'If liberty can be defined as the right to offend, Britain has voluntarily removed itself from the free world.'By Gilad Atzmon: The Jewish Chronicle seems dismayed that the singer-songwriter Alison Chabloz has escaped jail time, at least for the time being. But the message conveyed by Ms. Chabloz’s conviction is devastating for Britain. This kingdom has, in just a short time, become a crude authoritarian state.
For posting so-called ‘grossly offensive songs’ on the internet, Chabloz was sentenced by District Judge John Zani to 20 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years. It seems that now music is deemed a major threat to Britain.
Chabloz was also banned from posting anything on social media for 12 months. I am perplexed. What kind of countries pre-vet social interaction and intellectual exchange? Israel imposes such prohibitions on its Palestinian citizens. Soviet Russia banned certain types of gatherings and publications and, of course, Nazi Germany saw itself qualified to decide what type of texts were healthy for the people and actively burned books. I guess that Britain is in good company.
Chabloz was further “ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work.” This amounts to something in the proximity of 90 Jazz gigs. And Chabloz is required to attend ‘a 20-day rehabilitation programme.’ In 21st century Britain, a singer songwriter has been sentenced to ‘re-education’ for singing a few tunes that offended some people.
The initial objective of the Nazi Concentration camp was also to ‘re-educate the people.’ Dachau was built to re-educate cosmopolitans, dissenter communists and to make them into German patriots. I wonder what this particular rehab program will entail for the revisionist singer? Chabloz was guilty of introducing new lyrics to Ava Nagila, will she have now to learn to sing Ava Nagila in Yiddish, or maybe to try to fit her own original ‘subversive’ lyrics to the music of Richard Wagner? Who is going to take care of Chabloz’s education, and what happens if the singer insists on continuing to mock the primacy of Jewish suffering or far worse, compare Gaza to Auschwitz?
Satire aside, the Chabloz trial and other recent legal cases suggest to me that Britain is no longer the liberty-loving place I settled in more than two decades ago. If liberty can be defined as the right to offend, Britain has voluntarily removed itself from the free world. In contemporary Britain, exercise of the ‘right to offend’ evidently leads to conviction and possible imprisonment. And who defines what establishes ‘an offence’? British law fails to do so. Chabloz was disrespectful to some Jewish cult figures such as Elie Wiesel and Otto Frank (the father of Anne Frank). Would Chabloz be subject to similar legal proceeding if she offended the Queen, the royal family or Winston Churchill? What message is Judge Zani sending to British intellectuals and artists? Since every person, let alone Jews, can be offended by pretty much anything, Britain is now reduced to an Orwellian dystopia. We may have to accept that our big Zionist brother is constantly watching us. If we want to keep out of trouble, we better self-censor our thoughts and learn to accept the new boundaries of our expression.
Democracies are sustained by the belief that their members are qualified to make decisions regarding their own education: they decide what films to watch, what books to read and what clubs to join. Seemingly, this is no longer the case in Britain. Decisions regarding right and wrong thoughts are now taken by ‘the law’. According to the JC, Judge Zani told Chabloz that :“The right to freedom of speech is fundamental to a fully-functioning democratic society. But the law has clearly established that this right is a qualified right.”
While many of us believe that freedom of speech is an absolute right, Judge Zani made it clear today that this is not the case or at least not anymore. Freedom of speech in Britain is now a ‘qualified right.’ In other words Government and the Judicial system are allowed to interfere with such right at any time. Just two years ago, the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t think that Chabloz should stand trial. Presumably at the time the CPS didn’t believe that Chabloz’ rights should be qualified or quantified. Two years later there has been a clear change in speech that is prosecuted.
Article 19e of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by Great Britain and enacted in 1948 declares: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
This was the law in 1948. In 2018, freedom and democracy are rights we have to remember, we experience them no more.