Glenda Jackson: calling Israelis Nazis is not hate speech - it's free speech

By Jessica Elgot, February 25, 2011
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You can call Israelis Nazis and compare Gaza to a concentration camp - but that is not preaching hatred, according to Labour MP Glenda Jackson.

Ms Jackson, who won her Hampstead and Kilburn seat with a majority of just 42 votes in the general election, submitted herself to a grilling by Jewish constituents at London's Belsize Square Synagogue this week.

The MP dug her heels in when asked by a Birmingham student about hate speech on campus. The student was distressed by the comments made at Birmingham Palestine Society by a visiting speaker, Mike Prysner, who compared Israel's actions with the Holocaust. But Ms Jackson was unmoved. Free speech on campus was "precious", she said, adding: "I don't think that is hate speech, I think it's stupid and insensitive if someone does that. But it isn't hate speech. If people do preach hate on campus there are laws to prevent that."

She said she had met Manchester University students during a lobby of Parliament. "They argued that everyone speaking on campus should have their speech vetted. I couldn't believe it. You cannot do that."

Ms Jackson admitted she "expected more of Israel. Israel is not a little country standing alone against armies of people who hate it. If the government want support, they must stop building settlements, take down the wall and start letting necessities like cement into Gaza. I'm not anti-Israel but I am anti the Israeli government."

But Ms Jackson was unconvinced by those who urged a trade and academic boycott of Israel.

She said: "I do think that most boycotts are totally non-productive and hit the people who are most vulnerable. "

Nevertheless, her conclusion to the 50-strong audience was that "I can see there's going to be no meeting of minds here."

Last updated: 1:55pm, February 25 2011