Blood libel is an old and prominent theme in anti-semitism, and still in use today.
Blood libels typically allege that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos for Passover, although this element was absent in the earliest cases that claimed (the contemporary) Jews reenacted the crucifixion. The accusations often assert that the blood of Christian children is especially coveted, and, historically, blood libel claims have been made to account for otherwise unexplained deaths of children. (source)
Here are some historical and contemporary images invoking blood libel explicitly or implicitly:
More images here.
There are many themes in anti-semitism. A prominent one, at least in contemporary anti-semitism, is nazism and the holocaust: Israel and the Jews in general are often depicted as imitators of the Nazis, with the Palestinians in the role of the Jews and the Jews in the role of the Germans:
And then there’s this image, inspired by an iconic photo of the Warsaw ghetto:
This is the original:
Conspiracy is a common theme in anti-Semitism. Hence the recurring use of the image of the octopus, often depicted spanning a globe with its tentacles, such as in this picture. The globe then represents the worldwide nature of the supposed conspiracy. This theme has of course some variations:
Sometimes also without animalization, as in this Nazi era image:
The tentacles image is still used today:
The conspiracy theme often has a capitalist or a communist subtheme. Antisemites often viewed the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, for instance, as inspired by the Jews. Trotski, a Jew, came in handy:
But, again, the Jews are not content with a conspiracy in one country only:
A few days ago, a senior US journalist by the name of Helen Thomas expressed the view that Jews needed to “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to their countries of historical origin (she named Germany and Poland, as well as “America”) (source).
Subsequently, a lot of folks expressed the view that she should resign or else be fired (source). She swiftly agreed. Now, forcing someone to resign because of an opinion, however stupid or disgusting this opinion may be, is likely to have an adverse effect on free speech, not only the freedom of speech of the person in question but of anyone else who may believe – rightly or wrongly – that his or her livelihood may be at stake because of certain opinions.
The forced retirement of Helen Thomas is further proof, if any were needed, that it’s still unacceptable, in public discourse, to be wrong in one’s opinions. I find that sad.
Thomas gave voice to an opinion which she then, almost immediately, retracted; no one, in the subsequent debate, defended the substance of her remarks. She was wrong; everybody, including Thomas, agrees on that point, and no real harm was done to anyone but Thomas when the video of her remarks surfaced.
But if you turn out to be wrong, even temporarily, even only once, on a hot-button issue, that’s enough for effective excommunication from polite society. That, to me, is chilling. (source)
Of course, given her age (89), Helen Thomas may in fact not suffer any serious consequences from her forced retirement. But what happened to her can happen to others, and the mere risk of such a thing happening may be enough for some people – those with more to lose – to think again and decide that it’s perhaps better to shut up. (More on human rights and risk here).
Now, none of this defense of Helen Thomas should be understood as a defense of what she actually said. Here’s a good quote explaining what exactly is wrong with what she said, if that isn’t immediately clear:
why the big deal over batty Helen Thomas? What is so especially offensive about her comments (comments that now seem to have gotten her fired)? I think the answer is fairly obvious. While it is one thing (not a good thing, of course) to argue in euphemism for the destruction of Israel by invoking the so-called one-state solution, it is quite another to advocate for the “return” of Israeli Jews to their German and Polish homelands, not merely because such advocacy is almost comically absurd and cruel (or, at the very least, stunningly ignorant of recent European history) but because this argument denies to Jews what Helen Thomas, and people like Helen Thomas, want to grant the Palestinians: Recognition that they comprise, collectively, a nation.
The Jews, of course, are an ancient nation, a nation whose history took place in a sliver of land called Israel. Helen Thomas’s argument, if you can call it an argument, centers on the pernicious belief that Jews are strangers in a place called “Palestine.” Palestine, of course, is the name that was given by the Romans to the Land of Israel precisely in order to sever the connection between the Jews and their homeland. Helen Thomas, and people like her, are thus soldiers in a (Roman-inspired) war against history. This particular war is not as offensive to most people as the war against the memory of the Shoah, but it is rooted in the same grotesque motivation: To deny to Jews the truth of their own history. (source)
More posts in this series here.
In the summer of 1941, during their invasion of the Soviet Union, German troops captured the town of Vinnitsa in Ukraine and massacred 28.000 Jews, meaning the entire Jewish population.
During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Jews imprisoned there by the Germans occupying Poland during World War II, attempted unsuccessfully to oppose the Nazis’ effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp. The poorly armed resistance was crushed by the German troops. It was the largest single revolt by the Jews during the Holocaust. Approximately 13,000 Jews were killed in the ghetto during the uprising. Of the remaining 50,000 residents, most were captured and shipped to Treblinka. The film The Pianist by Roman Polanski offers a classic depiction of the events. The identity of the boy in the image is unknown.
Margaret Bourke-White – who also took this famous photo of Gandhi – was with General Patton’s Third Army when they reached Buchenwald on the outskirts of Weimar. Patton, outraged by what he saw, ordered his police to get a thousand civilians to make them see with their own eyes what their leaders had done.
Bourke-White said, “I saw and photographed the piles of naked, lifeless bodies, the human skeletons in furnaces, the living skeletons who would die the next day… and tattoed skin for lampshades. Using the camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me”.
LIFE magazine decided to publish these photos in their May 7, 1945 issue many photographs of these atrocities, saying, “Dead men will have indeed died in vain if live men refuse to look at them”. (source)
The far-right British National Party opposes immigration, says it fights for “indigenous” Britons, and is anti-semitic, racist, islamophobic and homophobic.
The BNP has agreed to admit nonwhite members nearly three decades after its founding. A government-backed rights body took it to court, claiming the party’s constitution is discriminatory. At a court hearing, a lawyer for the party said leader Nick Griffin would ask members next month to change the constitution so it did not discriminate on the grounds of race or religion. In an order issued at the Central London County Court, the BNP agreed to use “all reasonable endeavors” to revise its constitution to comply with the Equality Bill, which bans discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or religious belief. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which brought the case, said it would be watching to see whether the BNP complied. (source)
First of all: which black person would be willing to join? And forcing the BNP to accept black people only makes them appear less racist than they really are. Who will benefit from that? The BNP of course. They will be able to point to the those few blacks confused enough to join them as proof that they’re not racist after all, even though for decades they have proven their racism in various ways, including membership rules.
I understand that people want to enforce rules on discrimination, and generally this is a noble objective. But here it looks like it’s self-defeating, and – frankly – nonsense. Moreover, there’s also the freedom of association, a human right no less valuable than the right not to be discriminated against. Groups should have the right to organize themselves according to their own wishes (or prejudices in this case) and rules, as long as they don’t violate the rights of their members and allow people to exit. Forcing groups to change their entry-rules violates their freedom of association.
There was some controversy these last days over the decision of the BBC to allow Nick Griffin, leader of the extreme right-wing British National Party, to participate in the discussion program “Question Time”. Here’s an absolutely hilarious remix of that program (it’s only a minute long):
Regarding the controversy: I don’t see why this person shouldn’t be allowed to speak. Extremists also have a right to free speech. For those who feared that his appearance on Question Time would have given him undeserved legitimacy, look at the video above… I rest my case.
A classic, but well worth rereading:
First they came…, Martin Niemöller
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
The Economist called it the “unsurprising research finding of the day“, but I think it’s a useful confirmation of an existing intuition: this paper finds that the recession can have a beneficial effect on the health of some people who lose their job because of it, namely those people spending their new leisure time in a healthy way. Other people, however, spend their leisure time cultivating some of their pre-existing unhealthy habits, or find themselves depressed and without employer-provided healthcare (especially in the U.S.). Because their healthcare has become more expensive now that they are unemployed, they decide to go without treatment or tests.
Results showed the body mass of the average laid-off food-lover increasing by the equivalent of more than 7 pounds for a 5-foot, 10-inch man weighing 180 pounds during unemployment. Similarly, frequent drinkers on average doubled their daily alcohol intake after losing their jobs and before finding another one. (source)
Elsewhere in the world, and especially sub-Saharan Africa, it seems that the health consequences of the global recession are more dramatic:
The financial crisis will kill between 28,000 and 50,000 babies in sub-Saharan Africa this year, according to this paper. The reasoning here is straightforward. For people on subsistence incomes, a fall in GDP can be fatal. The paper’s authors, Jed Friedman and Norbert Schady, estimate that a one percentage point fall in per GDP across sub-Saharan Africa is associated with a rise in infant (defined as under-ones) mortality of between 0.34 and 0.62 per 1000. If we multiply this increase by the number of births this year and by the 2.4 percentage point difference between GDP growth this year and last (a reasonableish estimate of the effect of the crisis), we get a figure of between 28,000 and 50,000. … Of course, you can quibble with the numbers. But the general story holds. For the poor, income is a matter of life or death. Which brings me to my question. If one-in-seventeen British babies were to die this year because of the financial crisis, it would be the biggest media story for years and there’d be rioting in the streets until the government did something. So, why the silence? Chris Dillow (source)
Since health and life are human rights, we have another human rights problem thanks to the recession. Previous posts on the (possible) impact of the recession on human rights are
In Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court held that abstract advocacy of lawlessness and violence is protected speech under the First Amendment. Even in a society based on laws, people should be free to express disagreement with the law and call on others to break the law (inflammatory speech).
I think that’s generally acceptable and fair. If someone believes that smoking dope shouldn’t be a crime, and carefully describes to his or her readers how to cultivate and use the drug, then he or she should be permitted to do so. The crime is drug use, not the description of or incitement to use drugs. The same is true for a more extreme example, such as the infamous book called “The Hit Man Manual” (see the Rice v. Paladin Enterprises case). Also, we don’t want to ban chemistry books because someone may use them to build a bomb.
However, it is equally acceptable, also according to Brandenburg v. Ohio, that speech which incites imminent, illegal conduct may itself be made illegal:
The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action. Brandenburg v. Ohio
If speech intends to produce illegal actions, and if, as a result of this speech, the illegal actions are imminent and likely, then there is a reason to limit freedom of speech. In the words of Justice Black (who was, by the way, something of a first amendment absolutist):
It rarely has been suggested that the constitutional freedom for speech and press extends its immunity to speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute. We reject the contention now.
When speech acts contribute substantively to criminal acts, the speech acts are considered to be “aiding and abetting”. The fact that ”aiding and abetting” of an illegal act may be carried out through speech is no bar to its illegality. (source)
The justifications for free speech that apply to speakers do not reach communications that are simply means to get a crime successfully committed. K. Greenawalt in “Speech, Crime, and the Uses of Language”
Aiding and abetting a crime can be criminal in itself, even if it takes the form of the spoken or written word. The First Amendment doesn’t provide immunity from prosecution because someone uses speech or the printed word in encouraging and counseling others in the commission of a crime.
Volokh has given the following example:
A Virginia woman has been arrested for blogging about the members of a local drug task force. The charge is harassment of a police officer. She apparently posted on the blog one officer’s home address, as well as photos of all members of the task force, and a photo of one officer getting into his unmarked car in front of his home….
Photographing, writing about, and criticizing police officers, even by name, should of course be legal. But it’s a tougher call when the officers in question work undercover. Naming them, posting their photos, posting their addresses, are all pretty clearly efforts to intimidate them, and it isn’t difficult to see how doing so not only makes it more difficult for them to do their jobs, but may well endanger their lives….
When may speech be restricted because it provides others with information that may help them commit crimes? Here, the information may help people kill police officers, or at least conceal their crimes from police officers (once the undercover officers’ covers are blown). (source)
However, this doesn’t mean that all inflammatory speech or every publication and distribution of instructions on how to act illegally, can be suppressed and made illegal. The “Brandenbrug test” has to be successful first, which means that there has to be more than mere intent. There has to be incitement of an imminent lawless act, as well as the likelihood that this incitement produces or helps to produce such an act.
In an older post I mentioned some of the negative effects of the current economic recession on human rights. One effect I didn’t mention but which should have been too obvious to miss, is anti-semitism. The recession started as a financial crisis and a crisis of the banks. Given the historic association of anti-semitism with conspiracy theories about Jews and banks, it’s no coincidence that some will see “the Jews” as the cause of the current recession (the links between Madoff and the Jewish community didn’t help either).
The Boston Review has a poll:
In order to assess explicit prejudice toward Jews, we directly asked respondents “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?” with responses falling under five categories: a great deal, a lot, a moderate amount, a little, not at all. Among non-Jewish respondents, a strikingly high 24.6 percent of Americans blamed “the Jews” a moderate amount or more, and 38.4 percent attributed at least some level of blame to the group. (source)
More on anti-semitism.
Find the similarities between this cartoon in an Arab newspaper, and the front page of the nazi Der Stürmer newspaper:
And here is the State Department’s Global Anti-Semitism Report.
Growing numbers of people in several major European countries say they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews. Pew Global Attitudes Project
An old demon on the come-back. I was trying to figure out the reasons, but I couldn’t think of anything better than the increasing weight of Muslim opinion in Europe’s public opinion. I don’t mean to say that Muslims are by definition more anti-semitic than other folks, but the Palestinian issue obviously colors their point of view.
From Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Shylock’s Speech to Antonio (I’ve added a “translation” into present-day English):
Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances.
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gabardine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help.
Go to, then, you come to me, and you say,
“Shylock, we would have moneys”; you say so;
You that did void your rheum upon my beard,
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold; moneys is your suit.
What should I say to you? Should I not say:
“Hath a dog money? Is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?”; or
Shall I bend low, and in a bondman’s key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness
“Fair sir, you spat at me on Wednesday last;
You called me dog; and for these courtesies
I’ll lend you thus much moneys”?
(Sir Antonio, many times
In the Rialto you have criticized me
About my money and my money-lending.
I have put up with it with a patient shrug of the shoulders,
Because Jewish people have to put up with things and that is what distinguishes us.
You call me someone who believes in a false religion, a nasty dog
And spit on my Jewish cloak,
And all because I lend out my own money.
Well then, now it appears that you need my help.
You come to me and you say,
“Shylock we would like to borrow money”
Even though you spat phlegm on my beard
And kick me as if you were throwing a stray dog
Out of your house; you are asking for money.
What should I say to you? Shouldn’t I say
“Has a dog money? Is it possible
That a dog can lend three thousand ducats?” or
Shall I grovel and in a slave’s tone of voice
With a soft respectful whisper
“Good sir, you spat at me last Wednesday
You called me a dog; and for these kindnesses
I’ll lend you so much money”?)
Immediately after this, Shylock famously goes on to demand a pound of Antonio’s flesh if the debt is not serviced. Money lending was one of the few careers open to Jews, since Jews were forbidden to own property and Christians were not allowed to lend.
Near the end of the play, when asked whether he seriously intends to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh if the merchant defaults on his loan, Shylock affirms that he is indeed serious, especially given his recent indignities at the hands of Christians:
Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge! If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
In the introductory post of this series, I summarized the dangers of limiting free speech while at the same time granting that such limits are necessary in some cases. One case is Holocaust denial, or Holocaust revisionism as it is referred to by its supporters.
Holocaust deniers only rarely claim that the Holocaust didn’t take place or that no Jews were killed by the Nazis. Rather, they claim that either or all of these facts are lies:
Instead of outright negation, there is trivialization. Moreover, Holocaust denial claims that the holocaust is a deliberate Jewish conspiracy created to advance the present-day interest of Jews and Israel.
Most historians and scholars reject Holocaust denial as a pseudo-science that fails to respect the rules of historical evidence and that is grounded in hatred rather than the pursuit of knowledge. Holocaust denial is characterized by the distortion or falsification of historical documents and the selective use of sources.
Holocaust deniers are mainly far-right, neo-nazi types and antisemites, but there are also far-left deniers, islamic deniers etc.
Nothing that went before is in itself sufficient to justify laws limiting the right to free speech of Holocaust deniers. According to the rules set forth in the introductory post in this series, one has to show that some rights are violated by Holocaust denial, and that this violation is worse than the violation of the rights of Holocaust deniers which would result from Holocaust denial laws.
There are a few possible kinds of justification:
There is antisemitism inherent in Holocaust denial, although it is not necessarily obvious or immediately apparent. It is often implicit rather explicit antisemitism: the Holocaust is an invention of Jews, a tool to make them look like victims instead of criminals, and thereby gaining some sort of immunity for their vicious acts. Or a tool to make financial claims on Germany.
However, the mere antisemitism of Holocaust denial is not a sufficient reason to prohibit it. Antisemitism as such should enjoy the protection of the freedom of speech. Only when antisemitism explicitly incites to violence against or discrimination of Jews can it be forbidden. And Holocaust denial is rarely this explicit.
The offensive nature of Holocaust denial does undoubtedly inflict harm on Jews, especially the survivors of the camps, but no harm in the sense of rights violations. One could claim that Holocaust denial perpetuates and encourages antisemitism and therefore increases the likelihood of antisemitic attacks on individual Jews. But it would be a tough job establishing the causal links.
One could also claim that Holocaust denial perpetuates negative stereotypes in society, and thereby contributes to the marginalization of Jews. Again, difficult to prove.
In general, Holocaust denial is such a marginal phenomenon that it’s difficult to claim that it makes a substantive contribution to violence and discrimination. But in some countries or subcultures, the balance can be different.
Justifying the prohibition of Holocaust denial merely on its offensive nature, would open the floodgates to a massive number of possible limitations of free speech, especially in the field of blasphemy. This would lead to an excess of political correctness and ultimately to “thought police”.
A justification based on the harm to the reputation of Jews would make Holocaust denial similar to libel. However, libel is traditionally designed to protect an individual’s reputation, income, and honor against abusive and harmful accusations. I fail to see how Holocaust denial can be directly harmful to individual Jews. Group defamation is highly controversial and could lead to the same problems cited in the previous point.
Sometimes limits on rights are necessary to protect a rights-supporting community against anti-democrats who use democracy against democracy. A democracy is a particularly vulnerable form of government. The freedom it delivers can easily be misused by those who want to take it away. Anti-democratic and illiberal forces are free to use rights, freedoms and democratic procedures for the promotion of tyranny and oppression. The purpose of many holocaust deniers is the resurrection of Nazism, and a condition for this resurrection is the denial of the Nazis’ greatest crime. There can be no hope for acceptability of far-right policies as long as the Holocaust stands in the way. German Nazism, of course, is notorious for the way in which it misused the imperfect Weimar democracy.
Seen in this light, the criminalization of Holocaust denial is a self-defensive act of democracies in their struggle against extremism. Holocaust deniers use the freedoms of democracy in order to overthrow it. One cannot reasonably force democracies to abstain from self-defense. No system can be required to cherish the seeds of its own destruction.
To the extent that Holocaust deniers aim to overthrow democracy, they are hardly in a position to complain about limitations of the freedoms they would like to destroy:
One has no title to object to the conduct of others that is in accordance with principles one would use in similar circumstances to justify one’s actions towards them. A person’s right to complain is limited to violations of principles he acknowledges himself. John Rawls
You should not ask something for yourself that you are planning to deny to others. This, according to me, is the strongest justification of Holocaust denial laws, even in those countries were the revival of Nazism of highly unlikely. It may be unlikely precisely because of measures such as Holocaust denial laws. More on tolerance of intolerance here.
Some extreme Islamists use Holocaust denial in their campaign against Israel. They hope that when they negate the Holocaust, they can remove one of the moral foundations of the state of Israel (as a refuge for the survivors). This negation, they hope, can help their efforts to destroy Israel.
However, whereas this justification may be useful in some circumstances, it is difficult to use it for an outright, worldwide prohibition on Holocaust denial since Holocaust denial outside of the Middle East can hardly be linked to the possible destruction of Israel.
In Germany, there may be an additional justification available. Holocaust denial laws can there be seen as part of a package of reparative justice, a kind of “sorry” issued by the state, a public acknowledgment of responsibility.
Whereas truth is very important, it seems wrong to use laws to enforce the truth. Truth should be based on proof and sound argument, and using the law to punish “lies” only encourages those who believe the lies. They, and others as well, will think that there must be something wrong with the “truth” if it needs the law for its protection.
There is a case to be made for Holocaust denial laws, but one should be very careful and limit the prohibitions to cases and circumstances that really require them. Not all forms of Holocaust denial is equally pernicious, and not all circumstances are equally dangerous. Moreover, one should take into account the counterproductive effects of stigmatizing a certain group: persecution by the law can encourage them, can increase the number of sympathizers, and can give them more publicity than they would otherwise receive. Ignoring Holocaust deniers rather than criminalizing them could often be the most successful strategy. And some justifications should be avoided because they can create a dangerous precedent.
Holocaust denial is explicitly or implicitly illegal in 13 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland (source: here or here).
We must send a clear and strong message to all who would commit crimes of hate: it is wrong, it is illegal, and we will catch you and punish you to the full force of our laws. Al Gore
A hate crime (or a bias crime) is a crime committed against a person that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s prejudice against
Hate crimes are traditional offenses such as murder, harassment, rape, violent assault, vandalism, arson etc. but they are motivated by the offenders’ bias.
This FBI statistic shows the distribution over the different types of hate crime in the U.S. in 2004:
In 2004, these percentages cover 7.649 incidents involving 9.035 offenses directed at 9.528 victims. Of course, this covers the US only. About 30% of the offenses involved the crime of intimidation, another 30% assaults, and 35% crimes against property (vandalism etc.). Most of the anti-race crimes were anti-black. Most of the anti-religious crimes were anti-Jewish. Most of the crimes based on sexual prejudice where anti-male homosexual. The anti-ethnicity crimes were mostly anti-Hispanic. Most offenders were white. In 2006 the data were very similar.
After 9-11 there was a sudden increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes, but this was a very temporary phenomenon:
These are the numbers in the U.K.:
Nationally, in 2006-07, police reported 5,619 hate crimes in which someone was injured, 4,350 hate crimes without injury, and 28,485 cases of racially or religiously motivated harassment. There were also 3,565 cases of criminal damage related to hate crimes. The typical hate offender is a young white male (most homophobic offenders are aged 16-20, and most race hate offenders under 30). (source)
Data on the rest of the world are difficult to come by.
Official crime statistics always understate the true extent of criminal behavior. And in the case of hate crime it is reasonable to state that many hate crimes are not counted separately but disappear in the global crime statistics, because the policeman or woman who records the crime may not be aware of the motivation or may not care.
There is some controversy over the necessity of specific hate crime laws, as most of the actions concerned, if not all, are already illegal under normal law.
In the United States most states have laws that impose extra punishment for crimes that are motivated by hate, in excess of the usual punishment for the same crimes when motivated by other reasons. (source)
Whereas the intention of the criminal has for centuries been a factor in establishing the degree of the punishment, hate crime laws are often seen as punishment of ideas, as an example of the “thought police”. Proponents argue that hate crimes hurt the victims more than the same crimes committed for other reasons because they stigmatize people and erode their self-esteem. Furthermore, hate crimes not only hurt the immediate victims but also other people in the same group because they create a climate of fear. One can even claim that they harm the very fabric of a free and diverse society.
Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights outlaws hate crime:
Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
There is also some controversy over whether incitement to hatred should also be called a hate crime. Contrary to the offenses described above, speech as such is not a crime, even speech expressing or inciting hatred. Speech is protected by the right to free speech. However, this right, like many human rights, is not absolute and can be limited when it endangers other human rights (like the right to life and bodily integrity). It’s a thin line between hateful words and hateful actions. Impressionable people can be led to violent crimes by hate speech.
Examples of speech, in the wide sense of the word, such as hanging a noose in a tree in the front yard of the house of an African-American family, or spraying graffiti on someone’s car or house, is obviously more of a problem than posting a picture of a Koran in the toilet on a blog or a website. The first examples are clearly intimidation and can force people to sell their houses and move somewhere else. This has human rights implications (freedom of residence and property rights), which the latter examples don’t have (it’s difficult to argue that a photo of the Koran in a toilet, although undoubtedly an expression of hatred, harms anyone’s freedom of religion).
Some also call Islamic terrorism a hate crime. Hate and prejudices are certainly motivations behind many terrorist attacks. Examples from history are lynching, cross burning (intimidation), the medieval witch hunt, the many genocides, the Roman persecution of Christians…