May 18, 2015, New York and Chicago – Today Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (Palestine Legal), in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), released findings on the rising trend across U.S. college campuses of conflating criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism in order to silence advocacy in support of Palestinian rights.
In the first four months of 2015, attorneys with Palestine Legal responded to 102 requests for legal assistance from students and faculty on college campuses across the country, including from Palestinian rights advocates smeared as “terrorists” or “supporters of terrorism” based solely on speech critical of Israeli policy.
During this period, Palestine Legal documented:
· 60 incidents involving accusations of anti-Semitism made against students or faculty, based solely on speech critical of Israeli policy.
· 24 incidents involving accusations of support for terrorism made against students or faculty, based solely on speech critical of Israeli policy.
“The smearing, harassing and intimidation of Palestinian rights advocates has serious consequences,” said Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Not only does it harm the reputations and careers of students and scholars, but it also encourages censorship of students and scholars, thereby trampling their First Amendment rights and limiting debate and the free exchange of ideas at our nation’s schools.”
The findings include snapshots of incidents that took place on various college campuses since January 2015, including at Stanford University, Columbia University, Northwestern University, University of Toledo, Northeastern University, multiple University of California campuses, Pitzer College, and Occidental College.
“False accusations of anti-Semitism are being employed as a strategy to pressure campus authorities to suppress speech that is critical of Israel,” said Maria LaHood, deputy legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This is troubling not only from a constitutional standpoint, but also because it detracts from and undermines the fight against true anti-Semitism.”
As part of combatting this troubling trend, hundreds of Jewish academics delivered a letter to the U.S. State Department today demanding that it “revise its definition of anti-Semitism to reflect its commitment to opposing hate and discrimination without curtailing constitutionally protected freedom of speech.” The definition, recently endorsed in resolutions by student government bodies at UC Berkeley and UCLA opposing anti-Semitism, incorporates common criticism of Israel’s human rights abuses, as Palestine Legal explained in a recent FAQ.
You can access today’s findings in full here
Palestine Solidarity Legal Support is an independent organization dedicated to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of people in the US who speak out for Palestinian freedom. Our mission is to bolster the Palestine solidarity movement by challenging efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into silence and inaction.