There is a Coordinated Campaign to Suppress Criticism of Israel


A new law introduced in the U.S. Congress seeks to clamp down on criticism of Israel at the expense of First Amendment rights. The unconstitutional bill, titled the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018, conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. 

This U.S. legislation coincides with Israel’s own efforts to crack down on its critics. As Israel continues to engage in gross human rights violations against Palestinians, Israel and its allies in U.S. Congress are trying to prevent Americans from traveling to Palestine to see the situation with their own eyes—and from speaking out about it. As activists, we cannot sit back quietly and allow this to happen.

One of the latest targets of Israel’s attempt to prevent further exposure of its systematic human rights abuses was Omar Shakir, the director of Human Rights Watch in Israel-Palestine, who came close to being deported by Israel on May 24, in a blatant attempt to clamp down on criticism of its human rights record. While his deportation has temporarily been halted by an Israeli court, its prospect is still very much looming and is meant to silence human rights activists.

Several other human rights leaders were previously banned or deported. On April 29, Vincent Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and Katherine Franke, the Chair of CCR and Professor of Law at Columbia, were denied entry to Israel. They were detained for 14 hours at the Ben Gurion International Airport and interrogated about their affiliation with human rights organizations that have criticized Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.  

In October 2017, Raed Jarrar of Amnesty International was also detained and questioned for hours, then denied entry. He was on a personal trip to visit his family in Palestine after the death of his father. This past July, five members of an interfaith 22-person delegation were also denied entry, reportedly because Israel had given Lufthansa a black list. 

I had a similar experience in May 2014 as part of a National Lawyers Guild delegation. We were planning to look into the situation of Palestinian political prisoners. Israeli authorities first targeted me because of my Iranian birth. I was told to sit and wait like the many other Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians were. The officials then researched my background and found out my affiliation as the then president of the National Lawyers Guild. I was subjected to five rounds of interrogations over 11 hours. 

Unlike Jarrar, I was ultimately allowed in. This was before the law that went into effect in March 2017 that bans entry to foreigners who have called for boycott of Israel or even the settlements, which are illegal towns that Israel builds on occupied Palestinian lands.  Had I gone in the past year, I may have been barred as well (the National Lawyers Guild passed a boycott and divestment resolution in 2007 in line with the 2005 Palestinian civil society call).

From Azadeh Shahshahani, In These Times, 8/13/18.


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