Noted Israeli Peace activist and commentator banned from speaking

Jeff Halper has been one of the foremost voices against Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes, as well as being an astute commentator on the nuts and bolts of the US supported Israeli settler colonial project. While striving against terrible injustice committed against a mostly incarcerated people, he has acted with dignity and perseverance, not only on behalf of Palestinians but more generally on behalf of a just and stable peace in the region  -  a peace that would benefit people on both sides of the green line. His tireless efforts are a beacon of hope in very dark times. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that a mainstream Canadian Jewish group (similar to the JCRC) effectively censored a scheduled talk with no reason except the seeming fear of hearing an alternative viewpoint. We have seen such censoring myriad times before, whether it is Desmond Tutu our own Joel Beinin.  A primary focus of muzzlewatch is to report on just such incidents. Implicitly, it is our hope that such efforts will help to expand the discussion, to push the envelope of what is considered acceptable debate about the middle east. The following article details the recent cancellation of a scheduled speech Jeff Halper was to give in Canada.

Tuesday, January 13, 2008

Independent Jewish Voices Montreal condemns political
censorship of Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper: calls on Gelber
Centre to allow Halper to address the Jewish community in
Montreal.

Israeli peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Jeff
Halper and Independent Jewish Voices Montreal (IJVM) will
hold a press conference at noon in front of the Gelber Centre,
to condemn the Federation Combined Jewish Appeal’s (FCJA)
last-minute cancellation of Halper’s public presentation to the
Jewish community at the Centre on January 15.   IJVM had
previously arranged and advertised Halper’s presentation,
“Peace in Israel? Peace with Gaza? Yes We Can.”  As
cause for the cancellation, the FCJA initially cited safety
concerns about hosting the Halper presentation at the same
time as an event of conservative group Amiti’s Quebec-Israel,
even though no threats were issued. Later, they said Amiti’s
Quebec-Israel simply objected to the presentation.

“It is difficult to interpret the banning of this presentation by Jeff
Halper, who will also be speaking at McGill University and
UQAM, as anything other than an act of political censorship,”
said Abby Lippman, a member of IJVM. “The censoring of the
talk by Jeff Halper is particularly distressing at this time of
crisis in Gaza, when it is more than ever essential that we
consider options for reaching peace and security for all
Palestinians and Israelis.”

IJVM’s mandate is to ensure that there are healthy and
respectful exchanges and debates on critical issues facing the
Jewish community.  The FCJA refused the IJVM’s offer to
meet with the FCJA and the other Jewish group to negotiate a
mutually satisfactory outcome, one that would ensure that Jeff
Halper’s freedom of speech is not curtailed.

“The event we had planned would have been one in which the
Jewish community could have taken pride, one in which it
would have shown clearly that it is not afraid of differing
opinions and views.  Instead, the FCJA has chosen to censor
speech, to prohibit dissent.  Censorship of speech and
opinions within the Jewish community is a grave act, an
assault on our long history of supporting intellectual
debate and diverse opinions.  Censorship stifles democracy,”
said Fabienne Presentey, another IJVM member.

IJVM contends that by imposing political censorship, the
FCJA appears to be demonstrating fear of the full range of
opinions on the crisis in Israel and Gaza, particularly when
these may include peace messages from a non-violent Jewish-
Israeli Nobel Prize nominee that could run counter to the
public positions of the FCJA.

IJVM calls on the FCJA to retract its decision and to permit
Jeff Halper to speak at the Gelber Centre on Thursday,
January 15.  Meanwhile, the Reverend at the Unitarian Church
of Montreal has allowed Halper’s presentation to be re-
scheduled there at 7:30pm, Thursday, at 5035 boul. de
Maisonneuve Ouest.

- 30 -

Press Conference:
NOON, Wednesday, January 14
in front of the Gelber Centre
2 Carr? Cummings Square, (C?te Ste-Catherine Road &
(Mountain Sights)
Metro Cote Ste-Catherine/129 Bus.

Event:
“Peace in Israel? Peace with Gaza? Yes We Can”
Thursday Jan 15, 7:30pm.
Unitarian Church Of Montr?al?,
5035 boul. de Maisonneuve Ouest.
between Bulmer and Claremont, NDG/Westmont
3 streets west of Metro Vendome

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