SFSC Event: First Peoples, Palestine, and the Crushing of Free Speech

New! Watch video of Stephen Salaita’s talk at SFU on Jan 12

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Why Seriously Free Speech?

Over the last decade more and more people have started questioning the policies and actions of the State of Israel. In response, some of Israel’s supporters have increasingly tried to suppress open political debate of Palestine/Israel. This campaign to vilify, intimidate and harass Israel’s critics has intensified since December 2009 when live video showed Israel’s treatment of Palestinians during its military assault on Gaza.

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rabble.ca: A Canadian in Paris: Hassan Diab’s indefinite jail journey

a href=”http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/02/canadian-paris-hassan-diabs-indefinite-jail-journey” target=”_blank”> | By Matthew Behrens

The long-running extradition saga of Ottawa sociology professor Dr. Hassan Diab — sought by French authorities for a 1980 crime he did not commit — took a dramatic turn when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his final appeal to stay in Canada last November. Although Canada had 45 days to forcibly remove him to France, Dr. Diab was hustled out of the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and whisked away less than 48 hours later, denied a previously scheduled opportunity to bid goodbye to his pregnant wife, Rania, and baby daughter, Jena.

Diab’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, a 43-year veteran of Canadian courts, appeared stunned at a Parliament Hill press conference the day of the Court decision, concluding: “We now have in my view a classic recipe for the wrongful conviction of a Canadian.”

Originally arrested in 2008, Diab had spent the following six years under house arrest, forced to pay $2,000 a month for the electronic monitoring device strapped to his leg, denied an opportunity to teach, and frustrated by an endless round of extradition hearings where, despite the very low judicial standards, the severe weakness of the alleged case against him was nonetheless clearly exposed. During that time, it was revealed that the physical description, palm and thumb prints, and handwriting of the 1980 rue Copernic bombing suspect did not match Dr. Diab’s. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: to Hassan Diab r.e. Canadian government’s ruthless reaction to dissent

M. DIAB Hassan
416299 Z D3
Maison d’arret des hommes
7, avenue des peupliers
91705 FLEURY-MEROGIS
France

Dear Hassan,

I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC) to express our solidarity with you in the totally unjust situation in which you find yourself.

The SFSC was formed seven years ago to defend three people faced with a civil lawsuit for producing a parody of the Vancouver Sun’s (Vancouver’s dominant newspaper) one-sided reporting of the Israel-Palestine situation. We have since continued defending organizations and individuals who have been attacked for their support for Palestine or criticism of the Israeli occupation.

Your case, despite the substantial evidence of your innocence, exhibits the profound viciousness of the Stephen Harper Conservative government towards anyone not uncritically supporting the State of Israel. The flawed evidence that was used to justify your extradition is hardly conceivable in a fair justice system. Legal experts, handwriting experts and even the judge question the evidentiary flaws exhibited in the handwriting analysis. The unfair trials under France’s anti-terrorism law, the prejudice of the French legal system against Palestinian supporters and the weakness of extradition laws in Canada have resulted in your extradition. Unfortunately your extreme situation reflects the Canadian government’s ruthless reaction to dissent. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: Free Rasmea Odeh – she has been denied her rights long enough

Honorable Judge Gershwin Drain
Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse
Detroit, MI 48226 USA

Dear Judge Drain

We are writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC) to express our concern regarding the situation of Rasmea Odeh. As a committee of individuals concerned with issues regarding Free Speech we feel that the roots of Ms. Odeh’s situation lie in precisely her inability to speak freely.

Our understanding of her situation is that she was tortured by Israeli security forces into making a false confession many years ago. This led to her serving many years in prison. Everything else that puts her in the situation she is in today flows from that basic denial of free speech years ago.
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SFSC Article: Professor Steven Salaita’s fight against censorship comes to Vancouver

By Sheila Delany, SFSC Member, The Georgia Straight

Ever had the rug jerked out from under you? Had your life forced into a sudden 180 degree turn? Steven Salaita has. The young professor, author or editor of six books and numerous articles on indigenous peoples, colonialism, and Arabic culture, was a well-liked tenured teacher at Virginia Tech University. Over a year ago, in autumn 2013, he accepted another tenured position in American Indian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He and his wife quit their jobs in Virginia, sold their house, moved north with their child, and Salaita began preparing classes.

Then in August, three weeks before classes were to start, came the surprise. Pro-Israel students and wealthy donors to the University of Illinois, some of them prominent Zionists, had monitored Salaita’s personal Twitter account, on which he had registered angry comments during Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza. Doubtless they also knew that he had been active in the BDS—boycott, divest, sanction—movement to pressure Israel into ending its occupation of Palestine, and particularly the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. They may have known that his parents are Jordanian and Palestinian.

Accusing Salaita of anti-Semitism and incivility, some donors contacted the chancellor of the university and threatened to withdraw funding if the hiring went through. It had, of course, been approved by the department and relevant administrators, and contractually agreed, but now the chancellor, Phyllis Wise, was motivated to interfere. She refused to send the hiring package on to the last step in the process, the normally pro-forma approval of the board of governors or board of trustees. In other words, the job offer was canceled, nullified, withdrawn, rescinded, revoked. This has been variously referred to in news articles as “de-hiring”, “un-hiring”, “reversal”, et cetera. Continue reading

Mondoweiss: How Salaita’s critics have distorted the Salaita report


By Phan Nguyen, Jan 5 2015, Mondoweiss

Following the controversial termination of Steven Salaita’s hiring at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the university’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) initiated an investigation into whether the termination violated the university’s statutes and bylaws and academic freedom.

The CAFT issued its findings and recommendations in a report on December 23, accusing the administration and board of trustees of violating shared governance and academic freedom, and calling on the university to reconsider Salaita’s application and financially compensate him for his unjust termination.

This is the first of two articles exploring elements of the CAFT report. In this first article, I demonstrate how Salaita’s critics—the same ones who misrepresented Salaita’s tweets—are now misrepresenting the CAFT report.

In particular, I focus on the claims made by two prominent critics of Salaita: William Jacobson, who is the editor of the Tea Party Zionist blog Legal Insurrection, and Liel Leibovitz, senior writer for Tablet magazine. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: Kinder Morgan’s lawsuit another outrageous SLAPP suit filed to silence opposition and intimidate protesters

The Seriously Free Speech Committee opposes Kinder Morgan’s SLAPP suit against Burnaby Residents Opposing Pipeline Expansion and four protesters and joins with more than 65 community, environmental and labour groups and thousands of citizens condemning this outrageous attack against citizens’ rights of free speech and protest, including civil disobedience.

The Seriously Free Speech Committee was originally formed to fight this type of legal bullying when CanWest, former owners of The Vancouver Sun, filed a SLAPP suit in 2007 in an attempt to punish those who published a satirical critique of The Sun’s pro-Zionist coverage of the Middle East. Though Canwest went bankrupt and dropped the suit, we’ve continued to advocate for the need to pass anti-SLAPP legislation to stop corporate giants from misusing and abusing the legal system. Continue reading

UVic: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation: The BC Experience

By Michaelin Scott and Chris Tollefson

University of Victoria Academic Paper on SLAPP suits published in 2010

Summary: In 2001, the province of British Columbia (BC) became the first Canadian jurisdiction to enact anti-SLAPP legislation. While this legislation proved to be short lived, the BC experience around the issue of SLAPPs is instructive for law reformers both in Canada and beyond. In this article, the authors describe the legal and political processes that set the stage for the passage of the 2001 law, and its subsequent repeal. They also provide a detailed analysis and critique of key aspects of the debate surrounding the design of the law, and consider its efficacy in identifying, dismissing and deterring SLAPP lawsuits. They conclude with some observations with respect to the current status of the SLAPP issue in BC.

Read full article here.

Vancouver Sun: When Big Oil acts like a big bully

Kinder Morgan’s lawsuit against pipeline protesters is an affront to free speech and idealism

Pete McMartin, VANCOUVER SUN, NOVEMBER 4, 2014

You would think that, in the name of public relations, somebody at Kinder Morgan might take a clue from the company’s name to work on its image.

It could do with some “kinder.”

But no. Quite the opposite. In its clumsy handling of its proposed pipeline expansion to bring diluted Alberta bitumen to Vancouver, Kinder Morgan — through its pipeline subsidiary Trans Mountain Pipeline — has alienated the city of Burnaby, the city of Vancouver and, well, me, for one. As part of its survey work, it took down trees in a public park.

When the city of Burnaby tried to stop the work in the park, the company turned to the National Energy Board, which — no surprise this — overrode the city’s objections, which, Burnaby insists, the NEB did not have the jurisdictional power to do so. (The city is now appealing that decision.)

When protesters confronted Trans Mountain survey crews within the park, the company filed for an injunction against them and then, piling on, filed suit for damages against four individual protesters and a citizen’s group.

Even for Big Oil, the lawsuit seemed excessive. It’s one thing to protect one’s business interests; it’s altogether another thing to act like a bully. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: Reverse firing of Prof. Steven Salaita

To: Dr. Phyllis Wise, Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

I write concerning your university’s firing of Prof. Steven Salaita in blatant violation of academic freedom and appeal to you to promptly re-instate his appointment, an act that would go a long way toward reassuring your university and scholars around the world that you value free speech and you mean to encourage the open discussion of political issues, no matter how contentious. Continue reading