In Broward County, Florida, two Public Defenders have found themselves at the wrong end of a social media scandal after a series of offensive posts about Palestinians.
If you’ve been following the news, you like heard about the murder of three Israel teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian forces. The tragedy has, naturally, spurned additional debate about the state of Israeli/Palestinian relations. That debate has criss-crossed the world, and that’s where today’s blog entry begins.
In a Facebook post, assistant public defender Gary Sheres said:
“They are filthy swine. They don’t eat. Their ignorance to the world bewilders the dumbest people I have ever met.”
In a separate post, assistant public defender public Bruce Raticoff said:
The two comments were condemned by others in the public defenders office, like Attorney Howard Finkelstein, who said, “I take racism very, very seriously, What was written on those post is something completely unacceptable. We are going to address this immediately.” The Council for Arab-Islamic Relations wrote the public defenders office to request an investigation.
As for the response from the two employees? Raticoff says he didn’t make the post and that he is taking “security measures” to better protect his account in the future; Sheres released a statement saying, “My commentary on that article dealt solely with the people who committed such horrible acts and those who celebrate the kidnapping and murders of three students.” If that’s really true, the comments should have been infinitely less broad, but that’s besides the point. In a separate interview, Sheres said, “Being someone who was brought up Jewish, I understand people hating me for being Jewish, so I’d never make a comment like that, hating a whole people. That’s disgusting.”
I don’t even want to touch the politics of the near constant state of conflict between Israel and Palestinians; but, I suppose that’s the point of this blog entry, isn’t it? These two public defenders should never have made such a controversial and offensive statement. Say what you want about the politics of the fighting, but surely we can all agree that all Palestinians aren’t filthy swine, no?
Since the two employers are public employees, it puts their comments under additional scrutiny. Had they been self-employed or employed by a private business, though they may have gotten in trouble for their actions or been held accountable by customers or vendors, there is no way that such comments would ever have made the news. After all, can you imagine if the media reported on every racist Facebook comment? However, since the salaries of these employees are funded by tax dollars, they are (rightly) held to a higher standard. I think that’s the real lesson here: if you are a public employee, you need to be very careful with that you say on social media.
What do you think – is my conclusion right? Let me know in the comments!