God its good to have lawyer on the blogosphere, who actually understands human rights.
Commenting on the case where an Invercargill Muslim cafe owner refused service to two Israeli born women, Stephen Franks makes the point that “shunning” is (or should be) a right.
The Israeli ambassador should butt out. I object to his attempt to circumscribe the freedom of Turkish New Zealanders,. The Israeli New Zealanders were right to draw attention to the issue, but they do not need the law or the government to intervene simply because they have been offended.
Though I do not share the Invercargill Turks’ views on Israel in any degree, I defend them. I defend their right to express their views by shunning citizens of a state they consider to be evil.
I would not shun an ANC South African despite their government’s support of Mugabe. I would not shun a Sudanese despite Darfur, without evidence of complicity or support for their odious government’s behaviour. I do not shun Moslems despite their religion’s abhorrent attitude to women. To me it is discourteous to shun people. I have not walked in their shoes. I do not know their personal views of the beliefs or conduct that offends me.
If a government agency acted as the Turks did it would be utterly wrong. The state weilds the coercive power of us all. It must be tolerant in a free society. Without proof of involvement in or support of unlawful acts the State certainly should not discriminate against New Zealand citizens simply because they are of a group in which some members have unpopular opinions.
But the vigour of our values (in the long term our freedoms) may depend on the willingness of individuals to be intolerant so long as they do not coerce their fellow citizens. So I defend the right of any private citizen to shun whoever they want on their own property.
That right to shun can not depend on first establishing exactly what an individual thinks. Most effective social sanctions are class sanctions. They depend on stereotyping. Without stereotyping much essential human action would be paralysed.
I may be hesitant to inflict class punishment for the behaviour of only some of the members of a class. Perhaps at an individual level I might show disgust if I had reason to think they endorsed the detested actions or opinions. But not all of us must be made so squeamish by law.
There are many individual ways to express moral repugnance. Individuals can be obliged to take sides, to say where they stand, and if necessary to wear the costs of unpopular positions. The Springbok tour protesters who told individual rugby fans what they thought of them, who shunned them, were exercising freedom. Freedom is not freedom if we can not do that. Freedom relies on social sanctions as incentives for conduct most of us approve, and as incentives to avoid conduct most of us disapprove. Social sanctions only work if there is a cost to expressing, or supporting, or not denouncing abhorred positions.
Group punishment irrespective of the target’s personal responsibility is exactly what our government is doing to put pressure on the Fijian government. It is the mechanism in some strikes. I defend the right of union members to refuse to unload freight from a state whose aggression they detest, to put pressure on that state’s citizens in turn to put pressure on their state.
Though I do not share the Turks’ views on Israel in any degree, I defend their right to express their views as they have.
Well said Stephen!
In my opinion, shunning or “discrimination” should not only be a right, but in many cases it is a virtue and a responsibility.
That is why I support the banning of trade with China for instance.
While I generally support the Israeli actions in Gaza, I also support the right of the Invercargill cafe owner to act as he did.
A free society must allow both freedom of association and equally as importantly-freedom of non-association.