The Palestine Exception: How activists are under attack on US campuses
People who has been involved with Palestine Solidarity activism in their communities and on their campuses knows how threats, bureaucratic hurdles, and false accusations of anti-semitism can make it difficult to make your voice heard. The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack, a new report by Palestine Legal and The Center for Constitutional Rights, outlines just how widespread these practice are throughout universities and communities in the U.S.
The report has dozens of examples of how intimidation is used to silence free speech of Palestine Solidarity groups on campuses throughout the United States by university administrators and Israel advocacy groups with the purpose to repress a continually growing Palestine Solidarity movement.
The report features video testimonies by Palestine solidarity activists, who described how they experienced discrimination, harassment, and persecution because of their support for Palestine. Since being released the video and the report have gone viral among activists and have been shared on a wide variety of social justice and news sites including Democracy Now!, AJ+, Colorlines, and TeleSur.
According to Palestine Legal, these are not isolated incidents but are a part of a wider offensive by Israel advocacy groups to silence criticism of Israel and Israeli Human Rights abuses.
The incidents themselves range from unfair application of university regulations by school administrators, to the firing and spying of university professors and sometimes even lead to the legal prosecution on charges of disruption and even alleged material support for terrorism.
The appendix of the report provides “detailed descriptions of incidents of suppression of Palestine advocacy on US campuses, including attacks on student activism and on individual academics.”
There are many recurring themes in the report. For instance, there are many examples of direct intervention by pro-Israel organizations in campus affairs including the attempts by Pro-Israel groups to cancel courses on Palestine at the University of California and even the direct intervention by the Israeli Consul General when DePaul University’s referendum on divestment took place. The descriptions in the appendix also show how threats of violence are used to intimidate activists into canceling events and remaining silent on the issue. For example, when a bomb threat was made against the Columbia University SJP chapter and death threats were sent to Ohio University’s student body president in response to her Pro-Palestine video.
The report concludes with a very clear message to university administrators and the US government that by “censoring, punishing, or chilling such protected expression, universities, colleges, government bodies, and other institutions threaten core First Amendment principles”. It also recommends activists and the public share the report and publicly oppose efforts to suppress advocacy for Palestinian rights as well as document and notify Palestine Legal of incidents of censorship, pressure, or discriminatory treatment.