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Geert Wilders Meet John Peter Zenger
Remarks by Jerry Gordon, Contributing editor
New English Review
First Annual Free Speech Summit
Delray Beach, Florida
April 27, 2009
Greetings Geert Wilders from your friends, supporters and admirers here in America. We are most fortunate to have you at this first annual Free Speech Summit in Delray.
Unfortunately, due to my recovery from surgery, I can’t join the doughty band of brothers and sisters at this inaugural Free Speech Summit honoring courageous Dutch Politician and leader of the Freedom Party, Geert Wilders. I say doughty, because it is not often that we are all tar brushed with the label of ‘right wing extremists’ especially by Muslim Brotherhood Front groups like the United Voices for America (UVA) founded by former Tampa area CAIR director, Ahmed Bedier. More on that shortly.
But then we have Department of Homeland Security Madame Secretary Napolitano doing back flip apologies to returning Veterans from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and lately, even conservatives. All because of an ‘intelligence report’ issued by her department stating that these Americans were ‘right wing extremists’. I suppose Secretary Napolitano considers naturalized Somali Americans returning from combat with Al Shabaab in Somalia as simply ‘nationalist freedom fighters’ rather than extremist Jihadis.
The now maligned and criticized Homeland Security report was issued on April 15th , tax day, during which a million Americans; white, black, Republicans and Democrats held rallies decrying budgetary excesses that some allege are the contemporary equivalent of ‘taxation without representation’.
Let’s return to Mr. Bedier of the UVA.
Back on March 10th, I stood shoulder to shoulder on the West steps of the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee with House Majority Leader Rep. Adam Hasner, Frank Gaffney, Jr., Joe Kaufman, Tom Trento, Rich Swier, Martin Mawyer and Kelly Cook. I spotlighted the extreme Islamist cant espoused by Ahmed Bedier. In my remarks, I noted:
Bedier’s transformation to radical Islam and rise to prominence as a CAIR spokesperson was no accident. Rather it was the product of his association with the Islamic Society of Pinellas County (ISPC), an al Farooq Mosque. Two investigations in 2005 by Joe Kaufman and 2008 by David Gaubatz have demonstrated that the Mosque is a conduit for extremist Islamic views and denial of the human rights of unbelievers, prominent among them, Christians and Jews. It is surprising that both Jewish and Christian clergy and even an FBI Special agent
in Tampa - St. Petersburg hold Bedier in high regard for his Muslim community outreach and interreligious dialogue. His membership on a local Human Rights Council, in their views, overlooks his public statements supporting Islamic terror groups, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad that deny basic human and civil rights protected under our Constitution.
Last week we saw a full throated attack by Bedier’s UAV against Rep. Hasner, Lt. Col. Allen West and all of us speaking at this inaugural Free Speech Summit. The UAV was seeking to enlist the aid of Florida Governor Crist and Members of the State Legislature to block today’s proceeding by posting and circulating a petition on the internet that they would present to the Governor. They instead drew further attention to the Free Speech Summit, a good thing and unintended consequence of their bald faced attempt to intimidate and stifle free speech.
In an email, I sent this past week, I said:
I would hope that any petition backed by the UVA that is sent to Florida Governor Crist's desk receives prompt treatment by Attorney General Bill McCullough. McCullough is a champion of the First Amendment rights of free speech criticizing any ideology, including the totalitarianism inherent in Islam. McCullough to his credit knows the game that is afoot here. This UVA 'petition' is part of a drum roll of agitation by Islamic advocacy groups that helped to throw a spotlight on the important message of the IFPS, Lars Hedegaard and the honoree, Dutch politician Geert Wilders. That message, to paraphrase President Lincoln’s remarks honoring our Civil War Dead at Gettysburg in 1863, is that free speech and 'free people will not perish from this earth.'
Perhaps, the best example of defense of free speech here in Florida was the leadership of Rep. Adam Hasner in the passage by the House of the Florida version of the Free Speech Protection Act aimed at protecting authors, journalists and publishers against so-called Tourist Libel actions brought in foreign jurisdictions. Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld knows what that assault on her and our free speech is like given the tortuous legal battle she waged in US Federal courts against the libel actions of Saudi Businessman bin Mahfouz brought in the London law courts. New York State legislature took action against this assault in early 2008. The US Senate failed to take up the Federal version - it was passed by the House- in the 110th session. Vermont Senator Pat Leahy, head of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, according to knowledgeable Capitol Hill sources in Washington, apparently doesn’t see why it is required. It was left to the leadership of Rep. Hasner to press for the passage of the Florida version of the Free Speech Protection Act. If passed by the Florida Senate and sent to Governor Crist for his signature, this could be the second brick in the wall to force Congressional consideration of this important bulwark for defense of free speech. At the start of the 111th Session of Congress US Senator Leahy might take notice of the Florida legislative action.
Our esteemed Honoree, Geert Wilders has criss crossed the US, speaking in forums in New York, California, Massachusetts and now, Florida, to demonstrate how the First Amendment of our Constitution works. Perhaps his warnings to the Dutch people on encroaching Islamization stifling personal liberties and free speech may find him as leader of a governing coalition in the 2011 Parliamentary elections. All this at a time when he is the subject of bizarre criminal prosecution for defaming a totalitarian ideology with a thin veneer of religious trappings-Islam.
Unlike the U.K., the US has the bulwark of the First Amendment in our written Constitution, the ‘prima partes’ of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was a testament to the revolt against British colonial overlords. Americans in our Revolutionary War against the British Crown, fought to achieve individual rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as framed in our Declaration of Independence.
More than a constitutional protection against governmental interference with the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and religion
or a guarantee of the separation of church and state, the First Amendment is one of the nation's fundamental normative and cultural symbols. It reflects vital attributes of the American character and is the cornerstone of the nation's liberty. The First Amendment is known and cherished by virtually all citizens, who comprehend its essence even if they may not be able to recite its precise phrasing.
The First Amendment ‘establishment clause’, forbade the establishment of a state religion, a good thing, that denies the goal of Islam and Sharia. That was unearthed in the evidence presented by federal prosecutors in the successful retrial of the Holy Land Foundation - the secret plans of the Muslim Brotherhood fronts in America to supplant our Constitution with strict Islamic Sharia law.
The First Amendment also protected a free press that was motivated to be vigilant and present the facts, which all too often now are violated in the breach of biased reporting. One only need look at the opinions of New York Times columnist and former foreign editor, Roger Cohen, intent on bashing Israel, while praising the turbaned Mullahs in Tehran. An Islamic Republic of Iran lead by Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei and Holocaust denying President Ahmadinejad interrupted for his ‘racist’ remarks by protesters at the Durban II hate fest in Geneva. Cohen is the embodiment of the late Walter Duranty, the Moscow Bureau chief at the New York Times who in the early 1930’s, won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the industrialization programs of Communist despot and arch mass murderer, Joseph Stalin. Duranty did not report Stalin’s murder by starvation of more than five million Ukrainian kulaks during the Soviet collectivization effort in 1931-1932. Cohen is glossing over the despotic intent of Mullahs against the Iranian people’s freedom of Iranian people and the development of a nuclear threat to the existence of Israel. One only has to take notice of the jailing of American Iranian journalist, Roxana Saberi on trumped up charges of ‘spying’. All Madame Secretary of State Clinton can say is ‘that we are deeply disappointed.’
That brings me to an important predecessor to the US development of free speech and a free press under our First Amendment, John Peter Zenger. Zenger was a German immigrant and newspaper publisher in New York City in the colonial era. Zenger in 1735 was taken to task for criticizing the Royal Governor, William Cosby, who clapped him in jail on charges of seditious libel.
Zenger went through a trial with Philadelphia lawyer, Alan Hamilton, as counsel. Hamilton, did something mind blowing in that colonial era. He built a defense based on attacking colonial laws of sedition and won a juried decision that set a remarkable precedent for the drafting of our First Amendment. Zenger returned to publishing the New York Weekly Journal. His comment is timeless and apropos the current controversy that Geert Wilders is facing in the Dutch courts. Zenger said:
"No nation, ancient or modern, ever lost the liberty of speaking freely, writing, or publishing their sentiments, but forthwith lost their liberty in general and became slaves."