Freedom to Protest vs. freedom of speech: What to do?


Foreign affairs have seemed to always be a “messy” business for the United States. The question that explores whether the U.S. government has a place in foreign interventions dates back to the Harrison Administration (circa 1890’s). The American people tend to show different views on this sort of political question, but the overwhelming majority agrees that, all things considered, any foreign offense that inhibits human rights and universal morality ought to be stopped by any means. People believe in human rights. With that being stated, this post is far from a foreign policy examination, but more of a commentary on the importance of basic rights and freedoms and the growing understanding that such rights are intrinsically absolute for all people. Freedom of speech, while a constitutionally protected right, is one entitlement that strongly resonates with Americans as a prerogative worthy of protection and even above the law at times. The debate of its protection is constantly provoked when someone uses that right to promote negativity. It is virtually impossible to govern what is lawfully harmful in the form of expression and able to be criminalized.

The Middle East has been notoriously plagued with wartime for centuries and the clash of militaries is present even more so today. Israel and Palestinian warfare has influenced many protesters within the United States by both young adults, political figures and others. Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois introduced a bill earlier this week against the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli educational institutions. The bill was not specifically addressed to the ASA boycotts or to Israeli institutions but it was clear that this incident prompted the push of the bill. The purpose of the legislation was to discourage boycotting against institutions that have significant interaction with the U.S. Roskam’s bill was immediately removed from the political agenda, not making it into the New York State Assembly for indirectly countering the freedom of academic expression and freedom of expression in general. The criticisms are what have gaged some serious interest into the matter. Above being poorly written, the bill garnered criticism because it sought to diminish those basic rights so dear to the American heart. When is freedom of expression a hindrance rather than an absolutely necessary and protected right of the people? What about those targeted through that expression? The consequences in this case may be serious for future foreign relations with international institutions.


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