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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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

SFSC Letter: Reinstate Dr. Steven Salaita

Dr. Phyllis Wise, Chancellor, University of Illinois

I am writing to you to request that you reverse the transparently political decision to dismiss Dr. Steven Salaita. I believe that on this occasion you have received misleading advice from one of your most senior colleagues, Professor Cary Nelson, who has been very active in this matter–but who in my opinion has behaved in a wholly improper manner. Continue reading

Salon: Return of the blacklist? Cowardice and censorship at the University of Illinois

Salon.com by DAVID PALUMBO-LIU

Job offer to world-renowned scholar reportedly revoked under pressure, likely over Gaza opinions on Twitter

A few weeks ago Steven Salaita had reason to be pleased. After a full review by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he had received a generous offer of a tenured, associate professor position there — the normal contract was offered, signed by the school, he had received confirmation of his salary, a teaching schedule, everything except the final approval of the UIUC chancellor.

In academia this is not at all unusual; departments and schools are told to go ahead with the offer, so as to be competitive with both the candidate’s current school and others that might be bidding for their talent. Salaita is a world-renowned scholar of indigenous studies (and also a frequent Salon contributor). At that point, as required by academic protocols, upon accepting the position he resigned the one he held at Virginia Tech.

But final approval never came. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports today that “Phyllis M. Wise, the campus’s chancellor, and Christophe Pierre, the University of Illinois system’s vice president for academic affairs, informed the job candidate, Steven G. Salaita, on Friday that they were effectively revoking a written offer of a tenured professorship made to him last year by refusing to submit it to the system’s Board of Trustees next month for confirmation.” Continue reading

PAC: Let Gaza Live

On August 7, 2014, the Palestine Awareness Coalition published a full-page ad in the Georgia Straight in response to the Israeli assault on Gaza, calling to “Let Gaza Live.”

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SUPPORT GAZA?

1. Contact your MP to demand an end to the siege of Gaza: Find your MP using your postal code!

2. Attend or organize demonstrations. These demonstrations are coming up in Vancouver, Friday August 8 and Saturday August 9. Please join in!

3. Boycott Israeli Goods. Some products you should boycott include SodaStream, Keter Plastics, Hewlett-Packard electronics, Sabra hummus, and Ahava cosmetics. Learn more about the global boycott.

4, Donate to medical aid. Two excellent organizations providing support are the Middle East Children’s Alliance and the UN Relief Works Association (UNRWA).

5. Donate locally to help pay for ads like these: by cheque or transfer to Vancity #656967, Branch 4, or online: https://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?charityID=s32200

6. Spread the word and raise awareness about Palestine! Share this page on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

The Palestine Awareness Coalition is comprised of a number of Vancouver-area organizations, including SFSC, collectively working to raise awareness.