One can create a fantasy world in one’s head, if one wishes, in which Silicon Valley executives use their power to protect marginalized peoples around the world by censoring those who wish to harm them. But in the real world, that is nothing but a sad pipe dream. Just as governments will, these companies will use their censorship power to serve, not to undermine, the world’s most powerful factions.
In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.
The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Continue reading →
“Removing a respected Palestinian academic as chair of a panel event based on an unsubstantiated assumption about her lack of ‘neutrality,’ and in doing so bowing to external pressure from a pro-Israel lobby group, cannot be construed as anything other than a naked attack on free speech and, more particularly academic freedom.”
— Cambridge University student Ed McNally
The University of Cambridge is facing accusations of censorship after it allegedly threatened to ban a meeting about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement unless the Palestinian academic chairing it was removed and replaced with its own choice.
Ruba Salih from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) was set to oversee Wednesday’s event featuring Palestinian BDS activist, Omar Barghouti, but organizers say they were forced to cancel her participation hours before it was due to start after the university intervened citing concerns over her neutrality.
Manchester University censored the title of a Holocaust survivor’s criticism of Israel and insisted that her campus talk be recorded, after Israeli diplomats said its billing amounted to antisemitic hate speech.
“These events will cause Jewish students to feel uncomfortable on campus and that they are being targeted and harassed for their identity as a people and connection to the Jewish state of Israel.”
—Michael Freeman, Israeli embassy’s counsellor for civil society affairs
“In educational institutions there shouldn’t be any sort of lobbying from foreign governments. You couldn’t imagine [the administration] sitting down with the Saudi embassy for an event about what’s going on in Yemen.”
— Huda Ammori, event organizer
Marika Sherwood, a Jewish survivor of the Budapest ghetto, was due to give a talk in March about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, headlined: “You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me.”
But after a visit by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, and his civil affairs attaché, university officials banned organizers from using the “unduly provocative” title and set out a range of conditions before it could go ahead.
The State Department standard . . . conflates criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Jewish hatred, shutting down debate by suggesting that anyone who looks critically at Israeli policy is somehow beyond the pale. It has no place on college campuses in particular, where we need students to engage in a vigorous exchange of ideas.
Since Donald Trump’s election, a wave of hate attacks have targeted Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups.
What’s the government doing about it? Nothing.
But the U.S. Senate did pass a bill last week called the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which cracks down on the constitutional rights of college students and faculty to criticize Israel. The House will vote on it any day now.
The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act endorses the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, which includes “delegitimizing” Israel, “demonizing” Israel or holding Israel to a “double standard.” The bill directs the Department of Education to consider this definition when investigating complaints of anti-Semitism on campus. But the bill does not add any new protections for Jewish students; the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Department of Education’s interpretation of the statute, already protects Jewish students against discrimination.
“For Palestinian students and allies like myself, the experience has been all too surreal. Because of my activism for Palestinian human rights, I have been placed on an online blacklist — an anonymous website ran by students and “concerned citizens” — that is trying to prevent me from being employed, and that blacklist provides the Freedom Center with the information needed to launch its hateful campaign of intimidation. Ever since my name was listed on the posters, I have been followed, bullied and harassed on social media. Like other students, this has caused me to worry for my safety. This experience has also caused me a great deal of psychological trauma, and I worry about my well-being.”
Gardner said Horowitz was leading a “hate organization” because of posters his Freedom Center had put out targeting Palestinian solidarity activists. Gardner wrote his op-ed as a response to Horowitz’s latest campaign, plastering posters on university campuses targeting Palestinian activists by name. Gardner was featured in an L.A.Times exclusive last August describing Sheldon Adelson’s multi million dollar efforts to combat the “exploding pro-Palestinian movement on campuses” — those who support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
“These sorts of attacks on academic freedom, in which Israel’s defenders have played a disproportionate role, are all too common on campuses across the country, with devastating results. They have led to the intimidation of students, the silencing or firing of faculty and the cancellation of classes.”
Last week, my email inbox and Twitter feeds were flooded with hateful messages impugning my integrity. The source of this invective was a shadowy organization called Canary Mission, which maintains what it hopes will function as a blacklist of professors and students it accuses of “promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on college campuses.” My public criticism of Israel’s policies of military occupation and apartheid — its unequal treatment of Palestinians — has earned me a spot on the list, there being no distinction, apparently, between criticism of the policies of a foreign power and “hatred” of an entire ethnic group.
Were I a more junior professor, or untenured — or a student — the charges it levels, although they are untrue, could be damaging. And that is the point: In language only recently excised from its website, Canary Mission makes explicit its intention “to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.” Daniel Pipes — a prominent member of what the Center for American Progress calls “the Islamophobia misinformation experts” — writes approvingly of the project: Students should understand that “attacking” Israel “can damage … future careers.”
“In recent years, the suppression of Palestine solidarity voices on American campuses has become alarmingly widespread, triggering protests and calls for the protection of academic freedom. ‘The crackdown is a nation-wide phenomenon,’ according to Palestine Legal, an organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of Palestine solidarity activists.”
In an interview with Palestine Square last week, Palestinian Education Minister, Dr. Sabri Saidam, condemned tactics by US academic institutions “undermining the Palestinian narrative or paying lip service to the occupation.” The minister was in Washington, D.C., at the head of a delegation of 19 Palestinian university representatives to take part in a recently established U.S.-Palestinian Higher Education Dialogue, organized by the State Department and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. “This initiative is a result of longstanding cooperation between Palestinian and American academic institutions,” Saidam explained.
In recent years, the suppression of Palestine solidarity voices on American campuses has become alarmingly widespread, triggering protests and calls for the protection of academic freedom. A recent case involved the suspension of a student-led course on Palestine at the University of California Berkeley. “The crackdown is a nationwide phenomenon,” according to Palestine Legal, an organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of Palestine solidarity activists. According to their latest records, from January 1, 2014, through June 30, 2016, there were 563 incidents of censorship, punishment, or other burdening of advocacy for Palestinian rights across the US, 85% of which targeted students or scholars.