Saturday, January 30, 2010

The right to Negative Liberty

There has been an outpouring of support on the blogosphere for the blogger Seismic Shock who got a visit from police at the behest of one of his subjects.

It concerns the issue of liberty: the liberty to publish well-argued opinions without fearing that the local police will drop by for a "friendly chat" aimed at nudging you towards removing posts from your own blog which may have offended someone else's cherished self-image. For one thing, finding the police at you door on a Sunday morning is not exactly an image of friendliness conjured up by law-abiding conscientious citizens. For another, the preservation of another person's cherished self-image should not really be the business of our law-enforcement personnel.

I think this is a very simple principle to grasp and to agree with.

However, as the whole show was taking place in the UK, there was no crucial cause for deep concern about a travesty of justice. This is how things are in democracies, where the fundamental rights are well understood. There may occur glitches but they are noticed and corrected, more often than not. This is not the case in non-democratic regimes, where rulers by incitement alone, can cause untold damage to individuals who do not conform to the grand narrative of the regime.

II. This is why I find this recent bit of news profoundly disturbing:

"Arab university lecturer and writer is hiding underground out of fear for his life after shocking the Palestinian Authority with a book that links Jews with the Temple Mount. The Arab world has been conducting a campaign, including removal of tons of dirt containing archaeological evidence, to try to eliminate historical Jewish links with the Temple Mount.

Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, of Birzeit University in Ramallah, threw acid on the propaganda campaign that tries to convince Arabs that the First and Second Temples never existed. He wrote in a book, “The legendary Temple of Jerusalem may be the place of the Presence of the Almighty and where the High Priests served Him.”

PA officials are furious with Nusseibeh, a scion of a distinguished Arab family, who now is in hiding and cannot be contacted even by mobile phone."

I found no other source for this information.

Some of my readers may recall the great kerfuffle involving Dr. Nusseibeh about which I wrote here, here and here.

There can be no comparison between the severity of the two cases. Nusseibeh's life is in danger, not just his level of comfort. I keep hoping that the news report may have been premature in its conclusions.


At 2:22 PM EST, Blogger Rebecca said...

The thing that puzzles me about this story about Sari Nusseibeh is that the Sari Nusseibeh I know of is the president of Al-Quds university in Jerusalem - he's not a lecturer at Bir Zeit. Is this a case of two people with the same name (certainly possible), or is it a really garbled story about the president of Al-Quds? And it only comes from one source, which gives me pause.


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