Allegations that a senior British diplomat launched into an anti-Semitic rant in a London gym while watching TV footage from Gaza will not upset the "treadmill of diplomacy", the Israeli Ambassador to London said today.Response from Language Log.
In a curiously tongue-in-cheek response to a case that has provoked concern within the Jewish community in Britain, Ron Prosor added that the tirade did not reflect "the health and fitness of our relations".
The diplomat, 47-year-old Rowan Laxton, allegedly shouted "f***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews" while watching television reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza last month.
He is also alleged to have said that Israeli soldiers should be "wiped off the face of the Earth" during the rant at the London Business School gym near Regents Park on January 27. The tirade reportedly continued even after other gym users asked him to stop.
It takes a while for the US/UK constitutional and cultural difference to sink in, even for me. I moved back from the USA to the UK 18 months ago, and intellectually I was well aware of the facts. It still surprised me, after a couple of decades of watching unbelievably repellent public speech being protected by American, to see someone under arrest for mere speech, and on an emotional military/political issue.Mr. Laxton sounds like a hot-headed jerk --not the sort one usually wants assigned to a diplomatic post. I'd expect him to be fired. I'd expect derisive articles in the papers. But I wouldn't expect him to be arrested and threatened with seven years in prison! What's wrong with you people?
The thing is that Britain has absolutely no analog of the American guarantee of freedom of speech in its legal system. There is no Bill of Rights saying that one can speak one's opinions freely, even in political matters. The government can directly control what appears in the newspapers if it wants to, and has often done so. The courts can also, quite separately, block news reports of various sorts and do so all the time ("who for legal reasons cannot be named", say the newspapers when mentioning someone who a judge doesn't want identified in news reports). And speech about other racial, ethnic, or religious groups can have serious consequences here. Iit's not all just golliwogs and white wine. You shout out your opinions of the "fucking Jews" here, and you can face years in prison.
How will you stand up to the Islamists without free speech?