Israel has arrested and then given two days of house arrest for a rather bizarre form of expression: defecating on flags, including Israel’s flag. I cannot say that I am eager to attend a showing of the Natali Cohen Vaxberg’s scatological creations, but the sentencing clearly violates free speech protections that many of us believe are a core human right. Warning: foul language is contained in the story below.
In the United States, the destruction of the flag is a protected form of free speech. In Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that flag burning was protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is considered one of the core cases defining free speech in the United States. Brennan was joined by Marshall, Blackmun, Scalia, and Kennedy (Kennedy wrote a concurrence).
Cohen Vaxberg posted a video showing her defecating on an Israeli flag while she played Israel’s national anthem. In another video entitled “Shit Instead of Blood,” Cohen Vaxberg is pictured defecating on flags from around the world, including that of the Palestinian Authority. Cohen Vaxberg is described as a left-wing activist and artist.
It is a truly disgusting form of expression. However, the anger that it produced reinforces the view that this is not only a form of artistic expression but political expression. The Israeli court not only sentenced her to home confinement but banned her from using the Internet for 30 days. The Tel Aviv police insisted that her videos causes “damage to symbols of the state.”
It is always hard to criticize such punishments (even short sentences) in the face of such obnoxious and truly disgusting forms of expression. However, free speech is not needed to protect popular speech. We pay a price for the guarantee of free speech. That price is people like Cohen Vaxberg. By maintaing a bright line rule, we protect much more valuable forms of speech and avoid the dangers of allowing the government to draw lines between valuable and valueless speech. The slippery slope problem (a troubling image given this case I admit) has proven a real and consistent threat to free speech. We gain far more than we lose in protecting the very small number of flag burners or desecrators in this country.
149 thoughts on “Israeli Activist and Artist Sentences To Home Confinement and Banned From Internet After Posting Videos Defecating On Israeli Flag”
Are we happy now? America just underwent a tsunami which helped in the cleaning of one division of govt. However, good luck in controlling the corruption. The GOP hasn’t got the pen and phone yet. It is still a huge question as to the damage that can still be done.
Believer – I don’t know what’s going to happen. I am always happy and optimistic. I was when I voted for Hope and Change in 2008 also. I did not realize that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were going to roughshod poorly written healthcare documents and say “just sign it!!!!” as soon as Congress opened session. That seems a bit corrupt to me. I believe there is corruption on both sides. It would be nice if we could rid 1600 Pennsylvania of Corruption. What I am hoping for is something like what happened during the Clinton years when Gingrich was the Speaker of the House and the Deficit Spending was brought under control and we were not by raising taxes as Clinton so stupidly tried to do in his first term and lost so many seats in the house mid term (Thank God)
Hopefully the Congenital Narcissist can contain himself and allow some good to be done for the country for a change.
Karen, Did we get cap and trade, minimum wage, immigration reform, equal pay? I don’t thinks so.
Karen, mespo doesn’t believe in God. He blames Bush for every death in the world.
Obama and Democrats have gotten every single thing they’ve ever wanted in Congress – including Obamacare. The GOP has been powerless to really stop them.
I don’t blame the unions and other special interests for buying what is for sale. I blame the politicians who sell their favors.
The problem with ALL Establishment Politicians is they raid treasuries and want more intrusive government. They are all for sale, they just have different buyers.
I want fiscal conservatism, accountability, and a citizenry with the guts and fortitude to vote a politician out when he breaks the law, caters to special interests, wastes their money, or otherwise abuses their trust and his or her sacred duty to represent their interests.
You wish! Didn’t we have a couple of runoffs? Those states will be persecuted with political warfare until December!
Do you blame God for every death in the world, for every action people make? If you were an atheist, you wouldn’t be angry at a Creator.
Darren – sadly the political ads will continue to run for at least a week and all the signs will still be up.
I have to agree with what Mike A. stated earlier. You cannot change the spots on a leopard. After 6 years of obstructing business in the Congress and over 400 filibusters, why should anyone expect the Republicans to suddenly decide to cooperate and actually govern? I hope I am wrong.
At least the political ads are over.
I had predicted that Republicans would wind up with 52 seats in the Senate. I think I underestimated the extent of the disaster. Since the new folks will push Congress further to the right, my expectations are that we face at least two more years of legislative inaction at the national level.And we can forget about any big measures. There will not be an immigration reform bill and the only spending push will be for more military adventurism in the Middle East. The federal judiciary is going to be in even worse shape than it is now. Personal income will remain stagnant. It ain’t gonna be a pretty two years.
Mike – right is in the eye of the beholder. From what I can see the Senator will move more towards the center. And the House will move away from the Tea Party.
Social issues like abortion and gay marriage are the Right’s wedge issues meant to distract while they raid the treasury and privatize all government functions. It’s a money grab with the ever-present, “hey look over there” while they rob you blind. I like to believe in Hell for these guys and their puppet apologists.
Mespo – I am not going to argue with you about the privatizing because I am against that also Do you honestly believe President Johnson Never Raided the Treasury or Kennedy or FDR and his Specie robbing from the public? Don’t come at me about the balanced budget with Clinton, we all know how that happend-it was that horrible Newt Gingrich – the terrible Progressive Republican Speaker of the House and his Deficit reductions. I am just asking you straight out. You are a professed lover of the State. But the State can be a Monster also whether you believe it or not when run by corrupt souls. And right now we need to clean house. At least I am willing to admit it.
I see some are still stuck in the first stage of grief, that being denial. Understandable. Hopefully as the days pass that changes. But, I have seen people never get past denial. They lead very unhappy lives. I pray that’s not the case here.
Mespo, despite the daily news reports from JT about the human rights abuses in the ME in these fundamentalist countries, we at the same time see the push by Republicans who have been influenced by the Religious Right to turn this country into a theocracy as well. We’ll see the interesting legislation this new Republican majority House amd Senate will push through, it might actually open some eyes. Some dummies think that because it would be a Christian theocracy that human rights abuses in the name of religion can’t happen here. Fundamentalists of any religion are antithetical to freedom.
happy, Are you in Illinois or Kentucky? I had some luck @ Harrah’s casino, won $800 playing craps. Pleasantly surprised w/ Harrah’s. Very nice room, overlooking the river, for $48. Of course, everything seems better when you win. I’ve been on the other side of the ledger all too often.
Nick – it’s 62 MIles away my bad – I am in Cape Girardeau By SEMO – and Nick – you are never going to see them get past denial here. Their ego’s are too frail. It’s the same in the White House. Same syndrome
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