SFSC Video: Palestine Today and in the Future

Watch a video of the talk by Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh

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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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BIAC – Why is Neil Young Afraid of a Youtube Video?

NeilYoungRemovesVideoNeil censors video exposing the Palestinian reality behind his scheduled concert in Israel

Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign
For immediate release: July 7, 2014

Neil Young has claimed copyright infringement forcing Youtube to remove the video entitled “Neil Young – Honour the Boycott” criticizing Neil’s scheduled concert in Israel on July 17. The censored video mashup is part of a campaign calling on Neil to honour the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel and cancel his concert in Tel Aviv. The censored youtube link now leads to a blank video with the statement “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Neil Young.”

The censored video – NOW AVAILABLE ON VIMEO -  legally incorporates copyrighted material on the basis of “Fair Use” and strictly follows the “Online Video Best Practices for Fair Use” that is linked from the Youtube copyright fair use page.

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SFSC Letter – re Palestinian Artist Rehab Nazzal’s exhibit in Ottawa’s City Hall

I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee based in Vancouver, BC. Seriously Free Speech was founded six years ago. We are, as our web site says- (www.serioulsyfreespeech.ca) “committed to free expression of views on Israel/Palestine. Members are concerned about growing intimidation, censorship and legal threats against individuals and organizations who criticize Israel’s actions.” In that context you won’t be surprised to know that we have followed the situation of the art of Rehab Nazzal at the Karsh-Masson Art Gallery in Ottawa’s City Hall.
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SFSC – Letter to SF State re Academic Delegation to Palestine

To: Leslie Wong, President San Francisco State University

Timothy White, Chancellor California State University
Larry Mandel, CSU Vice Chancellor and Chief Audit Officer
Carrie Hemphill Reith, CSU Resource Attorney for Conflict of Interest & Governance

May 31, 2014

Dear President Wong,

Our organization, The Seriously Free Speech Committee is committed to defending free expression of views on Palestine and Israel. Because our members are concerned about the growing intimidation, censorship and legal threats against individuals and organizations for criticizing Israel’s occupation and racist policies, we are writing to express our concern with the inflammatory statements in a March letter to you from the AMCHA Initiative and widely circulated by their network.
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SFSC Article: Bill C-13 – Criminalizing Criticism of Israel in Canada

A Hate-Propaganda Trojan Horse in Bill C-13 serious JAIL web

Joint Submission by SFSC and IJV-Canada to the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights about Bill C-13, the supposed Anti-Cyberbullying Legisation.

Written by Dr. Michael Keefer

The international campaign calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, as a peaceful means of persuading that state to abandon its systematic violations of international law and its policies of apartheid dispossession, colonization, and blockade in the occupied Palestinian territories, has recently enjoyed a burgeoning number of successes.1

In early February 2014, The Economist noted that BDS “is turning mainstream,”2 and former Israeli Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg wrote in Haaretz that the “BDS movement is gaining momentum and is approaching the turning point [.... at which] sanctions against Israel will become a fait accompli.”3

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a point of indicating that he and his allies would respond vigorously to this trend. Some of the reports about a cabinet meeting where tactics were discussed revealed more about internecine divisions between those ministers invited to take part and those who were excluded than about the substance of the meeting.4 Yet although Israeli media indicated “that ‘the discussion was held in secret’, with an imposed ‘media blackout’,” one source that reported this fact was able to give a fairly precise sense of what went on behind closed doors:

Ideas apparently discussed by senior ministers included lawsuits “in European and North American courts against [pro-BDS] organizations” and “legal action against financial institutions that boycott settlements … [and complicit] Israeli companies”. There is also the possibility of “encouraging anti-boycott legislation in friendly capitals around the world, such as Washington, Ottawa and Canberra”, and “activat[ing] the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.” for such a purpose.5

This kind of “lawfare,” as it is sometimes called, is nothing new (nor, one can add, is the notion, also discussed at this meeting, of bolstering surveillance of pro-BDS organizations by military intelligence, the Shin Bet Security Service, and the Mossad). It’s also evident that the pro-Israel lobby has been active in mobilizing politicians in the “friendly capitals” of Washington, Ottawa, and Canberra for many years.

Recent fruits of that labour have included, in Canberra, threats made in June 2013 by Julie Bishop, a senior member of Julia Gillard’s incoming Australian government, that “supporters of an academic boycott of Israel” would have their “access to public research funds summarily cut off.”6 In Washington, a bipartisan “Protect Academic Freedom Act” that would deny federal funding “to colleges and universities that participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars”7 has been brought before Congress.

But what of Canada, whose Prime Minister is Mr. Netanyahu’s most faithful friend?8

This essay will argue that revisions to the Canadian Criminal Code proposed by the Harper government contain wording that is designed to enable lawfare prosecutions of human rights activists in precisely the manner desired by Mr. Netanyahu and his associates.

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SFSC Letter: Calls on University of Windsor president to support free speech

To Dr. Alan Wildeman, President, University of Windsor

I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee to express our grave concern over your responses to the recent referendum in which a majority of students at the University of Windsor supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
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SFSC letter: To Ontario Premier re SLAPP legislation

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

Dear Premier Wynne

I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Speech Committee – Vancouver to urge the enactment into law of Bill 83, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014.

Frivolous lawsuits initiated by corporations and governments are designed to divert the financial and human resources of community organizations, effectively restricting their ability to freely express themselves and to participate in the political process. Legislation against SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) is a fundamental reform to encourage broader participation on important public issues. Continue reading

Keefer: Letter to UW President calling on him to support Academic Freedom

To Dr. Alan Wildeman, President & Vice-Chancellor, University of Windsor

I am writing to tell you how dismayed I am by your attempt to have the student union on your campus suppress the results of a student referendum in which a substantial majority voted to support the international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions that seeks, through peaceful means, to induce the state of Israel to comply with international law and end its oppression of the Palestinians.

I believe that the position you have taken violates the principle of academic freedom–which I regard as being not just a privilege to which tenured academics lay claim, but a foundational principle of the university, and something to be protected for all members of the university community. Of course, a commitment to academic freedom implies at the same time a commitment to civil, humane, and rational discourse, whose goal might be described, in the simplest terms, as one of determining truths (to the best of our abilities) and disseminating them. Continue reading

Mondoweiss: University of Windsor President pressures Student Union to not ratify BDS referendum following demand from pro-Israel donor


By Tyler Levitan, Mondoweiss March 13, 2014

In a historic victory for the BDS movement in Canada, the University of Windsor undergraduate students voted in a campus-wide referendum to endorse the BDS movement, and to push for university divestment from companies that are complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of international law. The University of Windsor Palestinian Solidarity Group (PSG) carefully followed the protocols in place for this referendum, having had their question vetted and approved by the University of Windsor Student Alliance (UWSA) lawyer, and having met with the university’s president, Alan Wildeman, in advance of the referendum. Over 10% (which is quorum) of voters cast their vote, with 798 out of 1393 votes in favour of divestment.

Why, then, has there been so much pressure from the university’s administration to prevent a ratification of the results? President Wildeman wrote a letter to students following the BDS victory indicating that several complaints about the process of the referendum required an investigation from the administration into its validity. Wildeman has also attended a recent UWSA meeting with the goal of preventing the UWSA from performing its duties by ratifying the referendum results. The undergraduate referendum does not fall within the purview of the administration. The UWSA has autonomous mechanisms in its by-laws that deal with appeals. There have been other “controversial” UWSA referendums that have not seen any interference from the administration. So why are they interfering with this one? Continue reading

U Windsor PSG: Statement on BDS Referendum

Palestinian Solidarity Group BDS Referendum Statement

The University of Windsor Palestinian Solidarity Group (PSG) would like to clear up the misinformation that’s been spread by the media in regards to the BDS referendum which was recently passed, as well as respond to the recent statements by President Alan Wildeman.

Many have falsely claimed the referendum was on a “boycott of Israel” or of companies which “support or are from Israel.” Various other inaccuracies in the coverage show how easy it is to get away with complete fabrications when it comes to Palestinian human rights activism.

Almost nowhere in the media coverage has the actual referendum question been presented. In actuality, the referendum question asks the UWSA to participate in BDS by simply divesting from “companies that support or profit from Israeli war crimes, occupation and oppression,” which is following the BDS approach of the United Church of Canada, CUPE Ontario, and the many other student unions who have passed BDS. Continue reading