Tony Greenstein | 30 September 2020 | Post Views:

Campaign for Free Speech on Palestine – Come and hear Ali Abunimah, Editor of Electronic Intifada and Ben Norton of Grayzone

Today Zionism is the main enemy of free speech only last week Zoom cancelled a San Francisco University seminar featuring Leila Khaled

On Thursday we will be holding the third meeting around Free Speech on Palestine and Israel in the wake of the Board of Deputies 10 Commandments, no. 5 of which instructs people not to appear on a platform with anyone expelled or suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’ from the Labour Party.

In fact the 10 Commandments are looking very frayed at the edges with John McDonnell and Laura Pidcock having successfully defied them at the Labour Representation Committee AGM a few weeks ago.

Steve Silverman of the CAA with Danny Thomas, Tommy Robinson's criminal bodyguard

Steve Silverman of the CAA with Danny Thomas, Tommy Robinson’s criminal bodyguard

Our last meeting with Norman Finkelstein proved somewhat controversial with the usual Zionist attacks in the Jewish Chronicle the CST and an absurd one in The Times of Israel implying that Finkelstein is a Holocaust deniers. Not forgetting of course the misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism which labels any support of the Palestinians as ‘anti-Semitic’. 

Steve Silverman of the so-called Campaign Against Antisemitism with Mel Gharial – the link person between the Zionists and Tommy Robinson

Zionist Hypocrisy over ‘anti-Semitism’

On 7th August 124 Zionist groups purporting to speak on behalf of Jews, sought to impose the IHRA misdefinition of anti-Semitism on Facebook. What was ludicrous was that these organisations included genuine anti-Semites, racists and fascists!

As even the Jewish Chronicle pointed out these organisations include the Middle East Forum (MEF), whose President, Daniel Pipes is an open racist and part of the ‘counter-jihad’ movement. The MEF was, by their own admission, ‘heavily involved’ in funding the legal defence of Tommy Robinson, who was gaoled for contempt of court.

Steven Silverman of the CAA (back to camera) with Paul Besser of Britain First

Tommy Robinson is not only a virulent Islamaphobe and racist, he was a member of the neo-Nazi holocaust denying British National Party and to this day maintains links with neo-Nazis. Nonetheless Tommy Robinson loves Israel and even declares that he is a Zionist.

Other racist groups signing the Open Letter to Facebook include the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which openly lied to the Jewish Chronicle when it declares that it had no links to Tommy Robinson. In fact it works closely with the group of far-Right Zionists around Jonathan Hoffman and Paul Besser who themselves form a Zionist fan club for Robinson.

Another group of racists petitioning Facebook was North West Friend of Israel which has also demonstrated with Tommy Robinson and fascist supporters. Not forgetting of course the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – the biggest evangelical church in Brazil. A supporter of Brazil’s fascist President Bolsonaro, anti-abortion and anti-Indian.

Also amongst the signatories was the Haym Salomn Centre, which states its aim as being “combating antisemitism, Islamic terrorism and defending Western values.” Classic identitarian politics of the far-Right.

The Haym Salomn Centre also attacks “leftist stories funded by George Soros in outlets like the New York Times and Huffington Post.” Attacks on George Soros as funding the ‘liberal’ media are standard Jewish conspiracy theories. 

Not forgetting our old friends the Zionist Organisation of America led by Mort Klein. The ZOA distinguished itself after Trump was elected by inviting the anti-Semitic Steve Bannon, Trump’s special advisor as a guest of honour. Bannon told his former wife that he didn’t want his girls going to a school where there were lots of ‘whiny brat’ Jewish children. The ZOA also invited Sebastian Gorka, a member of the Hungarian fascist Vitezi Rend.

But it’s not just Facebook. As the 2 articles below demonstrate, there is a concerted attack by the Zionist movement, aided and abetted by the Trump and Johnson administrations, to prevent us speaking out.

Absurdly this is in the name of fighting ‘anti-Semitism’ as if anti-Semitism was a phenomenon separate from what most people understand as racism. Equally absurd is the fact that Trump, a by-word for White Supremacy and racism purports to oppose racism. The same is true of Boris Johnson, an equally vile racist.

Below are 2 articles on how Zoom, which has become very popular with the left in the wake of COVID-19 prevented a meeting at San Francisco with Leila Khaled. Leila Khaled was accused of being a ‘terrorist’ because she is a member of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Any organisation that opposes the Israeli state is classified as terrorist by the United States. Nelson Mandela and the ANC were also deemed ‘terrorists’ in their time. All opposition to colonialism and imperialism is defined as terrorism. What we don’t want are large media companies thinking they have the right to decide what we can and can’t hear, even to the extent of closing of a meeting held by a university. What was worrying was that both Facebook and Youtube cooperated in this act of censorship.

The last CFS meeting with Norman Finkelstein and Tariq Ali and David Miller

Zionist organisations today stand in the forefront of those attacking academic freedom. Always in the name of ‘anti-Semitism’ of course as if Jews have a vested interested in the oppression of the Palestinians.

When the lockdown first occurred I joked that the Zionists would now have a problem because they couldn’t intimidate hall owners anymore into cancelling meetings. Now it seems that they have found a way to ‘persuade’ the owners of Zoom, the largest company marketing meeting room software. It remains to be seen whether what happened at San Francisco University is a one-off but it points to the need for the socialist movement to develop its own software to enable meetings so as to bypass Facebook, Zoom and Youtube.

Indeed there is a need for a socialist social media rather than having to put up with the control freakery of Facebook.

The Meeting Tomorrow

Ali Abunimah is Founding Editor of Electronic Intifada, the most popular and respected Palestinian web site in the world, whose articles told the story of the Zionist ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign in the Labour Party.

Ali was the first to speak out against anti-Semites such as Israel Shamir and Gilad Atzmon in or around the solidarity movement. In the latter case he helped author a joint letter from Palestinians and Arabs, Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon.

Other speakers include Ben Norton, Associate Editor of the Grayzone, an Investigate Journalism enterprise as well as your usual favourites – Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and Marc Wadsworth. The meeting will be chaired by Chris Williamson, the only principled MP in the Labour Party who stood up to the Zionist fake anti-Semitism campaign.

Come and join us

Tony Greenstein

 Zoom cancels panel featuring Leila Khaled amid protests from pro-Israel groups

Zoom announced that it will deny its services to San Francisco State University today to block an online panel featuring Leila Khaled from happening with its software. Pro-Israel groups, including one partially funded by the Israeli government, are taking credit for the cancellation.

By Michael Arria September 23, 2020

Zoom has announced that it will deny its services to San Francisco State University (SFSU) today and block an online panel featuring Leila Khaled from happening with its software. As a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Khaled was connected to two plane hijackings that took place in 1969 and 1970.

The event (which was titled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice & Resistance”) was to be sponsored by SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies Program and the Women and Gender Studies Department.

A statement from the company to the group reads, “Zoom is committed to supporting the open exchange of ideas and conversations, subject to certain limitations contained in our Terms of Service, including those related to user compliance with applicable U.S. export control, sanctions, and anti-terrorism laws. In light of the speaker’s reported affiliation or membership in a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and SFSU’s inability to confirm otherwise, we determined the meeting is in violation of Zoom’s Terms of Service and told SFSU they may not use Zoom for this particular event.”

The event was protested by a number of right-wing, pro-Israel groups including The Lawfare Project. The Act.IL app, which targets the BDS movement and is partially funded by the Israeli government, has taken credit for helping to cancel the Zoom event:

Michael Bueckert, a PhD student in sociology and political economy at Carleton University who tracks the app online, points out that its users have sent emails to the California State University Board of Trustees and informing them that they “may be violating US law by supporting a terrorist.”

Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA, tweeted, “This is what happens when we subcontract our universities to Zoom: they decide which events are acceptable and which aren’t. It’s outrageous.”

“This is a dangerous attack on free speech and academic freedom from Big Tech: Zoom cannot claim veto power over the content of our nation’s classrooms and public events,” said Palestine Legal director Dima Khalidi in a statement “The threat to democracy is elevated by the fact that Zoom’s decision to stamp out discussion of Palestinian freedom comes in response to a systematic repression campaign driven by the Israeli government and its allies.”

Organizers and individuals connected to the event have been responding to criticisms since the event was announced. After SFSU President Lynn Mahoney wrote an article declaring that she welcomed diversity but condemned hate, former political prisoner (and scheduled panelist) Laura Whitehorn wrote Mahoney a letter about the webinar.

“Leila Khaled is a leader in the movement for the rights of the Palestinian people,” the letter reads. “She has fought in many ways for the right of return to historic Palestine, and she will offer important lessons and information about the history of women’s involvement in working for the rights of the Palestinian people under occupation and in exile. I found your acceptance of a narrative that brands her a terrorist or a hater to be deeply offensive and in conflict with what I believe an educator should say, teach, and promote.”

People who signed up for the event received an email from organizers, saying that they expect the school to “uphold our freedom of speech and academic freedom by providing an alternative venue to this open classroom.”

Update: Since this post was published, Facebook removed the event page from its site and YouTube shut down the stream just minutes into the talk.

Big Tech’s dangerous attack on free speech and academic freedom: Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube censor SF State Palestine class

Three tech giants censored an online class featuring Palestinian, Black, Jewish and South African activists at San Francisco State University, after pro-Israel advocacy groups complained.

The open classroom event “Whose Narratives?: Gender, Justice & Resistance” featured Palestinian activist Leila Khaled and was scheduled to take place at 12:30 PDT before being erased from Zoom, Facebook and YouTube.

One day before the scheduled event, Zoom announced it would not permit the event with Ms. Khaled to take place. Zoom had previously threatened to terminate the account for the entire California State University (CSU) systemif SFSU allowed the event to proceed.

Facebook removed the event page the day of the event, and YouTube repeatedly shut down streams of the event within minutes after they began streaming on that platform.

“This is a dangerous attack on free speech and academic freedom from Big Tech: Zoom cannot claim veto power over the content of our nation’s classrooms and public events,” said Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal. “The threat to democracy is elevated by the fact that Zoom’s decision to stamp out discussion of Palestinian freedom comes in response to a systematic repression campaign driven by the Israeli government and its allies.”

The event is organized by the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies program and program in Women and Gender Studies at SFSU and features Ms. Khaled in conversation with several prominent activists from Black and South African liberation movements and Jewish Voice for Peace.

As of Wednesday morning, event registration was open on Zoom and an event page was live on Facebook. By 9:30 a.m. PDT, both pages had been taken down.

“This censorship violates our freedom of speech and academic freedom as faculty to teach, deprives our students from the right to learn, and denies the general public the right to hear from speakers who are not readily available on mainstream media,” said Drs. Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa, co-organizers of the event, in an email to the SFSU Provost Jennifer Summit. “SFSU and CSU should not participate in such censorship directly or indirectly.”

“It’s outrageous for Zoom, which has assumed such a prominent role in online learning during the pandemic, to interject itself into this university-approved classroom event by threatening to sever its contract with CSU completely,” said attorney Dan Siegel, who is representing Professor Abdulhadi.

Zoom’s actions followed pressure from right-wing Zionist organizations including the Lawfare Project and an Israeli government-sponsored app that is taking credit for the cancellation.

These right-wing groups peddle a dangerously over-broad theory that hosting Ms. Khaled, who is 76, to discuss critical narratives of resistance, gender and sexual justice constitutes criminal activity. They argue that because she has been publicly affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, professors at San Francisco State are not allowed to host her as a speaker.

Ms. Khaled is not being compensated for her talk and the exchange of ideas in a university setting is constitutionally protected free speech.

Several of the other speakers were part of resistance and liberation movements that were once criminalized, including:

  • Sekou Odinga, a former member of the Black Liberation Army and political prisoner for 33 years
  • Ronnie Kasrils, a Jewish anti-Zionist activist and former member of the armed wing of the African National Congress
  • and Laura Whitehorn, a political prisoner for 14 years and current member of Jewish Voice for Peace, which has been attacked by Zionist groups and the Israeli government.

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, a prominent Palestinian scholar-activist has faced relentless attacks from Zionist organizations – most recently after giving a guest lecture at UCLA in 2019 where she critiqued Zionism as a political ideology of supremacy akin to white supremacy.

UCLA concluded that there had been no wrongdoingin an investigation of the lecture due to a complaint from a student who disagreed with her views.

Despite this, the right-wing Zionist group StandWithUs filed a federal civil rights complaint against UCLA in October 2019 over the lecture, which the Trump administration opened as a formal investigation in January 2020 following an executive order adopting a distorted redefinition of antisemitism that targets advocacy for Palestinian rights.

Last month, over 120 pro-Israel groups sent a letter lobbying Facebook to censor criticism of Israel by labeling it as hate speech using Trump’s definition of antisemitism. Adopting this definition will give even broader latitude to the censorship of Palestine advocacy.

“Right-wing Israel proxy groups, the Trump administration, and Big Tech firms are conspiring to censor any and all discussion about or advocacy for Palestinian freedom at a time when Trump’s foreign policy seeks to liquidate the Palestinian issue,” said Dima Khalidi. “They will not succeed, because people who believe in democracy, dissent, and freedom for all will not be silenced.”

The General Union of Palestine Students at SFSU issued the following statement:

“If SFSU prides itself on its values of critical ethnic studies thought, and representation in curriculum of all ethnicities and races, it should itself as an institution uphold those values and defend its faculty against censorship and attacks. SFSU must ensure that Zoom does not have control over its curriculum.”

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Tony Greenstein

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