The outrage committed against Andrew Bolt under S18C of the RDA mobilised pro-free speech opinion in Australia. It highlighted some extreme illiberal and anti-free speech laws on the books that were introduced in the mid-1990s. While the then Liberal opposition put up something of a damp squib compromise, even they quickly realised that their own base was incensed. The leadership of the Jewish community (or at least Jewish community organisations) have been slow to come to this realisation. This was shaping up to be the end of a beautiful friendship – it still might.
Andrew Bolt has been particularly upset by the hypocrisy.
I have been particularly disappointed to be treated as collateral damage by Jewish community leaders and political players who have been demanding these illiberal laws be kept. Several have privately assured me they found the case against me a misapplication of the law or even an injustice. But not one publicly said so.
Well Mark Leibler of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council has written to Andrew Bolt – but again only providing private assurance – although he is happy for the letter to be republished on his blog.
I have no problem about the views which I have communicated in this letter being made public. If you so desire, feel free to publish this letter on your blog.
Wow. Really? I would have though that the same letter published in the Jewish News or on the op-ed page of The Australian would be far more powerful; that would be a show of public support.
So here is the story. First Leibler throws Judge Mordecai Bromberg to the wolves:
… there is a respectable legal argument that in fact the judge misapplied the relevant test in your case.
So we have a bad law on our hands? Or a judge who wouldn’t apply the law? Or both? Regrettably Leibler doesn’t explore this point. Given his continued support for 18C, I suspect this is a criticism of Bromberg.
Then Leibler has a go at Ron Merkel:
I also agree that the analogy used by the barrister in your case was absolutely misconceived and outrageous. Moreover, I have communicated this to him and others and this is no secret.
Good. Yet the operative word here is “secret”. Who knew? Perhaps this criticism was reported in the media – I haven’t seen it.
Then Leibler throws Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz to the wolves.
You are, of course, entitled to disagree with the views of Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz recently published in The Australian. However, to suggest that this article in some way sanctions the ”vilification of people” like yourself or amounts to “publicly insulting” you is, frankly, impossible for me to comprehend.
Let’s go to the tape. What did Meyerowitz-Katz say?
If people genuinely think it should be legal for Australians to harass others on the basis of race, then they are welcome to make that argument. What’s troubling about the anti-18C campaign is its dishonesty.
But then, being honest about 18C makes it harder to spin the provision as a threat to free speech, and nobody wants to openly defend racial harassment. Do they?
Yep – reads like he is saying that anyone opposed to 18C is a racist. Frankly, it’s impossible for me to comprehend how that’s publicly insulting too.
The bottom line:
Andrew, I will maintain – and responsible Jewish community organisations will maintain – opposition to the wholesale repeal of S.l8C of the Racial Discrimination Act. This is not in any way directed at you. It ought not to be regarded as damaging to you and it is certainly neither offensive to you or intended to be offensive to you.
But for the small matter of a court judgement and being described as “some sort of neo-Nazi planning a holocaust” this isn’t about Andrew Bolt at all.
To be fair to Mark Leibler, friends can agree to disagree and this is how he sees the issue. Friends who agree 99 per cent of the time work on the 99 per cent and work around the 1 per cent. I can’t see this as a 1 per cent issue. This is a fork in the road. Those who choose to walk down the path of 18C must do so alone, without the comfort and friendship of those of us who choose freedom over slavery.