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.
The Seriously Free Speech Committee was formed in 2008 to defend activists who were sued by media giant Canwest for publishing a parody of the Vancouver Sun that called attention to the newspaper’s pro-Israel bias. A determined and sustained public mobilization led to a stalemate in the legal case, which we view as a victory strongly defending Canadians’ rights to parody and political criticism.
Seeing the CanWest lawsuit as part of the larger offensive to censor free speech about Palestine/Israel, the SFSC broadened its mandate to respond to this campaign in Canada.
In 2010, under this expanded mandate the SFSC, along with other organizations, publicly exposed the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA). This pseudo-parliamentary committee intended to expand the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel and thereby to criminalize it.
The SFSC also supported the right of free speechof many organizations and individuals whom the supporters of Israel attempted to silence. These include Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Israel Apartheid Week activists, MP Libby Davies, UBC Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, the UBC Social Justice Centre and many others. In the fall of 2010 we organized a western Canada tour for noted author Professor Michael Keefer, calling attention to the erosion of basic human rights under the slogan “Criticize Israel- Go To Jail.”
The attacks on critics of Israel and on defenders of the rights of Palestinians play a significant role in the current right wing political climate which has increased surveillance of activists and the suppression of basic civil rights. We want to educate and inform Canadians about these and act to prevent them.