‘The Palestine exception’: why pro-Palestinian voices are suppressed in the US

November 1, 2023
The Guardian

...In the United States, the highest levels of power have long supported voices backing Israel and its military. Now, supporters of Palestine fear the war presents an opportunity for supporters of Israel’s government to further crush dissent in the US. “We know that Israel-aligned organizations are going to push to have their full wishlists granted,” says Diala Shamas, a staff attorney at the non-profit Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which supports pro-Palestinian activists. She says Palestinian rights attorneys “know the playbook” and are bracing for the onslaught.

In 2015, CCR and Palestine Legal published a report on the tactics used by pro-Israel lobbying groups, school administrators and public officials to shut down Palestinian rights activists. They included false accusations of antisemitism or support for terrorism, legal threats and criminal investigations, and they often succeeded in “intimidating or deterring Palestinian solidarity activists from speaking out”, the report found.

The Jewish National Fund’s 2019 lawsuit against the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which accused the human rights group of supporting terrorism and acting as a front for Hamas, was a recent example, the CCR’s Shamas says. While an appeals court tossed the suit in May, Shamas, who defended against the lawsuit, called cases like these “a form of silencing”.

Beyond campuses, pro-Israel lawyers are gearing up for battle. Last week, Shurat HaDin – a pro-Israel legal organization which describes itself as “bankrupting terrorism one lawsuit at a time” – announced it was launching a “legal war room” and put out a call for hundreds of attorneys across the world to join in support of Israel’s war efforts. CCR’s Shamas says that is likely to lead to redoubled efforts to pass anti-boycott legislation, redefine the international working definition of antisemitism to include opposition to Zionism, and expand the definition of “material support of terrorism” to target more Palestinian human rights speech.

Generally, lawsuits against pro-Palestine activists are a way to “distract and deviate our resources” from efforts to “draw attention to genocide that’s happening in Gaza”, Shamas says...

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November 1, 2023