Freedom of Expression and the Desecration of Flags and Religious Books in Israeli Law
32 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2019
Date Written: June 24, 2019
Freedom of expression is axiomatic to liberal democracy, and enshrined in every constitutional text. However, extremely divergent paradigms about when freedom of expression must be curbed are manifest in the legal systems of different countries, especially concerning hate speech and speech offensive to religious or patriotic feelings. Some countries, most notably the United States, are more protective of freedom of expression even at the cost of deliberately ignoring the need especially in culturally diverse societies common in democratic countries nowadays – for dialogue rather than confrontation, for tolerance rather than hostility and for a pluralistic respect of the dignity and integrity of others and that which they cherish. The European paradigm on the other hand, willingly sacrifices freedom of expression for the sake of protecting the sensibilities of the different segments of society. The theoretical question of the proper perimeters of such infringements upon freedom of expression aside, legislation prohibiting the desecration of flags or other national symbols on the one hand, and of religious books or other venerated objects on the other hand, can be seen as a measure of the emphasis ascribed in a jurisdiction to tolerance and pluralism as a justification for limiting democratic rights. This paper is a critical review of the legislation and case-law of flag burning statutes, and statutes outlawing the desecration of religious books, in Israel.
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