Women, Palestine and Freedom of Speech
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
11 October 2023
A Palestinian woman stands in front of Israeli soldiers.
Paul Murphy has saw fit to complain about hate speech again. This time he is not complaining about what he considers hate speech but rather some of the things he says that others might consider to be hate speech.(1)
Paul and others in People Before Profit (yeah, it is ironic he doesn’t seem to consider women to be people, just an idea) have repeatedly called for women to be pushed aside to make way for men who identify as women. They have described such women as fascists, transphobes and engaged in hate speech. They are not opposed to the hate speech bill that was presented to the Dáil (Irish Parliament), though they had some misgivings about the lack of clarity on what constituted hate speech. But “misgendering”, refusing to accept men can become women, or that lesbians have penises could all constitute hate, not only in the law makers minds, but in the fevered imagination of the misogynists of People Before Profit.
To be clear none of these are examples of hate, rather they are common sense. Ten years ago, the men in white would have carted you off had you stated lesbians have penises. However, as it is the perception of the offended party that counts in hate speech legislation, who knows whether legally speaking all of these will actually be considered as such in Irish legislation. The odds do not look good and we will have to deny reality.
Now however, PbP find themselves in the firing line of hate speech legislation. This time it is on the issue of Palestine. The reaction to what happened in Gaza has been a mixture of genuine concern from some feminists, nauseating hypocrisy and the wilful ignorance of history by others. Some reacted, as if this was the first- and only-time rape and sexual abuse have been used as weapons of war in Palestine. It is just simply not true. It is beyond the scope of this article to deal with the history of the conflict and Israeli sexual abuse and rape of Palestinian women. Some feminists reacted angrily to the rapes by Hamas and this reaction is justified. What is not justified is to pretend this was the first time ever, nor for Zionists to claim they are concerned about rape as a weapon of war, when they are clearly not. Leading feminists with a track record of either being Zionists or ignoring Zionist violence, including sexual violence jumped on the bandwagon.
Figures for 2020 released in 2022 by the Israeli Defence Forces showed that “Out of 1,542 IDF sexual assault complaints, just 31 indictments [were] filed.”(2) Abuse is also rife within the Israeli forces themselves with one official report pointing out that one in four female recruits in the Police and Shin Bet had been the victims of sexual assault.(3)
Violence is not limited to sexual violence either. The Breaking the Silence report from IDF veterans details the abuse and torture of Palestinians by the Israelis. Even The Guardian, a cheerleader for Zionists had to acknowledge that “Some of the hardest testimony comes about the abuse of children and the torture of detainees.”(4) The abuse by Hamas of children is also something that was raised in the press by right wingers who had suddenly discovered Palestine and the sexual abuse of women and children there. Any attempts to point out that they weren’t really concerned about women or children, just Israeli women and children, was met with claims that people were trying to justify rape or whataboutery. It wasn’t it was just pointing out the hypocrisy of those who have chosen this one occasion to talk about such matters, not to protect women and children but to further the Zionist agenda which includes the bombing of women and children. Which brings us back to Paul Murphy and PbP.
The letter he complains about is from the British Home Office to the Chief Constables and warns about suspicious activities.
• wear clothing or carry articles in public which arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of Hamas;
• or publish an image of an article such as a flag or logo in the same circumstances(5)It goes on to state:
I would encourage police to consider whether chants such as "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" should be understood as an expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world, and whether its use in certain contexts may amount to a racially aggravated section 5 public order offence.(6)The fact that Israeli supporters in New York changed that slogan to From the Land to the Sea, Palestine will be Deceased in calls for genocide,(7) a call that has been made by leading Israeli politicians on repeated occasions. One such politician being Ayelet Shaked, who became Justice Minister in 2015. She was not alone in that. Even the conservative journal Foreign Policy, which can be relied upon to support the broad aims of the US government stated in recent days in an article penned by the head of the Palestine / Israel program at the Arab Center Washington DC in relation to the Israeli onslaught that “Washington is not merely abdicating official and moral responsibility but enabling mass atrocities at a time when all the red flags for genocide are up.”(8)
Nonetheless, Hamas’ atrocities have helped the right-wing press and others to create an atmosphere in which any support for basic political demands in Palestine is seen as supporting rape, which is not the case, and also tantamount to hate speech. Calls by Israelis for genocide are not considered to be hate speech, because they are on the side of the powerful.
PbP apparently never thought that they might be on the end of hate speech legislation and find themselves in an unusual position of being the victims of legislation they have stupidly supported on the altar the men’s rights movement that is Gender Ideology. They decided to support a movement backed by Biden, Zuckerberg, lots of right-wing governments in Europe, including the Irish one and further demanded the suppression of feminist voices. It is hardly surprising that few of the new generation of feminists are willing to listen to them on Palestine and swallow the rubbish from the right-wing media on Palestine, when PbP has actually backed violence against women and censorship.
Women look at the PbP misogyny and easily come to the conclusion that they support or are not concerned about the rapes. Now Murphy complains. Socialists have long argued against censorship and suppression of freedoms on the grounds that they will inevitably be used against progressive causes. It is not a new idea. Marx argued against censorship in his day as did Trotsky, both of whom are supposed reference points for Murphy and PbP, though in reality, they put both of them aside a long time ago.
PbP turned their backs on women a long time ago. They turned their backs on freedom of assembly by backing male thugs attacking women’s rallies. They lined up with the right-wing government of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to attack freedom of speech, thinking that as they were the nice “socialists” who went along meekly and nicely with their masters diktats, that Varadkar and Martin would be nice to them as well and in Britain their counterparts did the same with the Labour right and the Tories and now, lo and behold the same repressive legislation and concepts they have argued for have come back to bite them.
Attempts are being made to undermine solidarity with Palestine. PbP bear part of the blame for that. They paved the way for thought crimes and they actively encouraged attacks on women’s rights. Arguing for rapists to be housed in women’s spaces and then expecting to be believed over atrocities against women in a conflict is cynical at best. Standing up for Palestine means standing up for women, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. Consistency and coherence are key.
(1) See Paul Murphy https://x.com/GLoingsigh/status/1711884645921341859?s=20
(2) The Jerusalem Post (05/01/2022) Out of 1,542 IDF sexual assault complaints, just 31 indictments filed. Anna Ahronheim. https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-691641
(3) Ynet News (28/11/2022) IDF soldier's rape in prison 'only tip of iceberg', says state comptroller https://www.ynetnews.com/article/by0jgvgvs
(4) The Guardian (15/12/2022) ‘I became more and more violent’: shocking testimonies of abuse from IDF veterans. Chris McGreal. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/dec/15/idf-exhibition-breaking-the-silence
(5) Paul Murphy Op. Cit.
(8) Foreign Press (09/10/2023)
Laying Siege to Gaza Is No Solution. Yousef Munayyer. https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/10/09/israel-palestine-gaza-hamas-invasion-genocide-united-states/