The witch hunt against Chris Williamson and WitchHunt

Mike Cushman looks at how the witch hunt against Chris Williamson is linked to WitchHunt. The film shows how slurs against principled supporters of Palestinian rights become solidified into ‘common sense’

Chris Williamson is an outspoken socialist and supporter of the Corbyn project, so it is no great surprise to find him the subject of a witch hunt. A campaign that has now led to threats of violence to prevent him speaking. Continue reading “The witch hunt against Chris Williamson and WitchHunt”

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’”

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”

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”

The Guardian censors criticism of May and Netanyahu

Mike Cushman condemns the suppression of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu’s meeting with May as only the latest censoring of drawings of the Israeli PM in a bonfire of morality.

The Guardian, which regards itself as Britain’s leading progressive newspaper, has censored a cartoon drawing attention to the sycophantic nature of Theresa May’s relationship to Benjamin Netanyahu.

The cartoon drawn by Steve Bell, widely regarded as Britain’s outstanding political cartoonist, is based on a press agency photo of May’s meeting with Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street.

Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu at Downing Street on June 6, 2018
Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu at Downing Street on June 6, 2018 (Photo: Getty Images)

Bell replaced the fireplace with a drawing of murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar.

The Steve Bell cartoon censored for 'antisemitism'
The Steve Bell cartoon censored for ‘antisemitism’

There has been no clear statement from the Guardian as to why this sharp but fair condemnation of the insouciance of the two prime ministers is antisemitic. This has resulted in speculation that placing Razan in the fireplace (the focal centre of the press photo) has been interpreted as an insensitive allusion to the Nazi crematoria. Continue reading “The Guardian censors criticism of May and Netanyahu”

When Did I Stop Being a Jew – reposted

This is being reposted as Facebook in an act of censorship has categorised the original as ‘abusive’

Mike Cushman, chair of FSOI, explains that to be Jewish is not about supporting Israel but about abiding by a moral code that stands against oppression

Those of us in Free Speech on Israel and even more our colleagues in Jewish Voice for Labour are accused every day on Twitter of not being real Jews. I, like soMike Cushmanme of our other activists, am a Jewish atheist but others of my colleagues are observant and some work for shuls. But this is not good enough for our detractors. This trolling by apologists for Israel is meant to both hurt us on a personal level and devalue our efforts to show that not all Jews rally to Israel’s crimes.

I was born of a Jewish mother, which under Jewish law is definitive even if I had not been circumcised, as I was, eight days later. I was Jewish enough to go to cheder every Sunday to learn about Jewish history and fail to learn Hebrew – but then on the other six days I also failed to learn French. Continue reading “When Did I Stop Being a Jew – reposted”

Jo Johnson – Free Speech on everything except Israel

Jonathan Rosenhead

This letter appeared in the Guardian on 29 December 2017

Jo Johnson has decided to grasp the nettle of free speech at universities (Students attack no-platform threat, 27 December). It’s a prickly subject.

The minister seems to have “no-platforming” by student unions in his sights. However, there is a major free-speech failure by the universities themselves that is easier to fix. For some years now universities, not the student unions, have been routinely obstructing campus events that focus on Palestinian rights and their denial by Israel. The government’s own adoption of the discredited IHRA definition of antisemitism a year ago has fuelled this, with play-safe administrations seemingly unclear about the difference between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. It was Jo Johnson himself who instructed Universities UK to send this definition round to all universities – with a pointed suggestion that they adopt it for internal use. No single act in recent years has been less helpful to free speech in universities. Continue reading “Jo Johnson – Free Speech on everything except Israel”

Selected Cases of Interference with Free Expression, 2017

Free Speech on Israel
Palestine Solidarity Campaign

This dossier records some of the more prominent cases of restriction of freedom of speech or assembly related to criticisms of the state of Israel that occurred during 2017. In some cases the document produced in May 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as a definition of antisemitism, and adopted by the UK government in December of that year, is explicitly cited in support of the action taken. In all cases the awareness of that government action has provided the pervasive atmosphere, chilling to free speech on Israel/Palestine, in which these decisions were taken.
The IHRA definition has been used to press for and achieve the cancellation of events denouncing Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and violations of human rights. The use of the IHRA definition in such instances is commonly framed around the following narrative: “These events typically apply double standards towards Israel that are not applied to other countries and effectively deny Israel any right to exist by treating it as an inherently racist endeavour. As such, they conflict with the IHRA definition.” (quote from spokesman for UK Lawyers for Israel – UKLFI).
In the UK, student events organised on campuses have been particularly targeted, following a letter sent by the Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson to UK universities in February 2017 to outline the government’s concerns about antisemitism on campuses, especially around Israel Apartheid Week due to take place that month, and asking for the IHRA definition to be disseminated throughout the academic system.

Continue reading “Selected Cases of Interference with Free Expression, 2017”

How to be ‘antisemitic’, on a porcelain plate,…

Mike Cushman

… without mentioning Jew, Israel, Zionism or any accepted or abusive synonym for any of these. Difficult, you might think, but according to Gillian Merron, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, leading Palestinian film maker Larissa Sansour has achieved this.

You can view her film until 1 September at https://vimeo.com/222682204 password porcelain.

Still from ‘In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain’
Still from Sansour’s film

Sansour’s film, co-created with Danish author, Søren Lind, In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain is showing in the Barbican season ‘Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction’.

Merron has demanded that the Barbican remove the film from the exhibition. Among Merron’s discomforts is that the dialogue is in Arabic. The film is about the creation of false narratives, a recurring theme in historiography and political theory and one dealt with in a literary form by George Orwell in 1984. In this case it is Merron who is reproducing the character of Winston Smith and trying to excise that which does not fit with her preferred representation. Continue reading “How to be ‘antisemitic’, on a porcelain plate,…”