are listed as "problematic." About the only thing that most of these Web sites have in common is that they're mostly run by non-Jews and have said or written things that some Jews don't like. Some of these Web sites are run by mainline conservative political groups.

Also, in the U.S. The ADL of B'nai B'rith has formed a partnership with AOL to keep sites that the ADL doesn't like off the Internet.

In all of the above examples, starting with the repression of the Talmud, right up to the latest repression of thoughts made manifest as words, that some are afraid to let others read, we see the same type of basic fear of freedom and free speech. In addition, we see attempts to destroy distinct peoples by attacking the products of their minds and the symbols and words that help give them a sense of identity.

In all of the above examples, noble sounding rationales were put forth for the destruction of the free expression of ideas. The Catholic Church had such rationales and pointed to the anti-Christian writings in the Talmud as their justification. Today, various Jewish groups point to what they claim are anti-Semitic or hate writings on the Internet.

Hopefully, our American sense of freedom of speech will prevail and America will continue to be a beacon of freedom to the world. However, even now there are those who are praising the repression of free expression in European countries. Rabbi Abraham Cooper who is the Associate Dean of the aforementioned Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles has said, according to a recent news report, "We have to commend the Germans and the French for basically saying 'in our societies, this is how we deal with the problems of hate, racism and Holocaust denial. You in America have your own laws, but at least respect our values.'" Americans should respect a value that censors free speech? Nonsense. Instead, we should bring the truth of human dignity and individual freedom to the ordinary citizens of Germany and France so they can take those actions necessary in those lands to vote their local repressors, bigots, and petty tyrants, out of office.

JusticeHow should we look at free expression so that we're not manipulated and tricked into censoring religious, political, social or philosophical thought based on what might sound like a good reason to so censor such thought? Simple. We should take a "content neutral" view of all free expression, that does not advocate immediate violence. In other words, when we're faced with any type of expression, we should not presume to look at the writing through our own biased eyes and determine that whatever it is we're reading or seeing isn't fit for others to read. We should, instead, substitute terms to see if what some are trying to censor is really what should be protected speech or expression. We as individuals or as members of various interest groups of like individuals--including religions--have no right to tell other individuals or members of of other interest groups of like individuals what they may think, say, write, read or see. We are not Gods. We have no such power over other human beings, and if we try to assert such power, we have dehumanized others and made them our inferiors---indeed, we have made them little more than our slaves, who must do what we think is right.

For example, if we were to read that someone wanted to pass a law to stop students from wearing a Star of David to school, we should ask if the law also covers Christian crosses. If it doesn't, then the law isn't fair, since it's only aimed at one symbol and one group who believe the symbol can be worn. Okay, so we can probably all agree that this example makes the principle clear. But, wait a minute. Change the terms a little more and say that someone wants to pass a law banning a Swastika. The principle should be the same. If the Swastika is banned, then so too should the Star of David and the Christian cross be banned. If one is allowed, then all should be allowed. That's what "content neutral" demands.

Switch now to the Internet and the attempts to censor free speech because some Jewish groups don't like the free speech of some non-Jews. If the expression of thoughts by some non-Jews are offensive to some Jews and if Jews can censor them, then the expression of thoughts by Jews that are offensive to non-Jews can also be censored. We've come full circle and we're back to the burning of the Jewish Talmud because some non-Jews find a book written by and for Jews to be offensive to their non-Jewish sensibilities.  

The End of Freedoms (from dictates that we do all in our power to protect the free expression of ideas in books and on the Internet. Why should we fear any ideas and try to keep people from expressing or reading them? If we don't agree with what some other people think and write, then let us simply write our own views on these subjects and let those who read them, decide which ideas they agree with. Let us determine to be a good and a just people, and let us express our views honestly and with forthrightness, and let us have our ideas do battle with contrary ideas for the minds and hearts of men. Let the best ideas win.

Let us set our minds and our hearts on fighting for freedom; not in trying to repress the freedoms of others. Let us say: Never again...will we allow our free speech rights to be curtailed by those who are different from us in philosophy or religion or world-view or race or ethnicity or nationality.

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