SFSC – Brian Campbell lived to make the world a better place

It is with great sadness that we report that Brian Campbell, one of the founders of the Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC), died from cancer on Dec. 27, 2016 at the age of 72.

Brian helped organize the SFSC in 2008 to defend three people being sued by CanWest for parodying the Vancouver Sun’s biased pro-Israel coverage. Nine years later, the group continues to defend individuals and organizations that are attacked for supporting Palestine, falsely accused of anti-semitism, and threatened with lawsuits and the loss of tenure, research grants, or even their jobs for criticizing Israel.

Throughout his 25-year career at the Vancouver Public Library, Brian defended free speech, promoted free and equal access to information, and was part of the original campaign to push the BC government to adopt a freedom of information law. In 2015, the Canadian Library Association named him recipient of their Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada Award. 

Brian spearheaded numerous SFSC campaigns, fighting the passage of Bill C-51, Canada’s draconian anti-terrorism law passed by the Harper government and urging its repeal by the Trudeau Liberals; organising against the threat free speech from federal and provincial resolutions condemning BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign calling on Israel to abide by international law) supporters; calling for the reinstatement of fired University of Illinois professor Steven Salaita for tweets expressing his anger over Israel’s brutal bombing of Gaza; and fighting efforts to criminalize opposition to Israel’s policies and actions, including the so-called Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, New York’s threat to cut off funding to public bodies that divest from Israel or France’s anti-BDS law that has put supporters in jail.

A long-time socialist, Brian was a major force in the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign and other movements, including Eco-Socialists and Stop Kinder-Morgan. Brian generously contributed time, money and hard work to the many progressive causes he supported.

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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Corporate SLAPP vs Free Speech

*NEW – Watch Video of Michael Vonn’s presentation from SLAPP vs Free Speech

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BCCLA: On the BDS movement and the narrowing of acceptable speech

BDS Protest in MontrealBC Civil Liberties Association March 8, 2016

On the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and the narrowing of acceptable speech

Individual Canadians must feel completely free to express themselves on matters of public importance, whether or not their views are supported by a majority of the Members of Parliament. Constitutional rights must come before foreign policy decisions.

by Alyssa Stryker, BCCLA

On Tuesday, February 23, the House of Commons voted to formally condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The full text of the motion, introduced by the Conservatives, reads:

“That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

While professing unhappiness about supporting the motion, the Liberals – confusingly – voted for it anyway, showing themselves a little too willing to narrow the range of political perspectives that Canada’s democracy can accommodate. The New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois both opposed the motion. Continue reading

EI: Thought crimes in Trudeau’s Canada

Davide Mastracci, The Electronic Intifada, 8 March 2016

The Liberal Party of Canada, which is led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and came to power in October 2015, brands itself as a progressive alternative to the Conservatives. In some respects, they are: the Liberals have ended airstrikes in Syria, accepted more than 25,000 Syrian refugees and lifted sanctions on Iran.

When it comes to Israel and the Palestinian-led campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), however, the Liberals have continued down the Conservatives’ troubling path, violating Canadians’ wishes and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms along the way.

On 22 February the House of Commons passed a motion by an overwhelming margin of 229-51 votes in condemnation of the BDS movement.

The Liberals have a majority in the House of Commons and the motion, introduced by two Conservative members of parliament, would not have passed without them. Only two of 184 Liberal MPs voted against the motion. Continue reading

Globe & Mail: Canadian politicians love the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — except when it involves Israel

GERALD CAPLAN, Globe and Mail, Monday, Mar. 07, 2016

When it suits them, Canadian politicians embrace the rights established in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But there are limits, and most of them unaccountably seem to have to do with Israel.

Two years ago, for example, then-prime minister Stephen Harper insisted that Israeli policies should not be criticized, especially in public. To criticize Israel, he said, is to be guilty of “the new anti-Semitism. … It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel.”

Why it was anti-Semitic to criticize the Israel government for its housing or land or human-rights policies, as indeed so many Israelis do, Mr. Harper never explained. Continue reading

rabble.ca: Liberals’ shameful BDS stand gives carte blanche to Israel

rabble.ca | BY MURRAY DOBBIN | MARCH 4, 2016

Here’s a Middle East multiple choice question for you (warning: one of these will get you condemned by the government of Justin Trudeau).
Would you rather that the Palestinian people 1) once again take up armed struggle in order to end Israeli occupation of their land or 2) pursue a non-violent strategy of Boycott, Divestiture and Sanctions (BDS) until such time as Israel recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people?

Advocating a return to the use of violence against Israel may or may not get you condemned by the prime minister. But it is definitely not OK to advocate for the non-violent BDS campaign. This was made clear by the government’s support of a Conservative resolution opposing the campaign “which promotes the demonization and de-legitimization of the State of Israel,” and called upon the government “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.” Continue reading

ipolitics.ca: Boycott Israel – or don’t. Either way, it’s none of Ottawa’s business.

Andrew Mitrovica, ipolitics.ca

Who knew that a dumb little story about ketchup could go viral? Who expected that dumb little story to end up making a backhanded comment about boycotts, political hypocrisy, the Middle East and anti-Semitism?

Recently, a guy named Brian Fernandez wrote a Facebook post saying he would no longer buy Heinz ketchup after he learned that the popular brand had shuttered its plant in Leamington, Ontario, opting to make the condiment in the United States. Instead, he’s buying French’s ketchup, which apparently is made from Canadian tomatoes.

The post got lots of positive mainstream media coverage and led to a spike in sales for French’s. So you see how this works: Someone makes a purchasing decision on the basis of personal ethics, word gets around and, suddenly, the marketplace shifts ever so slightly. Which is how commercial boycotts work — through consumers exercising the power of personal choice.

Now, imagine that another brand of ketchup, instead of being made in the good old U.S. of A., is being manufactured in Israel. Let’s say some hypothetical ketchup consumer, incensed by Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land, decides to stop buying that ketchup and encourages others to do the same, or switch to mayo. What do you think would happen then?

Chances are, that hypothetical ketchup consumer would find himself praised by a few and vilified by a lot more — as a leftist loon, as an anarchist, as a Hamas stooge, as an anti-Semite. Nothing has changed between these two scenarios, apart from the target. But the target changes everything. Continue reading

Globe and Mail: Parliament votes to reject Israel boycott campaign

The Globe and Mail, Feb. 23, 2016
By Patrick Martin

Parliament has voted by a wide margin to condemn the growing international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign being waged against Israel for what is alleged to be the Jewish state’s failure to accord equal rights to Arabs in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The motion, introduced by the Opposition Conservative Party, called for the House to “reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel,” and the government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

The governing Liberals mostly supported the motion, making the final tally 229 in favour of condemning the BDS movement with 51 opposed. The NDP voted against the measure, not because it likes the BDS movement, Leader Tom Mulcair said, but because it doesn’t like to see the stifling of free expression. Only the Bloc Québécois argued that the BDS campaign constitutes legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.

Israel is increasingly concerned with the successes of the boycott and divestment efforts. In 2014, foreign direct investment in Israel dropped 46 per cent from the previous year, in part, a United Nations report said, because of BDS efforts. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: To the Moderator of the United Church of Canada

Jordan Cantwell (The Right Reverend), Moderator
United Church of Canada

Dear Rev. Cantwell

I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee to commend you on the courageous letter you sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opposing the Conservative motion “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad”. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West

February 21, 2016
The Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minster Trudeau,

Re: Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation (1)

I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee to urge your government to oppose the Conservative motion “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad”. At the very least, this motion should be given a free vote as it is not a confidence motion and is a motion of deep moral concern.

Support for this motion betrays your government’s commitment to seek balance for Canadian policy in the Middle East and supports the “through fire and water, Canada will stand with [Israel]” one-sided policy of the previous Conservative government.

It is ironic that you are requesting Canadian citizens to engage in debate on government policy while at the same time condemning their right to debate BDS, and criticize Israel. You do not condemn the right of Canadians to criticise their own government’s policy or that of any other government except Israel. Why this exception? Continue reading