“Freedom of Speech and the State of Israel” Ghada Karmi, Al Jazeera, 5 April 2015

“It has become the norm in Europe and the US for any adverse comment about Israel, however mild, to evoke a ferocious counterattack from pro-Israel groups. The fear of provoking these intimidatory reactions has prompted a widespread pre-emptive self-censorship with regard to anything Israeli or Jewish.”

The existence of anti-semitism and pro-Israel lobbyists has caused the censorship of any speech about Israel among many western public organisations and individuals. As an example, we can find the controversial cancellation of Britain's Southampton University's conference titled "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility, and Exceptionalism." It was cancelled by the university authorities as they found that it could lead to hostile public demonstrations that might have put participants at risk.  There were many protests about the conference among the Union of Jewish Students. It was also the case of the Minister for Communities -Eric Pickles- who named the conference a "one-sided diatribe." Furthermore, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the UK Zionist Federation collected 6,400 signatures against the conference asking to cancel it. Despite these protests, the conference meant an opportunity for students to analyze fundamental questions about Israel’s legitimacy. “In a democratic society that respects freedom of speech, these are legitimate subjects of debate, and the conference deserved better than to have been summarily cancelled by the university authorities.” Another example of this kind of censorship would be the case of Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet – one of the most respected medical journals – who helped to set an alliance with Palestinian health workers in order to enable them to publish their research in the journal. The answer of these pro-Israel groups was a smear campaign as they considered it anti-Israel bias. Moreover, it became worse when the Lancet wrote a letter denouncing Israel’s attacks on Gaza, which provoked several demands from the Israeli government and an intensive boycott from pro-Israel groups against the journal. “That this formidable array of domestic forces can be assembled so effectively to protect a foreign state, Israel, to the detriment of free speech in a democratic country, should be cause for alarm.” How do we challenge this kind of terrorism? “The best way to end it is to stand up to it, firmly and every time.”

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“Freedom of Speech and the State of Israel” Ghada Karmi, Al Jazeera, 5 April 2015


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