A growing movement for Palestinian rights particularly active on US college campuses, appears to be challenging documented Israeli abuses and US complicity according to testimonies by students and those who have testified to legislatures across the country.
In response, Israel advocacy groups are reporting an intensifying effort to stifle Palestine advocacy.
In addition a stream of bills directed toward the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian freedom have been introduced in state legislatures across the country including in Colorado. As we have described in earlier reports, Colorado House Bill 1284 had been making its way through the legislature in some say with Fast Track speed. The bill moves the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) to divest from companies that have economic prohibitions against the state of Israel. The bill passed out of the Colorado legislature and was signed by Governor Hickenlooper on March 18, 2016.
The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the US, a report released by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal in September of 2015 documents what is shown to be widespread and growing repression against human rights organizations that support Palestinian rights.
According to the groups US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace and Palestine Legal who wrote the report, 152 incidents were reported of censorship, punishment, or other threats to free advocacy for Palestinian right. Further 68 legal support requests were taken in 2014 in addition to the incidents. But the numbers are growing. In only six months the same requests for assistance grew to 140 incidents and 33 requests for legal assistance. These numbers though represent an under-reporting of incidents because of lack of knowledge of the legal system, or even fear. This repression has overwhelmingly been directed toward students and scholars, sometimes the locations most targeted by anti-BDS actions.
The report documented that,
“The tactics used to silence advocacy for Palestinian rights frequently follow recognizable patterns. Activists and their protected speech are routinely maligned as uncivil, divisive, antisemitic, or supportive of terrorism. Institutional actors—primarily in response to pressure from Israel advocacy groups—erect bureaucratic barriers that thwart efforts to discuss abuses of Palestinian rights and occasionally even cancel events or programs altogether. Sometimes the consequences are more severe: universities suspend student groups, deny tenure to faculty, or fire them outright in response to their criticism of Israel. Meritless lawsuits and legal threats, which come from a variety of Israel advocacy groups identified in this Report, burden Palestinian rights advocacy and chill speech even when dismissed by the courts. Campaigns by such groups have even resulted in legislation to curtail Palestine advocacy, criminal investigations, and filing of charges against activists.”
In the following audio piece compiled by the group Palestine Legal, students and scholars on US campuses discuss the backlash they have experienced for engaging in Palestine advocacy. These and hundreds of other cases are documented in the The Palestine Exception to Free Speech report. We hear from Ellis and Shafeka from New York University; Sheriff and Kristian from Stanford University, Shezza from Barnard College, Nashiha from Loyola University, Mohammed from the University of Texas, Nerdeen, Corey, and Sarah from City University of New York, Leila from DePaul University, Izzaddine from the University of New Mexico, Lisa from American Studies Association, Noran whose institution is unknown, and from Steven Salaita who was terminated from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.
For more information on the report titled The Palestine Exception to Free Speech, go to