Category Archives: Freedom of Expression/Speech

The Battle for Free Speech: Meghan Murphy vs. Twitter

Last week, Canadian feminist and journalist, Meghan Murphy, announced that she is suing Twitter. Having been permanently suspended from Twitter last Fall, Murphy’s lawsuit challenges Jack Dorsey’s contention made last September to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Twitter Transparency and Accountability wherein he stated, “We don’t consider political viewpoints, perspectives, or party affiliation in any of our policies or enforcement decisions, period.” Taking aim at Twitter’s contradictory and unevenly-applied policy, Murphy’s lawsuit is legally challenging Twitter by accusing  this big tech company of censoring content made by users based on conflicting political perspectives (eg. conflicting with those of Dorsey or others at Twitter). Meghan confirms that Dorsey has acted against his own company’s mandate which was “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers. Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve and do not detract from a free and global conversation.”

In a video explanation, Murphy details the reasons for her lawsuit, outlining the many contradictions within Twitter’s exercise of its policies and its censorship of its users, most notably feminists and anyone who is gender critical. Murphy’s “crime”? She tweeted this: “Men are not women” and “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” Reminiscent of the tenor preceding the Scopes Monkey Trial, this lawsuit is bound to mark the stark terrain between free speech and censorship while also legally cementing the fundamental right to discuss critically the pitfalls of politically acceptable speech when multi-billion tech firms are today sponsoring the main arenas of free speech: social media.

It’s not only conservative pundits who are perplexed by this double-standard of who gets to have a Twitter account (eg. Donald Trump and Louis Farrakhan), but also centrist publications are covering this event. But why are many left-wing news sources ignoring both Murphy’s banning from Twitter in addition to the more problematic elision of women’s rights around which this issue turns? And how will such a lawsuit affect the levels of responsibility that everyone from website/domain hosting companies to social media elites must maintain in order to keep in check with national laws that protect freedom of expression?

This lawsuit is bound to be a game-changer for everyone as it will challenge many basic “givens” about social media and the power of tech giants like Twitter. Without a doubt, Facebook, Instagram and Google, among others in this field, are playing close attention to this lawsuit, since what results from this lawsuit will potentially set out case law for a good many years.

For starters, tech giants are today controlling public opinion through censorship and how they excise certain individuals from public participation on what Twitter itself admits is not a private—but a public—platform. Dorsey is on record numerous times stating just this. When interviewed by Sam Harris about Meghan Murphy two weeks ago, Dorsey is asked about why Murphy was banned when Twitter has kept accounts by numerous people and groups that have posted inflammatory content. Dorsey’s answer contradicts what he told the U.S. government last fall: “I don’t believe that we can afford to take a neutral stance any more…I don’t believe that we should optimize for impartiality.” Harris then asks Dorsey, “Why not take refuge in the First Amendment?” as a comprehensive response. Dorsey’s response: “The enforcement of [our rules] is not always apparent….If you just look at one enforcement action, we don’t suspend people purely for saying one particular thing permanently.” While Dorsey exempts violent threats from this rule, it is clear that Dorsey is playing language games in how he has shifted Twitter’s role as arbiter of free speech: “I don’t think we can be this neutral passive platform any more.”  Effectively, Dorsey is advocating for censorship. Hence, the disconnect between what he said to Senate last year and where Twitter asserts itself as a public arena for the democratic sharing of ideas and against what Dorsey calls the “shutting down” of those who “weaponise” Twitter. He goes on to claim that Twitter’s role is more about what the platform “amplifies” and and what conversations it “gives attention to”—all this to couch removal of those who produce content that Twitter does not agree with.

Harris warns the listener before the interview that Dorsey is skilled at stepping around difficult questions, but as you listen to the interaction, it is painfully clear that Dorsey promotes censorship by stating that Twitter’s focus is on promoting certain ideas, not people. Still Dorsey is cognizant that people produce ideas, not the inverse. So in this interview he is slippery, plays with terminology and essentially justifies the removal of what he deem disagreeable viewpoints through the removal of the creators of such viewpoints. Renaming censorship as focusing on “what are we amplifying”, Dorsey has come up with a slick media spin for a metaphorical “re-education camp” for banned Twitter users.

As is the case for Murphy, social media is used for building a brand and career, marketing, research and company promotion. Murphy’s suit argues that being banned from Twitter negatively impacts her work as a journalist pointing to how news publications cite Twitter from The New York Times and beyond. Additionally, where the public geographic spaces of old are being deferred to social media, this brings up new challenges for what Dorsey has repeatedly called Twitter—a “public square.” In fact, in his Senate testimony last year, Dorsey used this term five times to refer to Twitter. So one must wonder why the public square is being privately controlled, or at the very least, why private companies hosting the public forum are exempt from upholding the laws which guarantee free expression.

Like Twitter, fellow tech giants are dangerously approximating the role of censors of free speech in their respective empires which they had claimed, years earlier, to have created to expand free speech. Dorsey clearly expresses a desire for “healthy conversation” but fails to uphold the promised platform for freedom of expression one year later.

Understanding the Soviet Union, Inequality, and Freedom of Expression

In a book which seemingly offers simple, but clever, rules to help people gain control over their lives, psychologist Jordan Peterson curiously pours a lot of vitriol on Marxism/communism and the nation states that practice(d) communism.1

Peterson writes that Marx discombobulated history and culture:

Marx attempted to reduce history and society to economics, considering culture the oppression of the poor by the rich. When Marxism was put into practice in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere, economic resources were brutally redistributed. Private property was eliminated, and rural people forcibly collectivized. The result? Tens of millions of people died. Hundreds of millions were subject to oppression rivalling that still active in North Korea, the last classic communist holdout. (loc 5256-5257)

As a minimum, what Peterson stated is overtly brazen defamation of Marx. But before defending Marx from the groundless invectives of Peterson, it should be noted with utmost comfort that Peterson’s approach to analyzing the thought of Marx and his role in history and issuing verdicts thereof manifestly demonstrates Peterson’s poor knowledge of Marxian thought. What is remarkable here is that naïve ideological parochialism supplants informed elements of debate. To explain, Peterson is overconfident that he, as a psychologist, can read the mind of Marx. So he volunteered to tell us that when he summoned his spirit to his couch, this told him that he was attempting to “reduce history and society to economics.”

Surprisingly, Peterson comes across as incognizant that Marx’s principle pillar of historical materialism rests on the paradigm that all societies, regardless of stage of development, follow specific and historically developed economic models that inexorably shape their lives and societal structures. Marx gave the greatest example on this matter when he described the endless cycles of a typical Indian village that persisted since the dawn of history until Britain colonized India thus introducing its economic model that gradually obliterated the old system. Another example, when Britain colonized Mali, it instituted that villagers could not tender their produce for barter and had to use money (introduced by the colonial office) as a means of exchange. This forced the villagers to abandon their villages and work as salaried labor in town — and this is exactly what Britain wanted to tighten its grip on Mali.

To expand on this argument, Peterson is attempting to reduce Marxism to what he claims was put into practice in the Soviet Union and Eastern Asia. Marx did not say that culture, per se, oppressed the poor. Marx said that each historical epoch is constructed around a particular mode of production that helps to shape culture. Under capitalism it is the capitalists that control the means of production, thus the bourgeoisie (the rich) are able to manipulate culture to benefit their self-interest over that of the proletariat (working class). John Storey, a British emeritus professor of Cultural Studies explains that Marx situated culture on a ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’:

The ‘base’ consists of a combination of the ‘forces of production’ and the ‘relations of production’… The superstructure consists of institutions (political, legal, educational, cultural, etc.), and what Marx calls ‘definite forms of social consciousness’ (political, religious, ethical, philosophical, aesthetic, cultural, etc.) generated by these institutions. Marx provided a general theory of history and politics, in which it is important to locate a cultural text or practice, there will always remain questions that relate to its formal qualities and specific traditions.

Finally, has Peterson ever been to North Korea? What information does he rely on to draw his conclusions? Wikipedia? Western corporate-state media? Has his home-and-native land, Canada, ever achieved housing for all its citizens? Tuition-free university education for all? Jobs for everyone? One should be aware and cautious before parroting monopoly-media disinformation.

Plunging further into history, Peterson notes:

The decayed social order of the late nineteenth century produced the trenches and mass slaughter of the Great War. The gap between rich and war was extreme, and most people slaved away in [bad] conditions … Although the West received word of the horrors perpetrated by Lenin after the Russian Revolution, it remained difficult to evaluate his actions from afar. (loc 5270)

Peterson leaves out many crucial points. For example, why was there a gap between the rich and the poor? What political-economic ideology precipitated WWI? Why does Peterson not mention western forces fighting in Russia to overturn the revolution? Why would western powers want the revolution overturned?

In part 2 of the Real News interview with Marxist Alexander Buzgalin deals with these points and more:

PAUL JAY: Good. Once again, let me get this right- Professor Buzgalin is Professor of Political Economy and director of the Center for Modern Marxist Studies at Moscow State University. So, picking up from part one, the 1920s in the Soviet Union, after the revolution, my understanding, at least. It was a time of tremendous excitement, of transformations, beginnings of modern movie-making takes place in the Soviet Union, some of the innovations are world class. Why and how, and I know this is an enormous question, really boil this down- how does something so transformative turn into such bureaucracy?

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: It’s a really great, very important and very difficult question. A brief and little bit primitive explanation: The Soviet Union was born in the- appeared in a period of terrible contradictions. So, world capitalism, World War I, terrible bloody war, for what? For killing of millions of people for the profit of corporations. And one result was material basis and cultural basis for a new society. So, it’s like a kid that appeared in the dusty, cold atmosphere without good parents or without parents at all. How to survive? It will be some mutations. And we had mutations and we had very small chances for growing up, for normal development of this kid.

New socialist trend, not socialist country, but trend, movement in socialist direction. And of course, we received a lot of mutations. Firstly, it was real huge energy, created by revolution, by victory in civil war. Energy of creation of new society, enthusiasm and so on. In the same time, in new economic policy in the 1920s, we had a lot of elements of market capitalism and so on. It was, by the way, not a bad model of combination of capitalism, market, and new socialist trends, with big contradictions. But then, because of terrible conditions, absence of material base inside, and the very dangerous, very aggressive-

PAUL JAY: Meaning the absence of any modern industry.

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah. It was necessary to create, during ten years, modern industry and a huge military complex in order to prevent defeat in the war against world fascism. By the way, I want to stress, in 1930s, fascism became rule. It was Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, then all Europe capitulated.

PAUL JAY: And strong support in Britain and the United States, including the King of England.

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, and by the way- yeah, Britain and the United States were not very sympathetic to the Soviet Union rule at all. And one minute, one very important fact. When German fascists, Nazi, took power, it was one country around France, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, strong industrial states altogether- Britain, the U.S.- no problem to defeat Germany. And what was the result? Germany occupied France, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Austria. Nobody can resist- democratic liberal capitalism could not resist to fascism. And only this strange mutation, Stalin’s socialism, could have a victory.

PAUL JAY: And I think a lot of people in the West don’t understand how clear this was, what was coming as early as 1930, 31, 32-

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, but after that, we had this bureaucratic mutation because of all these reasons. And the more we had power of bureaucracy and the less we had the real control from below, real opportunity to make something in social organization from below, the more we had degradation of socialist trends. And we moved from domestic socialism, in the atmosphere of capitalism around, towards attempts to build consumer society, but without the opportunity to consume. The economy of shortage consumer society.2

Peterson read a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, yes, a book that details horrible injustices. But Buzgalin lived in the USSR, saw the fall of the Soviet Bloc, and lived through the transformation to modern Russia. Russia is not communist today, but Russians did try to bring back communism and were thwarted by American interference in the Russian presidential election to get their man, the inebriate Boris Yeltsin, into the Federal Assembly.

Peterson turns to another writer, George Orwell, to expose Stalin’s crimes: “He [Orwell] published Animal Farm, a fable satirizing the Soviet Union, in 1945, despite encountering serious resistance to the book’s release.” (loc 5301)

In the preface to the Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm Orwell wrote:

I have never visited Russia and my knowledge of it consists only of what can be learned by reading books and newspapers. Even if I had the power, I would not wish to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs: I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods. It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there.

But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet régime for what it really was. Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.

Unlike Peterson who sees Marxism as an ideology predestined to produce atrocities, Orwell sees that corrupted humans have corrupted Marxism. Orwell was a contemporary who refused to judge Stalin, whereas Peterson removed in time does judge Stalin. Orwell considers that there may have been circumstances that forced Stalin to act in barbaric fashion. Buzgalin cited some of those circumstances above, although he does not name such as an excuse for Stalin’s barbarity.3 Does Peterson take into account the circumstances and the times when he passes wholesale judgment?

Inequality

Turning to the present, communism has waned in many countries while at the same time the burgeoning of neoliberalism has seen inequality soar.

Peterson offers a puzzling take on inequality. He favors a hands-off approach to it: “We don’t know how to redistribute wealth without introducing a whole host of other problems…. But it certainly is the case that forced redistribution, in the name of utopian equality, is a cure to shame the disease.” (loc 5351)

Tim Di Muzio, a senior lecturer in international relations and political economy at Wollongong University in Australia, states that capitalism is a pathological addiction in which capitalists seek differential accumulation – to primarily increase the wealth gap between themselves and others; in other words, greater wealth inequality. (p 49) For this reason, the capitalist system cannot rid wealth inequality or significantly reduce the inequality, and neither is capitalism — the nebulous invisible hand aside — designed to do this.4

Peterson says we don’t know how to redistribute wealth. Certainly he admits that he doesn’t know how to do it. Indeed, he even warns against trying redistribution, by implying redistribution to be an untoward “utopian equality.” Why in the name of “utopian equality”? Why not in the name of fairness and dignity for all humans? Peterson is at odds with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that one of the freedoms sought is a world where humans are free from want. As stipulated by the UDHR, among those human rights affected by inequality are:

  • Article 23: Right to work, to equal pay for equal work, and to form and join trade unions
  • Article 24: Right to reasonable hours of work and paid holidays
  • Article 25: Right to adequate living standard for self and family, including food, housing, clothing, medical care and social security.

Does Peterson think that the current distribution of wealth is fair? If it is not fair, then does Peterson suggest leaving the current maldistribution as is? And what caused a maldistribution to occur? Should not the conditions that caused such a maldistribution be dealt with? The gap between the rich and the poor is widening. In 1820, the gap was 3:1, in 1950, 35:1, and in 1992, the gap was 72:1.5 The “World Inequality Report 2018” declares an increasing gap between haves and have-nots and points to capitalism as a cause. That this is a gargantuan problem, is adduced by the fact that about half of the planet’s population must get by on less than $2.50 a day (80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day). What “host of problems” is it that Peterson would consider to supersede the dignity of half the globe’s population?

Why focus on redistribution of wealth? What about the capitalist system wherein the maldistribution occurred? Peterson says don’t redistribute. However, if communism leads to Gulags as Peterson claims, then by the same logic does capitalism not lead to maldistribution and inequality? But Peterson does not argue for a economic reform. Would it not be logically and morally preferable to have a system that allows for a fair distribution at the outset that would not require a redistribution. But that might require a revolution, something Peterson also eschews as he considers that would cause suffering.6

Peterson on Compelled Speech

Peterson came into wider public prominence when he railed against the Canadian government’s Bill C-16 which amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to include “gender identity or expression” as grounds protected from discrimination. Peterson mischaracterized the bill as compelling speech by using hate laws. Nonetheless, Peterson gained a following based on his pro-freedom of expression.

In his book, Peterson seemingly contradicts this pro-freedom of expression stance:

I do not understand why our society is providing public funding to institutions and educators whose stated, conscious and explicit aim is the demolition of the culture that supports them. Such people have a perfect right to their opinions and actions, if they remain lawful. But they have no reasonable claim to public funding. (loc 5359)7

Unlawful opinions? Really?

What does Peterson mean by “demolition of the culture”? Culture is an abstract, something that cannot be physically demolished. Sure, artifacts of the culture can be destroyed, but Peterson did not write cultural artifacts. And what does Peterson mean by “lawful”? He gives no examples of institutions and educators behaving unlawfully. What Peterson writes sounds curiously like a call for censorship. One wonders whether orating for the replacement of capitalism (and its maldistribution of wealth) with communism in western society is beyond the bounds of accepted discourse. In other words, if you don’t like the cultural set-up, and you want to exercise your freedom of speech, then the dominant culture will put you on the street. That would be, in essence, governmental violence, and it would cause suffering — something Peterson says he seeks to avoid.

Peterson appears to be treading a tightrope here. He supports freedom of speech, but seemingly sets out parameters in which free speech may not occur. First, Peterson holds that it must conform to societal dictates as far as public funding is concerned. Yet is that not censorship? It stands as an antipode to compelled speech – something Peterson adamantly opposes. Hate speech aside, but are not forced speech patterns similarly egregious as enforcement aimed at preventing utterances? Second, one might wonder exactly what Peterson means by the “conscious and explicit aim is the demolition of the culture that supports them.” Culture? That is a wide-encompassing term. Does Peterson consider “the demolition of the culture” that sends soldiers abroad to overthrow governments not to the home government’s liking, to devastate foreign lands, to decimate civilian populations, and to plunder the resources as deserving of being cut off from public funding? Third, Peterson argues that speech must “remain lawful.” Where is the freedom in that? Of course, freedoms come with responsibilities. One does not run into a public school and foolishly yell “Shooter!” while knowing full well that no shooter has been spotted on campus, thereby causing a stampede of students and a potential for injuries. But the right to dissent, even against a prevailing view in society, is a sine qua non of a country that professes to cherish democracy and freedoms. After all, how often is it that a majority, or substantial section, of a society has gone amuck? Nazi Germany, imperialist Britain, imperialist USA, colonial Canada, Wahhabists, Zionists, all spring to mind to be parked alongside the brutal excesses of some communist governments. It is incumbent upon people whose consciences are pricked by iniquity caused by or in complicity with their society and country to speak out and steer the ship-of-state back on a proper course. Most people whose consciences are seared are not about to be dissuaded from doing what they consider right by a cut off in public funding. Lastly, what does Peterson propose for the criteria and regulating of the “institutions and educators whose stated, conscious and explicit aim is the demolition of the culture,” so as to determine what and who should be deprived of public funding? Who should decide? As a basis, a standing bureaucracy would be required for this task.

In a so-called representative democracy such as the United States, universities and research and development are largely funded by government. If these institutions and scientists are antithetical to the agenda of the government, then should their funding be cut off? Case in point, the overwhelming majority of the scientific community has sounded the alarm about the increasing potential of a looming catastrophe: fossil-fuel burning causes emissions of greenhouse gases and this is cited as the cause of global warming, melting ice caps, thawing permafrost, and weather calamities. Yet, one can observe the Donald Trump government stacking agencies whose purported agenda is to protect the environment signalling a rejection of climate change, raising the profile of a sprinkling of climate skeptics, and caving in to the interests of Big Oil.

  1. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
  2. Part 6 will discuss IQ, equal pay for equal work, Mao Zedong, and Chinese communism
  1. Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos (Penguin Random House UK, 2018).
  2. Success and Mutation in the Soviet Union – RAI with A. Buzgalin (2/12),” The Real News, 12 July 2018.
  3. The longtime communist ruler of Albania, Enver Hoxha, in his With Stalin: A Memoir, paints a far more flattering portrait of Sta1in than western historical accounts.
  4. Tim Di Muzio, The 1% and the Rest of Us: A Political Economy of Dominant Ownership (Zed Books, 2015): 48-49.
  5. Anup Shah, “Causes of Poverty,” Global Issues, 30 April 2006.
  6. See part 3.
  7. Peterson: “Neither should we teach them [our children] unsupported ideologically-predicated theories about nature of men and women—or the nature of hierarchy.” (loc 5382)

Free Speech, Hassan Nasrallah, and Other Victims of Internet Censorship

The fact that we live in a world in which the distribution of information is largely under the control of private corporations (and of governments overwhelmingly influenced by corporations) is itself a sufficient indictment of our civilization. Even if, impossibly, no other crimes ever occurred anywhere and systems of power were by and large benevolent, private control and distribution of information would justify attempts to reconstruct society on a new foundation. Such control is simply too contrary to the principles of free expression and free access to information to be tolerated by a people who value democracy, truth, and rational, unimpeded communication. How much worse is it, though, when corporate control of information is an essential precondition for the non-stop commission of systematic crimes against humanity by these very corporations and governments. If the public knew everything that’s going on, it is unlikely they would tolerate it for long.

As it is, we’re living in a planetary practical joke, victims of some malevolent cosmic intelligence with a sick sense of humor: in order to organize political dissent, struggle for social progress, and spread knowledge of corporate and government crimes. We’re dependent in large part on networks that are run and policed by these criminals themselves. We function at the mercy of their good will. Internet service providers can, whenever they feel like it, deny service to some “dangerous” individual or group; media platforms like Facebook and YouTube can suspend a user as soon as they decide they don’t like what he’s saying, or if he runs afoul of some algorithm; Google can steer traffic away from particular websites, as it has lately been doing with regard to left-wing sites like the World Socialist Website, AlterNet, Democracy Now, and CounterPunch. And the victims of this censorship have, in effect, no recourse, except to appeal to the public to pressure the censors.

Facebook has censored countless users who didn’t deserve it, as when disproportionately targeting activists of color, suspending livestreams of police shootings, temporarily deleting TeleSur’s English page, and deleting VenezuelAnalysis’s page (until the ensuing public outcry got that decision reversed). Its army of content reviewers is constantly censoring individual posts in accordance with a 27-page set of rules, resulting in the suppression of posts about, e.g., Indian atrocities in Kashmir, Geronimo and Zapata as heroes in the “500-year war against colonialism,” and a left-wing counter-rally on the anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The political censorship (of both the left and, sometimes, the right) is out of control: this past year, hundreds of accounts and pages have been deleted on the pretext that they’re fake or “inauthentic.” Or, as always, “extremist.” Not surprisingly, many have been quite legitimate, run by real people who were using pseudonyms for the sake of safety, or whose perspectives are just designated as unacceptable because they’re contrary to official narratives. After deleting dozens of “inauthentic” accounts and pages last summer, Facebook stated that the culprits had “sought to inflame social and political tensions in the United States, and said their activity was similar—and in some cases connected—to that of Russian accounts during the 2016 election.” In other words, users are now forbidden to “inflame tensions” or to act “similarly” to Russian accounts.

At least we’re still allowed to share cat memes and baby photos.

But the main victim of this creeping McCarthyism has been, of course, the cause of the Palestinians, and more generally anyone who objects to Israel’s decades-long orgy of bloodlust. Whether on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, or other platforms, entities resisting Israel are regularly denied a voice. Hamas’s armed wing isn’t permitted an account on Twitter, while the Israeli army is. Facebook blocks Palestinian groups so often—including Fatah and leading media outlets in the West Bank—that they have their own hashtag, #FBcensorsPalestine. Given that these media near-monopolies are an essential means of reaching followers and spreading a message, such censorship has a very destructive effect.

Recent outrages concern suppression of the voice of Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah. A year ago YouTube suspended a popular channel that broadcast, and provided translations of, speeches of Hassan Nasrallah, among other “anti-American” leaders (Putin, Assad, etc.). The channel, which had over 400 videos, had 10,000 subscribers and had racked up more than six million views, and was growing in popularity. YouTube’s pretext for its suspension was “violation of the rules concerning graphic or violent content.” More specifically, three videos of Nasrallah’s speeches were deemed offensive: one was titled “ISIS is Israel’s ally and aims [at] Mecca and Medina,” the second was titled “We are about to liberate Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and all of Palestine,” and the third was called “The next war will change the face of the region.” It would be hard to argue that anything in these speeches was particularly “graphic or violent,” for they contain little but sensible political analysis and exhortations to resist a brutally violent neighboring state.

The owner of the channel then created a Facebook page to post similar content, called Resistance News Unfiltered. A year later, just a few weeks ago, it was deleted. With no explanation. It had over 6,000 subscribers and was providing an important service by translating the speeches of a highly perceptive political analyst. Norman Finkelstein recently released a statement on all this censorship of Nasrallah:

It is a scandal that the speeches of Hassan Nasrallah are banned on youtube. Whatever one thinks of his politics, it cannot be doubted that Nasrallah is among the shrewdest and most serious political observers in the world today. Israeli leaders carefully scrutinize Nasrallah’s every word. Why are the rest of us denied this right? One cannot help but wonder whether Nasrallah’s speeches are censored because he doesn’t fit the stereotype of the degenerate, ignorant, blowhard Arab leader. It appears that Western social media aren’t yet ready for an Arab leader of dignified mind and person.

The New York Times has reported that “Israeli security agencies monitor Facebook and send the company posts they consider incitement. Facebook has responded by removing most of them.” In fact, typically over 90 percent of them. Meanwhile, as Glenn Greenwald notes, “Israelis have virtually free rein to post whatever they want about Palestinians,” including calls for genocide and the most grotesque celebrations of the torture and murder of Palestinian children.

All this is perfectly predictable, for the economically powerful will always cooperate with the politically powerful to suppress dissent. Companies like Facebook and Google (which owns YouTube) will always be inclined to do the bidding of the U.S. government and its allies. This fact nevertheless constitutes a terrible, proto-fascist danger to free speech that ought to be resisted as energetically as any crime against humanity concealed by such corporatist collaboration.

Only if we flood Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the others with complaints is there a chance for necessary voices like Hassan Nasrallah’s to be heard. Our endgame should be to eliminate these corporations themselves and transfer the media infrastructure they own to the public, but on the way to that goal we have to keep poking holes in the corporate blackout to let in some sunlight.

Anti-BDS Bill Defeated

Some may be happy to learn that the US Senate didn’t pass the ‘anti BDS bill’ on Tuesday. But a look at the vote reveals that America’s politicians are fully removed from the American ethos of freedom. Fifty six  mostly Republican Senators, just 4 shy of the 60 needed to pass the bill, voted to enact a law contrary to the Constitutional right to Freedom of Speech as granted by the 1st amendment. The defeated bill included a provision to allow states and local governments to punish Americans who boycott Israel. This was an astonishing and nearly successful attempt  to legislate crude government interference with freedom of speech in its most protected form: political speech. The fact that such a bill made it to the floor of the Senate confirms that the American political establishment is an occupied zone committed to silencing opposition to Israel and its lobby.

Democrats did not necessarily oppose the anti BDS bill on first amendment grounds. Instead, most Senate Democrats have vowed to block all legislation in the Senate until it votes to end the government shutdown. Trump has closed the Federal government until Congress accedes to his demand for $5.7 billion to begin to erect an Israeli style ghetto wall on the Mexican border.

If the president is so desperate to defend America’s southern border, perhaps he should consider not giving military aid to Israel, even if  just for two years. This would free $8 billion and give Trump enough cash to build his wall and then maybe he could invest the remaining $2.3 billion where it’s really needed: to make America great again.

Fiasco In Islington, Part 2

Gilad Atzmon

More facts have come to light in the case of Gilad Atzmon and his banning by the Islington Town Council from performing at a jazz concert on December 21, 2018. The original scenario was that one e-mail from one person calling Atzmon an antisemite somehow persuaded the Islington council to take the drastic step of removing Atzmon from a town-owned venue. Many who heard the story felt this was a rash decision which would surely be reversed when the facts were brought to light. But the Council voted to uphold its decision and Atzmon was indeed not allowed to play.

Now it appears that the single complainant – Martin Rankoff –  was not just an anonymous fan of Israel but the UK director of Likud-Herut. Herut (or ‘freedom’) was Israel’s founding nationalist party from 1948 until it later merged with Likud. It is a militant and extreme Zionist organization whose roots go in a straight line from Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin up to Benjamin Netanyahu today. Jabotinsky and Begin helped form the Irgun terrorists in 1937. Irgun committed notorious massacres in Palestine leading up to and during the Nakba (or ‘catastrophe’) of 1947-1948. These include the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 91 people, and the massacre at Deir Yassin in 1948 in which 254 unarmed Palestinian villagers were brutally murdered as an incentive for other Palestinians to leave. On its web site Likud-Herut UK lists Jabotinsky and Begin as “visionaries.” Likud-Herut is a member of the World Zionist Organization and the Zionist Federation of the UK who believe in “the inalienable right of all Jews to live and settle in all parts of the Land of Israel.”

In a letter to the New York Times in 1948 Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and others compared Herut to the Nazis and Fascists who had just been defeated in World War II. Referring to this letter, Ramzy Baroud recently wrote:

The ‘Nazi and Fascist’ mentality that defined Herut in 1948 now defines the most powerful ruling class in Israel. Israel’s leaders speak openly of genocide and murder, yet they celebrate and promote Israel as if an icon of civilization, democracy and human rights.

The history of Herut and Likud tells us a great deal about who the people are who complained about Atzmon to Islington Town Council. When Atzmon moved to appeal his being banned, formidable opponents again appeared in the form of the Simkins Law firm, one of the most expensive law practices in Britain, with not one but two partners at Simkins being put on the case. These are Gideon Benaim and Tom Iverson. Benaim recently became well known in Britain for winning an invasion of privacy suit against the BBC on behalf of pop singer Cliff Richard, who said he spent £3.4m ($4.3 million) on the case. Clearly, representation by Simkins doesn’t come cheap. Also listed in Benaim’s resumé as a client is the Las Vegas Sands Corporation which likely has no problem with Simkins’ fees either. The Sands casino is owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who, as it happens, is a primary sponsor of the Likud Party in Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson owns the newspaper Israel Hayom, a mouthpiece for Netanyahu and Likud.

Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx
5/28/15, Sheldon Adelson at The Champions of Israel Gala. (NYC)

It now appears that Atzmon’s banning was not the result of a casual complaint; it was an intentional attack on a well-respected supporter of Palestinian human rights by the Likud organization, directly represented by Martin Rankoff. The attack was followed up by the hiring of a lawyer who has worked for Likud godfather Sheldon Adelson. The connection to these powerful forces may explain why Islington Town Council leader Richard Watts, without any delay or attempt at negotiation, took the step of going straight to a decision to hire an expensive law firm. This is while Islington is facing serious austerity and shortage of funds in its own operating budget. Islington has a population of about 206,000 people. This very month, 43 of those people were counted in one survey as homeless and sleeping on the streets.

Regarding the financial problems of his borough and others around London, Richard Watts, told The Independent in October 2018:

“unprecedented” funding pressures and demand for adult and children’s social care and homelessness services was “pushing councils to the limit”.

“As a result less money is being spent on the other services that keep our communities running such as libraries, local roads, early intervention and local welfare support,” he added.

Yet, to Watts and his fellow councilors in Islington, backing partisans for a foreign country – Israel — took precedence over the pressing needs of the people whom they are supposed to represent. Either Watts was inexcusably careless with scarce town funds or a deal was made and he knew that he could depend on Likud-Herut to back him. Or, like politicians all across Europe and the US facing the power of the Israel lobby, he knew he couldn’t afford to say no.

According to Simkin’s web site, Gideon Benaim “has extensive expertise in the areas of defamation, privacy, harassment and copyright.” Perhaps it is not a coincidence that immediately after Islington brought in Simkins, identical statements from an unnamed Labour spokesman describing Atzmon as “a vile antisemite” appeared in both the BBC and The Guardian. Perhaps a lawyer experienced in defending people against defamation and harassment would also know how to perpetrate these things. Perhaps this was Benaim’s opening move. Character assassination is a common tactic in cases that have a weak legal foundation, such as this one, as it goes a long way to convicting the accused before their case ever reaches a courtroom.

The involvement of Likud-Herut in the attack on Gilad Atzmon, and Islington’s official backing of that attack, constitutes a monumental scandal. This wasn’t just a stupid mistake; it was a hit. It is an affront to reason that an an arch-racist organization like Likud, who from the beginning have stood for the removal of the people of Palestine from their own land by means of terror, murder, and forced expulsion, could possibly claim they they were defamed by someone pointing out these very crimes. There is a case of defamation here for sure – the defamation of Gilad Atzmon. For Zionists, defamation is nothing more than a tool to destroy opponents who can’t be dealt with by other means. We are long since tired of truth tellers being accused of antisemitism. We’re tired of national and local resources being used to prop up the criminal state of Israel. Coercion by advocates for Israel is at the center of this issue in Islington, as it is in many other towns and many other countries. For the sake of Palestine and our own sovereignty, it has to be called out and stopped.

• Read Part One here

A Question Every American Must Confront: Apartheid Israel or US Democracy?

Bahia Amawai is a US citizen and Texas-based language specialist who helps autistic and speech-impaired children overcome their impairment.

Despite the essential and noble nature of her work, she was fired by the Pflugerville Independent School District, which serves the Austin area.

Every year, Amawai signs an annual contract that allows her to carry on with her tasks uninterrupted. This year, however, something changed.

Shockingly, the school district has decided to add a clause to the contract that requires teachers and other employees to pledge not to boycott Israel ‘during the term of their contract.’

The ‘oath’ is now part of Section 2270.001 of the Texas Government Code, and it is stated in the contract with obvious elaboration so as those wishing to work, or keep their jobs with the Texan government find no loophole to avoid its penalties:

“‘Boycott Israel’ means refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territory ..”

The fact that Texas considers unacceptable even the boycott of businesses operating in the illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank puts it at odds with international law, and, subsequently with the vast majority of the international community.

But don’t rush to judgment yet, condemning Texas for being the infamous and stereotypical ‘wild west’, as portrayed even in the United States’ own media. Indeed, Texas is but a small facet in a massive American government campaign aimed at stifling freedom of speech as enshrined in its country’s own constitution.

25 US states have already passed anti-boycott of Israel legislation, or have issued executive orders targeting the boycott of support networks, while other states are in the process of following suit.

At a federal government level, the Congressional Israel Anti-boycott Act, which is being received with enthusiasm among US legislators, vows to fine and imprison those who boycott Israel.

While there is strong civil society opposition to such obvious violations of the basic tenets of freedom of speech, the pro-Israel campaigners are unhinged.

Texas – which has passed and enacted laws criminalizing support for the boycott of Israel, as championed by the Palestinian Civil Society Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) – continues to lead the way for other states.

In the Texan town of Dickinson, which was devastated by hurricane Harvey last year, hurricane victims were asked to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel in exchange for life-saving humanitarian aid.

It must have been a complete shock for displaced residents of the town to learn that the meager supplies they were about to receive hinged on their support of the far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But this is the sad state of democracy in the US at the moment, where the interests of a relatively small, distant country are made the centerpiece of US government policies, at home or abroad.

Israel’s wealthy supporters are working hand in hand with Israel’s influential lobby groups in Washington DC, but also at state, and even city levels to make the boycott of Israel punishable by law.

Many US politicians are answering the unreasonable lobby call of criminalizing political dissent throughout the country. While in reality many of them could care less or even truly understand the nature of the debate concerning BDS, they are willing to go the extra mile (as in violating the sanctity of their own democratic system) to win lobby favors, or to, at least avoid their wrath.

The anti-BDS campaign started in the US in earnest a few years ago, and, unlike BDS’ own tactics, it avoided grassroot efforts, focusing instead on quickly creating an official body of legal work that places boycotters of Israel in the dock.

Although the hastily composed legal language has been bravely challenged, and, at times, reversed altogether by civil society lawyers and organizations, the Israeli strategy has managed to place BDS supporters on the defensive.

That limited success can be accredited to powerful friends of Israel who have generously and forcefully responded to Tel Aviv’s war drums.

Las Vegas gambling mogul, Sheldon Adelson, took the helm of leadership. He moved into action, establishing the “Maccabee Task Force”, which raised millions of dollars to fight against what Israeli officials define as an existential threat to Israel and the delegitimization of the country as a “Jewish state.”

A major strategy that the Israeli camp has advanced in the discussion is the misleading notion that BDS calls for the boycott of Jews, as opposed to the boycott of Israel as a state that violates international law and numerous United Nations resolutions.

A country that practices racism as a matter of course, defends racial segregation and builds apartheid walls deserves nothing but complete boycott. That is the minimal degree of moral, political and legal accountability considering that the US, as with other countries, are obligated to honor and respect international law in that regard.

The US, however, encouraged by the lack of accountability, continues to behave in the same manner as countries that Washington relentlessly attacks for their undemocratic behavior and violation of human rights.

If such bizarre happenings – firing teachers and conditioning aid on taking a political stance – took place in China, for example, Washington would have led an international campaign condemning Beijing’s intransigence and violation of human rights.

Many Americans have yet to fathom how the United States’ submission to Israel’s political will is affecting their everyday life. But with more and more such legal restrictions, even ordinary Americans will soon find themselves fighting for basic political rights that, like Bahia Amawai, they have always taken for granted.

Sure, Israel may have succeeded in coercing some people not to openly vow support of BDS, but it will eventually lose this battle as well.

Muffling the voices of civil society rarely works over long periods of time, and the anti-BDS campaign, now penetrating the very heart of US government, is bound to eventually resurrect a nationwide conversation.

Is protecting Israeli Apartheid more important to Americans than preserving the fundamental nature of their own democracy?

That is a question that every American, regardless of how they feel about a supposedly distant Middle Eastern conflict, must answer, and urgently so.

Gilad Atzmon’s Seasonal Message

Following the intense smear campaign against me, my work, my writing and my livelihood, I decided to produce this short Christmas message and address the ludicrous accusations against me and also to wish you all merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thank you all for your support.

To sign a petition in support of Gilad click here

Lodge a formal complaint with Islington Council: https://www.islington.gov.uk/contact-us/comments-and-complaints?status=inprogress

Email: ku.vog.notgnilsinull@llahylbmessa

Contact the Council: +4420 7527 2000

To support Gilad’s legal battle:  https://donorbox.org/gilad-needs-additional-support

Be Offensive and Be Damned: The Cases of Peter Ridd and Tim Anderson

It has been an ordinary year for universities in Australia. While the National Tertiary Education Union pats itself on the back for supposedly advancing the rights and pay of academics, several face removal and castigation at the hands of university management.  Consumerism and pay are the sort of quotidian matters that interest the NTEU.  Less interesting is the realm of academic ideas and how they clash with the bureaucratic prisons that have been built into universities.

At James Cook University, Peter Ridd was sacked on “code of conduct” grounds applied with a delightful elasticity.  He claimed that it was for holding views on climate change out of step with his colleagues, and attacking the credibility of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.  (The pettiness of such institutions knows no bounds: Ridd’s knuckles were wrapped, for instance, for satirising, trivialising or parodying the university.)

At the University of Sydney, Tim Anderson, a full time critic of Western interventions in the Middle East and acquitted for ordering the 1978 Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing, has been suspended pending what would seem to be imminent sacking.  Causing “offense” was what mattered.

A cardinal rule applies in this case: Be suspicious of those who use good behaviour as a criterion of policing, notably in an environment where bad behaviour and dangerous ideas should hold sway over meek bumbling and submissiveness.  Be wary of the demands to be vanilla and beige – behind them lies administrative venality and the dictates of compliance.

Such rubbery provisions as being “civil” or not causing offense shield the weak, spineless and fraudulent and, most dangerously, create the very same intolerable workplace that managers are supposedly opposed to.  Very importantly, such code of conduct regulations are designed to immunise management from questions about their behaviour and often daft directives, letting institutions grow flabby with corruption.  Inoculated, that class thrives in its toxicity.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of JCU, Iain Gordon, has drawn upon the usual stock nonsense defending the decision regarding Ridd.  “The issue has never been about Peter’s right to make statements – it’s about how he has continually broken a code of conduct that we would expect all our staff to stick to, to create a safe, respectful professional workplace.”  The thrust of this is simple: Never cause offense; be compliantly decent; be cripplingly dull and go back to your homes in your suburbs living a life unexamined. As an academic, you are merely delivering a service mandated by individuals several steps removed from the education process, not performing an ancient duty to educate mankind.

The code of conduct, the product of a corporatized imbecility, assumes the mantle of dogma in such disputes.  “All staff members must comply with the Code of Conduct,” goes Gordon’s official statement in May, with its distinct politburo flavour of placing things beyond debate. “This is non-negotiable.  It is a fundamental duty and obligation that forms part of their employment.”  Ridd, explains Gordon, “sensationalised his comments to attract attention, has criticised and denigrated published work, and has demonstrated a lack of respect for his colleague and institutions in doing so.  Academic rebuttal of his scientific views on the reef has been separately published.”

Anderson, having found himself at stages in the University of Sydney’s bad books, has also run the gauntlet of offensiveness.  The specific conduct resulting in his suspension featured lecture materials shown to students suggesting the imposition of a swastika upon Israel’s flag.  This was deemed “disrespectful and offensive, and contrary to the university’s behavioural expectations”.  Tut, tut, Anderson.

The Sydney University provost and acting vice-chancellor Stephen Garton followed the line taken at JCU towards Ridd with zombie-like predictability.  “The university has, since its inception, supported and encouraged its staff to engage in public debate and it has always accepted that those views might be controversial.” But debate – and here, behavioural fetters were again to be imposed – had to be undertaken “in a civil manner.”  Contrarianism should be expressed with a good measure of decency.

The letter of suspension from Garton to Anderson is one-dimensionally authoritarian.  Principles of academic freedom were supported by the university, but only in “accordance with the highest ethical, professional and legal standards”.  But the all supreme, and trumping document, remained the Code of Conduct, capitalised by the bureaucrats as Mosaic Law. “The inclusion of the altered image of the Israeli flag in your Twitter Posts, Facebook Posts and teaching materials is disrespectful and offensive, and contrary to the University’s behavioural expectations and requirements for all staff.”

Some heart can be taken from the protest last Friday on the part of 30 academics who signed an open letter objecting to the treatment meted out to Anderson, stating that academic freedom was “meaningless if it is suspended when its exercise is deemed offensive.”  His suspension pending termination of his employment was “an unacceptable act of censorship and a body-blow to academic freedom at the University of Sydney”.  Reaction to Ridd has been somewhat cooler.

The point with Anderson is that his views are deemed bad for university business, which tolerates no room for the offensive.  This, in a place where the most varied, and, at points, tasteless views, should be expressed.  But as universities have become shabby entrepreneurial endeavours which see students as obesely delicious milch cows for their existence, the idea is less important than the process.

As is so often the case of free speech, advocates of it always assume it doesn’t apply to others. It is only to be extolled as a mark on paper and university policy.  But never, for instance, challenge inane university policy or the hacks who implement it.  Never ridicule ideas that deserve it.  Never mock the obscene nature of managerialism’s central principle: massaged incompetence and assured decline.  University managers and the colourless suits aided by their ill-tutored human resources goon squads tend to hold sway over opinions, taking against anybody who questions certain aspects of their (non)performance.

The Ridd and Anderson cases, coming from separate parts of the academic spectrum, demonstrate the prevalence of toadyism on the part of those who wish to avoid questioning the rationale of a university’s management process.  They also suggest an immemorial tendency of authority to savagely oppress those who ignore it; to manifest its existence through punishment.  In truth, it is precisely in ignoring those officials long barnacled upon the research and teaching endeavours of the University and drawing revenue best spent on students and scholars that a grave sin is committed.  Such officialdom should be ignored, treated as the bureaucratic irrelevance that it is. Time for sit-ins, occupations, boycotts and a retaking of the University.

The Movement to Suppress and Impoverish Critics of Israel is Racist

Marc Lamont Hill, Tim Anderson, Steven Salaita, Rabab Abdulhadi, Hatem Bazian, Ahlam Muhtasib, Norman Finkelstein and other academics have all been targets of the movement to silence their criticisms of Israel and their defense of Palestinians. This includes threats and legal actions to try to deny them employment, in violation of their free speech rights, one of the most hallowed and ancient principles of academia. Salaita and Finkelstein were, in fact, denied employment, to the great detriment of their entire career. Hill and Anderson are currently defending themselves from this threat.

It is central to our understanding of these threats that the accusers are invariably Zionist or pro-Zionist individuals and institutions. Their backers include the Israeli government, which co-ordinates the movement through its Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the Israel lobbies in the US, UK, France, Australia and other countries, and the major Jewish Zionist billionaire funders, such as Sheldon Adelson, Haim Saban, Bernard Marcus and others. They emphatically do not include non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jews, but almost always include non-Jewish Zionists.

This is already enough to conclude that there is a fundamental difference between Jews and Zionists and that many are one without being the other, including some ultra-orthodox Jews, like the Neturei Karta. The relevance of this is that the accusations against the critics of Israel are always that they are racist anti-Jews; i.e., “anti-Semitic”. The evidence consists of testimony from Jewish students and Jewish organizations that the criticisms make them feel “unsafe” or that they find them offensive.

But is any of the testimony from non-Zionist Jews? Or is it only from Zionists? Why don’t non-Zionist Jews feel offended? If none of them feel offended and only Zionists (both Jewish and non-Jewish), how can the charge of anti-Semitism be supported? This is highly relevant to the defense of such cases. If someone is offended at skin piercings or tattoos or dark skin or light skin or atheism or other types of appearance and speech, is that a reason to banish them from the campus (or elsewhere)? It is part of a free society and respect for rights that anyone so offended will simply have to live with such feelings or go elsewhere.

In a tolerant society, it is permitted to voice both Zionist and anti-Zionist views. In fact, it is permitted to voice racist views, although it is not required to provide funding or resources for such views unless they are de jure available to all members of a society, (e.g. a speaker’s platform in a public park or a meeting room in a public library).

Is Zionism or anti-Zionism racist? Anti-Zionism is not, because it’s plainly not anti-Semitism. But Zionism advocates a Jewish state and supports the ethnic cleansing of another people, the Palestinians, in order to realize and maintain such a state. It enforces draconian laws and practices against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and even stronger measures, including the deliberate shooting of unarmed civilians, against Palestinians in territories that it controls. From the beginning, it has sought to expel or eliminate as many Palestinians as possible.

On the other hand, the Palestinian movements – even Hamas – have always argued that a person’s religion or race is irrelevant to their rights in the lands that they wish to liberate from Zionism. All of the academics that the Zionist movement has targeted for persecution, silencing and dismissal support this ideal. We must therefore ask ourselves, who are the racists?

Removing Billboard “Honoring the First Responders of Gaza” is Attack on Free Speech

Nearly 3 weeks into its planned 4-week run, an electronic billboard honoring first responders in the Gaza Strip was pulled November 13th because the billboard company received phone calls and email complaints calling their staff terrorists and anti-Semites, and threatening a boycott.

The Palestine Advocacy Project sponsored the billboard on Interstate 93 near Boston to highlight the desperate situation in the Gaza strip, and to emphasize the humanity and agency of the people of Gaza, who are often portrayed as terrorists or victims. The billboard included a photo of deceased Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar and text reading: “Honoring the First Responders of Gaza. Saving Lives. Rescuing Hope.” It was estimated to be viewed by over a half million motorists each week of its planned 4-week run, beginning 24 October. The billboard was met with positive media coverage.

This week, a coordinated, aggressive campaign was launched against the billboard company with accusations of anti-Semitism, intended to damage the company for hosting this billboard. Sarah Gold, a volunteer with the Palestine Advocacy Project, said, “This campaign is neither engaging us nor our perspective. Instead it is attempting through intimidation to eradicate the avenues of free speech we have endeavored to use; to silence us.”

The billboard is another casualty in an ongoing attack on free speech. Palestine Legal states in their 2017 report “The Israeli state and its proxy organizations in the U.S. are investing heavily in punitive measures to intimidate and chill the free speech of those who wish to express criticism of Israeli policies.” The report documents 308 attacks on U.S.-based Palestine-related free speech in 2017 alone.

Razan al-Najjar and other Gazan first responders were doing their best to attend to wounded civilians; yet celebrating them is construed as an act of “hate & anti-semitism.” One complaint reads in part: “A billboard glorifying those who try to kill and destroy our People and Homeland! Anti Semitism is as old as time itself, Hate of Israel is hate of Jews, completely unacceptable!” This negative campaign appears to be based on the erroneous notions that all Gazans are anti-Semites intent on murdering Jews, that Gazans are not entitled to basic human rights, and that any display of solidarity with them equates to a call for the destruction of Israel.

Richard Colbath-Hess, founder of the Palestine Advocacy Project, remarked that “The billboard was extremely positive and does not even mention Israel. Instead it was a celebration of Palestinian heroes. Apparently, there cannot be Palestinian heroes without some advocates of Israel feeling attacked.”