SA Appeal Court: Condemning Israel is not hate speech

Wilmien Wicomb writes that the South African Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein has ruled that speech that offends people is protected and acquits Bongani Masuku. While this is not directly applicable to the United Kingdom many of the arguments in this case can be applied in our courts.

Reprinted from GroundUp by permission

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) this week delivered a judgment that provided much needed clarity about the meaning of “hate speech” as prohibited in the Equality Act. Understanding what constitutes hate speech is crucial to properly protecting and promoting the right to freedom of expression. Besides being a fundamental human right in section 16 of the Constitution, freedom of expression has been described by the Constitutional Court as “a guarantor of democracy”.

Bongani Masuku
Bongani Masuku

The dispute arose in February and March 2009, but was prompted by the military action against the Gaza Strip by the Israeli government at the end of 2008. The conflict resulted in more than seven hundred deaths. The violence received worldwide attention.

Continue reading “SA Appeal Court: Condemning Israel is not hate speech”

FSOI urges Angela Rayner: ‘Don’t let yourself be censored’

FSOI has just sent this letter to Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, in response to the Board of Deputies attempt to censor her for citing Norman Finkelstein.

Dear Angela Rayner

I am writing on behalf of Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish led and largely Jewish group concerned that antisemitic incidents are identified accurately and dealt with but that inaccurate accusations are not used to silence needed discussion of events concerning Israel and Palestine.

We read with concern that you had been put under extreme pressure by the Board of Deputies to apologise for citing Norman Finkelstein’s book ‘The Holocaust Industry’. Professor Finkelstein’s book is indeed controversial and there are few who would agree with every point of his argument but his central theme is clear and robust.

Continue reading “FSOI urges Angela Rayner: ‘Don’t let yourself be censored’”








FSOI tells the EU ‘Do not adopt the IHRA definition’

The Austrian Government is pressing the EU to adopt an EU Council Declaration on the fight against antisemitism which includes adopting the flawed IHRA definition. The EU antisemitism Coordinator Katharina Von Schnurbein and Commissioner Vera Jourova have announced their support for this initiative.

Free Speech on Israel has written to the EU Ambassadors who sit on COREPER II, the committee that will consider this proposal.

 

COREPER II in session
COREPER II in session

FSOI logo

 

Your Excellency

I am writing to you in connection with the proposal that we believe is to be presented at the forthcoming meeting of COREPER II, to request the European Council to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definitional package.

That document is a source of concern and controversy to many groups which are Jewish or Jewish-led (like Free Speech on Israel). In our view it will set back the efforts to counter antisemitism precisely at the point at which neo-fascist elements are growing in strength across Europe. Continue reading “FSOI tells the EU ‘Do not adopt the IHRA definition’”








FSOI protests against abusive use of IHRA definition by GMB

Free Speech on Israel has sent Peter Gregson, a GMB union shop steward,  a letter of support. Peter is being unfairly disciplined by his union for allegedly antisemitic statements on the basis of an inaccurate interpretation of the IHRA definition.

To whom it may concern

Re GMB complaint against Peter Gregson

We have been forwarded copies of the letters sent by Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary to Peter Gregson on 6 November and 20 November 2018.

Peter Gregson
Peter Gregson

Free Speech on Israel is a Jewish led and largely Jewish group concerned that antisemitic incidents are identified accurately and dealt with but that inaccurate accusations are not used to silence needed discussion of events concerning Israel and Palestine

Free Speech on Israel has explained at length elsewhere how the IHRA definition of antisemitism is unsuitable and does not assist us in identifying antisemitism and challenging it. Leading human rights lawyers have shown how it is poorly worded, ambiguous and use of it could breach an individual’s rights under both UK and European human rights law. Hugh Tomlinson QC, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley and Sir Geoffrey Bindman have all clearly identified the serious flaws in the document. Continue reading “FSOI protests against abusive use of IHRA definition by GMB”








As British Quakers divest, Jewish leaders seek to smear them

Robert Cohen praises the moral vision that led the Quakers to boycott companies profiting from the Occupation and decries the tunnel vision of the Board of Deputies in denouncing it.

Reprinted from Writing from the Edge: Rescuing the Hebrew covenant one blogpost at a time by permission of the Author

Last week Quakers in Britain became the first Christian denomination in the U.K. to adopt a responsible investment policy towards the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land. It was the first denomination but I doubt it will be the last.

Within hours of the announcement, the Board of Deputies, the body which asserts its right to represent Jewish interests in Britain, had issued a statement of rebuke from its President, Marie van der Zyl. In a few short paragraphs, van de Zyl gathered together all of the usual anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) talking points and fired them in one almighty blast at the Quakers.

The Board’s statement is worth examining in detail since it reveals so much about the Jewish establishment’s mission to set the parameters of acceptable debate on Israel to the detriment of interfaith relations. Continue reading “As British Quakers divest, Jewish leaders seek to smear them”








Tower Hamlets Council must respect right to free speech

Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity Campaign issued this press release about the lobby of and petition to Tower Hamlets Council on 21 November. The lobby, supported by FSOI,  and the petition called on the Council to both challenge antisemitism and respect the right to free speech and safeguard Palestinian solidarity.

Banners at the lobby outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall
Banners at the lobby outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall

On Wednesday 21st November, a group of  residents from Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity Campaign presented a petition to the full council meeting, requesting that the council ‘Safeguard Palestinian Solidarity’ and addressed the Council in support of the petition. This was in response to the recent adoption of the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, without any caveat that would enable Palestinians and their supporters to continue to speak out freely about harmful actions of the Israeli government. Continue reading “Tower Hamlets Council must respect right to free speech”








The criminalization and censorship of Palestinian solidarity on campus

Nada Elia reflects on campus censorship and how voices for Palestine are silenced on Campus while pro-Israel views are allowed an open platform. She compares the behaviour of university administrators with that of cops who mange to take white shooters alive but routinely kill black ones.

Reprinted from Mondoweiss by permission of the author

 Poster for the 2018 National Students for Justice in Palestine conference at UCLA.

Poster for the 2018 National Students for Justice in Palestine conference at UCLA.

Last week, I was asked to speak in a classroom alongside someone from StandWithUs. Apparently, the professor was going by a recommendation to have me as a discussant, to possibly provide the “other side.” Without getting into a discussion of what those two sides are (pro-apartheid and pro-justice, of course), or why I will not be party to normalizing, (setting up the illusion that “both sides” are equal, rather than oppressor and oppressed, occupier and occupied), I sent this response, which I tried to keep short and to the point. Continue reading “The criminalization and censorship of Palestinian solidarity on campus”








The Tree of Life massacre

This statement from FSOI about the Pittsburgh massacre has been issued in the light of Baroness Jenny Tonge’s reaction to the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue and her resignation as patron of the PSC

Tree of Life Synagogue stained glass windowThe massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday 27 October in Pittsburgh was the worst hate crime against Jews in US history.

The killer, Robert Bowers, was inspired by hatred of Jews as Jews. Bowers’ antisemitic expressions of a Jewish conspiracy and his hatred of Muslims, refugees and migrants, festered in the climate of hate, antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism promoted by President Donald Trump and his administration. Such a recognition was evident in the response of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.

Antisemitic references to Jews have been a feature of the Trump administration campaign since the presidential primaries in 2016. Only the week before the Pittsburgh massacre, Kevin McCarthy, the second Republican leader in the House of Representatives, tweeted that three wealthy Jews, including George Soros, were attempting to “buy” the mid-term elections. Continue reading “The Tree of Life massacre”








Lambeth Council misled on antisemitism definition; threatening free speech

  • Lambeth Council amends IHRA definition on antisemitism but do not tell anyone
  • Leader Lib Peck insists that definition must be adopted unamended
  • Peck denies that definition threatens free speech but strips out all free speech protection

On Wednesday 10 October Labour led Lambeth Council adopted the IHRA definition on antisemitism without debate. They ignored pleas from a deputation of local Jews who addressed the Council about their concerns that the definition would undermine free speech on Palestine and Israel. They requested the Council to adopt a free speech declaration alongside the definition. Continue reading “Lambeth Council misled on antisemitism definition; threatening free speech”








Police ban “antisemitic” banner outside Labour Conference

Police were so angry with campaigner Pete Gregson displaying his Latuff banner at Conference that they almost arrested him. However, they were not bothered about all the other banners on display.

banner banned by police with this image that Pete used
The image Pete used on his 2m x 2m banner that the police banned

First PC 1773 had a go. Mr Gregson, a Labour activist of some 30 years standing, had spent 3 days at home making the banner using his own A4 printer and sticky-backed plastic, no small feat. He’d travelled down from Edinburgh the night before just to promote his petition at tinyurl.com/israelihra and was up at one of the entrances to Liverpool Dock on Sunday at 8.30am, with his banner erected, handing out flyers as 3,000 delegates and visitors arrived . Continue reading “Police ban “antisemitic” banner outside Labour Conference”