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The Criminalization and Censorship of Palestinian Solidarity on US Campuses

By Nada Elia

Last week, I was asked to speak in a classroom alongside someone from StandWithUs.  Apparently, the professor was going by a recommendation to have me as a discussant, to possibly provide the “other side.” 

Without getting into a discussion of what those two sides are (pro-apartheid and pro-justice, of course), or why I will not be party to normalizing, (setting up the illusion that “both sides” are equal, rather than oppressor and oppressed, occupier and occupied),  I sent this response, which I tried to keep short and to the point.

“Dear …

“Thank you for the request, which I must decline. I must also say that I find it quite worrisome that you would have representatives of this group talk to our students.  StandWithUs is a right-wing propaganda organization which actively stifles free speech and critical thinking, by equating any and all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.  This is extremely intimidating for students attempting to formulate their own thoughts about the topic, and distracts from the real anti-Semitism that targets all Jews, regardless of their political ideology. Jewish Voice for Peace mentions StandWithUs among the more aggressive organizations stifling dissent on campuses and in various political circles, in their extremely valuable report, which you can access here.

“I trust you agree with me that we are living in troubling times. The current national climate, indeed, the global climate in which the Trump and Netanyahu administrations are working hand in hand, should impress us with the need to critically disentangle anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism–the latter being criticism of and opposition to a political worldview, albeit one held by many Jews.  (Of course, you must also be aware of the fact that, numerically speaking, there are millions more Christian Zionists than Jewish Zionists). The distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is one that activists for Palestinian rights have long been arguing, yet one that keeps getting blurred by organizations such as StandWithUs, which persist in their claim that criticism of Israel’s policies is a thinly disguised form of Jew hatred.

“I hope you can present the students with the appropriate context for having representatives of this group talk to them in your class.

“Best,

“Nada”

As I considered this request, which coincided with the National Students for Justice in Palestine annual conference, which both the city of Los Angeles and the host school, the University of California in Los Angeles, tried to ban, and in light of the numerous violations of the academic freedom of  anti-Zionist faculty and students across the country, I couldn’t help but marvel at how some administrators bend over backwards to accommodate any representatives and requests from Zionist organizations, while also bending over backwards to censor and criminalize any representatives and requests from pro-Palestine rights organizations (justice for Palestine? OMG, what a heinous crime!).

UCLA even sought a cease and desist against NSJP for using a bear in their poster, for fear the image would be viewed as the school’s mascot, and thus interpreted as official endorsement of the conference.  In their cease and desist letter to NSJP, UCLA administrators also demanded that the poster advertising the conference not show the bear flying kites, as this could be viewed as an incitement to violence. As NSJP wrote in their statement,  UCLA’s action “demonstrates how out of touch they are with the facts, and how quickly they are willing to associate the Palestinian rights movement with harmful, broad-sweeping stereotypes and caricatures.”

Continue this story at Mondoweiss

READ MORE PALESTINE NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Palestine Files

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