Rev. Mardi Tinsdall, Moderator
Rev. Nora Sanders, Executive Secretary
The United Church of Canada
Dear Reverends Tinsdall and Sanders,
The Vancouver-based Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC) was founded in 2008 to defend activists who were being sued by Canwest for producing a parody of The Vancouver Sun’s one-sided coverage of Palestine and Israel. We have subsequently broadened our activity to defend individuals and organizations who are being attacked because of their criticism of Israel and their defense of Palestinian human rights. We are writing to support the process through which the United Church is reconsidering its policy on Palestine/Israel.
The report of the United Church’s Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy (WGIP) is an important step forward and provides the basis for a thorough discussion of the issues at the 41st General Council meeting.
We are concerned, however, that the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has responded by attacking the document, using threatening, inflammatory language: “If the United Church adopts this highly biased report without amendment, it will place the Church outside the genuine peace movement and in the same camp as the most virulent anti-israel activists.” Those who demand that others overlook injustice are not providing help or friendship. They are seeking to intimidate and to silence.
Many individuals and organizations have endured attacks of this nature, sometimes at great personal cost. CIJA’s goal is clearly to suppress free discussion and inquiry on the subject of Palestine/Israel. We encourage the United Church to vigorously defend its right to a full debate on this subject, free from the accusations and slurs used by CIJA, in defense of not only its own rights, but also those of individuals and organizations which do not have the Church’s resources, so that they may continue to engage in the struggle for social justice for the Palestinians.
Brian Campbell and Anne Roberts
Co-Chairs, Seriously Free Speech Committee
Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah, 04/24/2012
In a sign of growing desperation among anti-Palestinian groups, a New York Times ad published today likens the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to the Holocaust.
“The Holocaust began with boycotts of Jewish stores and ended with death camps,” begins the ad, placed by notorious anti-African American and Islamophobic agitator David Horowitz.
Citing the murder of three Jewish children and a rabbi in Toulouse, France earlier this year, the ad says, “it is time for supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) to ask themselves what they did to contribute to the atmosphere of hate that spawned these and other murders of Jews.”
Unsatisfied with blaming supporters of Palestinian rights in general of aiding and abetting murder, the ad names specific professors whom it holds responsible, and calls on them to be “publicly shamed and condemned for the crimes their hatred incites.” Continue reading
Posted in Media
Tagged BDS, printonline, usa
April 18, 2012
To: Andrew Leuchter, Chair, Academic Senate UCLA
*CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM** *(CS4AF) is a group of 134 scholars at twenty California institutions of higher education. We are writing to express our concerns about your handling of the events surrounding Associate Professor David Delgado Shorter’s, World Arts and Cultures course website which followed a complaint by a well-known partisan duo who have been harassing California faculty for some time (Amcha).
Our concerns involve the possible violation of academic freedom; the overstepping of your authority as Chair of the Academic Senate; honoring of complaints by a clearly partisan political group over collegiality and protocol regarding treatment of tenured faculty at UCLA; and setting up Prof. Shorter to be judged in the “court of public opinion” by releasing information to the press without his knowledge. Continue reading
By Lee Berthiaume, Montreal Gazette, April 16, 2012
OTTAWA — An Israeli politician appears to have contravened a controversial law in his home country by calling on Canadians to boycott companies and products linked to Israeli towns built in the West Bank and other occupied Palestinian territory.
Ahmad Tibi, an Arab-Israeli who is also deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, said he does not know what penalty he will face for breaking the Boycott Law, which came into force in July and allows a civil suit against those who encourage such a boycott.
“I said that I am willing to test this immoral law trying to prevent me, as a member of the Parliament, from expressing my views against the settlements in a peaceful way,” he said during a visit to Ottawa on Monday. “This is the first time that someone is calling and demanding abroad.” Continue reading
Posted in Media
Tagged BDS, printonline
Rules in Favor of Boycotts as Protected Protest
By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet, February 27, 2012
Last week, we ran a story from Phan Nguyen at Mondoweiss, about the lawsuit filed against the Olympia Food Co-Op in Olympia, Washington, for joining with the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel and voting to stop selling Israeli-made goods.
Now, a judge has ruled that the co-op is within its rights to boycott the products and that boycotts are protected free speech, tossing out the lawsuit. The Center for Constitutional Rights, who helped represent the co-op, reports: Continue reading
“Criticism of a State or its policies cannot be regarded, in principle, as infringing the rights or dignity of its nationals, without seriously affecting freedom of expression in a world now globalized, whose civil society has become a major actor, and since no ‘criminal offence against a Foreign State’ has ever been established under substantive law or international common law, because this would be contrary to the commonly accepted standards of freedom to express opinions”.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra has suspended four of its musicians for nine months after they called for a boycott of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra earlier this month, in what cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht called, in his blog, “the most severe public penalty inflicted on London orchestral musicians in memory.”
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 6 September 2011
A group of pro-Israel activists, backed by StandWithUs, a national US pro-Israel US organization, is planning to take legal action to force the Olympia Food Co-op to rescind its historic decision to boycott Israeli products.
Australian police confirmed during a bail variation hearing at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (local District Court) for some of the BDS activists arrested on 1 July that a decision had been made to arrest the protesters before the demonstration. This decision was made after discussions with Zionist organizations, the Victorian government, shopping center managements and state and national management of Max Brenner.
This month, a serious attack was made against free speech in Canada. A pseudo-parliamentary committee calling itself the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) issued a report calling on the federal government to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that would criminalize criticism of the state of Israel. The report claims to support free speech and open debate around the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but its recommendations aim to silence pro-Palestinian voices, especially on campuses. The CPCCA’s biased processes and dubious conclusions contradict its own argument for balanced debate, and make a mockery of the notion of disinterested parliamentary inquiry. Continue reading