The European Parliament has introduced a new procedural rule, which allows for the chair of a debate to interrupt the live broadcasting of a speaking MEP “in the case of defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior by a Member”. Furthermore, the President of the European Parliament may even “decide to delete from the audiovisual record of the proceedings those parts of a speech by a Member that contain defamatory, racist or xenophobic language”.
No one, however, has bothered to define what constitutes “defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior”. This omission means that the chair of any debate in the European Parliament is free to decide, without any guidelines or objective criteria, whether the statements of MEPs are “defamatory, racist or xenophobic”. The penalty for offenders can apparently reach up to around 9,000 euros.
“There have been a growing number of cases of politicians saying things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate,” said British EU parliamentarian Richard Corbett, who has defended the new rule. Mr. Corbett, however, does not specify what he considers “beyond the pale”.
In June 2016, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, addressed the European Parliament in a speech, which drew on old anti-Semitic blood libels, such as falsely accusing Israeli rabbis of calling on the Israeli government to poison the water used by Palestinian Arabs. Such a clearly incendiary and anti-Semitic speech was not only allowed in parliament by the sensitive and “anti-racist” parliamentarians; it received a standing ovation. Evidently, wild anti-Semitic blood libels pronounced by Arabs do not constitute “things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate”.
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