After the Nakba, academic research in the West on Palestine was dominated by the Zionist narrative and scholars. Palestinian scholarship was hardly heard of easily brushed aside as too ideological. The pendulum shifted after the first Intifada (1987) and the emergence of critical scholarship in Israel that adopted parts of the Palestinian narrative. A new generation of Palestinian scholars arose focusing their work on Palestine.
Academic research was profound. Curricula of courses and modules were revised and more critical works on Zionism and Israel began to be published in leading academic sources. In this century, official Israel, with help of pro-Israeli lobbies around the world responded with a targeted assault on such scholarship. The propaganda machine weaponized antisemitism in order to undermine this scholarship and intimidate scholars.
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Ranjan Solomon: Good morning, Good afternoon and Good evening, wherever you are and welcome to this webinar which, I’m sure all of you would agree is something that interests us, challenges us and makes us want to think about what the future is like, when freedom of speech on Palestine is being silenced in universities that are known to be places where liberal thought should be freely discussed. There should be discourses that are challenging both you know different viewpoints but unfortunately that’s not always the case and so we’ve brought together different people and the moderator who can lead us through this discourse on the whole question of silencing freedom of speech on Palestine and what that implies for us today. I’m going to leave you with our moderator and that is Lubnah Shomali. Lubnah works for an organization called Badil, which is a human rights organization which defends and protects human rights according to human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law. Lubnah who studied in the United States was born in Palestine; she worked with the municipality of Bethlehem and is currently head of the unit of the Badil resource center for Palestinian residency rights and refugee rights. So i will hand you over to Lubnah, thank you Lubnah for accepting to do this.
Lubnah Shomali: Thank you Ranjan and thank you to all our colleagues at the movement for liberation and for putting together webinar, we will be hearing from a number of different individuals around the globe about how the speech on Palestine is being silenced. A common tactic utilized in the battle for supremacy and power is the dehumanization and demonization of the other while it’s not a new or original tactic sadly it’s very effective and allows the oppressor, not only to oppress the other, but if done effectively it allows the oppressor to control the narrative. One of the most obvious situations, in which the narrative is not only being controlled but also written by the oppressor, is the case of Palestine. It is a necessity for Israel not only to suppress the people of Palestine and control their land but also to provide a justification for this suppression and control which entrenches and sustains its colonial apartheid regime and so while I do agree that the pen is mightier than the sword, the pen like the sword is double-edged Israel’s ability to suppress the true narrative on Palestine and dictate the terminology allows it to entrench its colonial apartheid regime what which now impacts us as Palestinians, a resistance in our struggle for liberation but it also impacts the freedoms of the international solidarity movement and international human rights defenders activists and academics as well as organizations. The defamation smear and de-legitimization campaigns that we are experiencing and by we I mean Palestinian and international community-based organizations, human rights organizations, academic institutions and individuals advocating for Palestinian rights. What we are facing stems from Israeli government endorsed non-government organizations that aim to defame, discredit and silence and defund those tables and individuals that criticize Israel’s colonial apartheid regime their policies and practices these government-endorsed organizations function, under the auspices of the former Israeli strategic affairs ministry, which is now part of the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs. This former ministry of strategic affairs holds the responsibility to guide, coordinate and integrate the activities of all the ministers and the governments and of civil entities in Israel and abroad on the subject of the struggle against attempts to delegitimize Israel and the boycott movement these actors they lobby governments to pass laws and develop policies to suppress both domestic and international organizations including the refusal and withdrawal of use of public and private facilities for Palestine related activities or events, the closure of bank accounts or obstruction of access to fundraising and or money transfer tools and cutting off funding from public or private donors. While these actors have weaponized anti-terrorism in their campaign to delegitimize Palestinian civil society, they have weaponized anti-Semitism to silence, defame and intimidate international supporters of Palestine, including but not limited to the academic community and academia, by labeling all international efforts to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their rights as anti-Semitic, including any perceived criticism of Israel. Academics, activists and human rights defenders have faced considerable obstacles and hardships the only acceptable narratives is one that reiterates and regurgitates the zionist Israeli talking points. Anything outside these talking points including the most fundamental and basic internationally accepted legal principles and tenants of international law are rejected out of hand and then weaponized to further suppress and silence the other. Allegations of anti-semitism, in the case of the international community or international supporters of Palestine and terrorism, in the case of Palestinians, fuel the problematic approach of the international community that is based on terminology and analysis that encourages neutrality, impartiality and the concept of a balanced approach. The conflict in Palestine, and I use this word quite hesitantly because I don’t think that conflict is an adequate word to describe our situation in Palestine, but it is far from balanced further the accurate legal descriptors for the situation in Palestine are not applied by States, regional governments and bodies. Israeli human rights violations and international crimes are described rather using neutral language that has no legal or ethical repercussions for example Israeli colonization is reduced to settlements Palestinian forcible transfer is reduced to displacement or evacuation or forced evictions, Israeli apartheid is reduced to discrimination and this neutrality, impartiality and balanced terminology serves to reinforce Israel’s impunity thus creating a situation where censorship and suppression is not only accepted but encouraged particularly of those individuals and organizations who dare criticize Israel and those who call the situation in Palestine what it truly is, and that is an Israeli sponsored colonial apartheid regime.
Today we’re going to hear from a few different speakers on how they are facing what these specific obstacles or how these policies are being implemented against them and how they are, what the their repercussions are. I do want to mention that in Badil we are going to be issuing two separate publications on this issue. Badil publishes or used to publish and now we are revitalizing this publication, a periodical magazine called Al Majdal and hakalauda. Al-Majdal is in English and hakalauda is in Arabic and the next two issues of each magazine that are coming out are going to be analyzing and looking at the different sectors and the different areas in which this oppression or suppression of the freedom of speech and this re-labeling and misconstruction of the situation in Palestine and how this is how this is affecting both the Palestinian civil society as well as international civil society.
Without further ado we’re going to hear our next speaker which is Mr. Tom Hickey, and he is an honorary research fellow at the University of Brighton in the UK and also an ex-member of the university and colleges union, the UCU, which is a lecturer’s trade union. Go ahead Tom, thank you for being with us today. To read full transcript, click the link: Silencing Freedom of Speech on Palestine