Dear Professor Cole:
I was offended and upset by MEMRI’s threat to sue you for libel. Free speech matters, and the notion that anyone would use the courts to try and intimidate someone for speaking – simply because their views differ – threatens the liberty that I deeply believe in.
I posted my position on my blog.
We’re on opposite sides of many current issues. I disagree – strongly – with many of your views on the Middle East, but on my blog I publicly challenged MEMRI and personally wrote Yigal Carmon, telling him that what he was doing was wrong.
My support was essentially a political act – a statement that while we differed in almost every way, I supported your right to speak – as a political act – without the threat and expense of lawyers vetting every word.
Then I was informed of your similar threat against Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes.
“P.S. The Boris and Natasha of Arab-Israeli politics, are saying that I brandished a lawsuit against them for putting up a dossier on me and encouraging people to spy on me for them, in 2002. Damn straight I did. And nor are these two incidents comparable. I did not threaten to sue them for libel, but for personal harassment. I didn’t cyberstalk Yigal Carmon. In fact, I don’t think I ever even mentioned his name until he threatened me. As a private person, he should be left alone. The rhetorical strategy of alleging that if you ever threatened to sue someone on solid grounds, you may not complain about someone else frivolously threatening you with a SLAPP, is typical of these polemicists. Move on. Nothing of interest to see here.”
And I’ll call bullshit.
I’m not deeply familiar with Campus Watch, but your claim is on its face absurd. Like it or not, when we step into the political sphere, we become public actors. Your record (and mine, and Martin Kramer’s) are fair game for those who would use them either on our behalf or against us.
For you to claim that this simple act of assembling a record of your statements and writings is ‘harassment’ cheapens the word into meaninglessness.
You spoke politically; your opponents acted politically in assembling your words and deeds – and in encouraging others to look at them; and you reacted by threatening to use the law to quash their legitimate political actions.
You won’t agree; fine. I doubt that my opinion means more to you than your does to me. But you ought to know that you would have had my support – and the support of others who believe as I do – in this issue, and now you don’t.
I’ll close with a favorite quotation from one of my professors, political theorist John Schaar.
“Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960’s. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow.”