Interview with Liz Jackson of the National Lawyers’ Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights about how civil rights groups are challenging the University of California as a climate of fear silences pro-Palestinian speech.
This is the video from the event “Don’t Talk About Palestine,” which highlighted and protested the ongoing censorship of students and faculty whose activism and or scholarship touches on the question of Palestine. The event was held on October 18, 2012 at the UCLA Law School, and featured Rahim Kurwa of UCLA SJP, Yaman Salahi of the NLG, Estee Chandler of Jewish Voice for Peace, and Professor David Shorter of UCLA.
Angela Davis: Dismissal of Palestinians is reminiscent of Jim Crow days
In my home state of California, elected officials have gone so far as to encourage the violation of First Amendment rights in order to control opposition to Israel. Largely in response to University of California students’ support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, state legislators recently passed an Assembly Bill (HR 35) that, while unbinding, calls upon campus authorities to restrict student activism that is critical of Israel.
Such desperate measures implicitly proclaim that curbing criticism of Israel is more important than safeguarding constitutional rights. Perhaps those who support these measures fear the increasingly widespread use of the “apartheid” label to describe Israel, employed not only by students but also by such prominent figures as President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
If they fear the emergence of a new anti-apartheid movement, this time directed against Israel, they may very well be correct. The boycott movement is rapidly gaining support: This past spring, the eighth annual Israeli Apartheid Week was observed on campuses in South Africa and throughout Europe, North America and the Arab World.
Shortly after the passage of HR 35, the University of California Student Association passed a strong resolution that not only opposed HR 35 but recognized “the legitimacy of boycotts and divestment as important social movement tools” and encouraged “all institutions of higher learning to cleanse their investment portfolios of unethical investment in companies implicated in or profiting from violations of international human rights law, without making special exemptions for any country.”
We here in the U.S. should be especially conscious of the similarities between historical Jim Crow practices and contemporary regimes of segregation in Occupied Palestine. If we have learned the most important lesson promulgated by Dr. Martin Luther King — that justice is always indivisible — it should be clear that a mass movement in solidarity with Palestinian freedom is long overdue.
Free speech is being attacked throughout the University of California (“U.C.”) and at public and private college campuses across the country. Speech and association rights of the student groups Students for Justice in Palestine (“SJP”) and the Muslim Student Association (“MSA”) are being threatened by University administrators, a baseless lawsuit, and problematic Department of Education investigations.1 Speech activities clearly protected by the First Amendment that grapple with important political questions relating to Israel’s policies are being improperly characterized as anti-Semitic. These “legal bullying” tactics must be recognized and stopped. While the focus of this briefing is on speech at the University of California at Berkeley (“Cal”), other troubling incidents of repression of expressive speech have taken place across the country, including the criminal prosecution of students at the University of California at Irvine, and administrative responses to students at Columbia University, Florida Atlantic University, and many other campuses.