As is no surprise to readers here, the US is not the only country where numerous attempts have been made to silence dissenting voices. Our Canadian neighbors to the north have recently experienced increased censorship efforts.
Canada’s Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid has a range of articles on the recent banning of British MP George Galloway from entering Canada as well as various attempts to shut down activities, or in what is becoming a common occurrence in the United States as well, attempts to intimidate through videotaping at a very close distance and harassment.
In this first article we recount events occurring at Carleton College this last February, the second describes other censorship/intimidation efforts.
Early in February a poster put up the previous day by members of the group Students Against Israeli Apartheid was removed and banned by the college administration. The Carleton college administration claimed that this poster needed to be removed because:
the posters…could be seen to incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario Human Rights code and are insensitive to the norms of civil discourse in a free and democratic society”
One irony is that the admittedly provocative poster, which depicts a Palestinian child being targeted by an incoming Israeli helicopter, seems relatively mild compared to the shocking t-shirts various Israeli military units have printed up and started wearing: images include a pregnant Gazan woman in the crosshairs of a rifle scope with the words “I shot 2 kills” and another image of a Gazan man being sodomized by an Israeli soldier. These t-shirts have apparently passed the free speech litmus test in Israel. Further, as Ha’aretz also recently reported, some soldiers have acknowledged knowingly killing civilians, including children, as part of Cast Lead. Over 400 children died during the Operation. These facts certainly put the poster in a clearer perspective. Nonetheless:
“The interim Provost and Vice President of Carleton, Feridun Hamdullahpur, circulated a letter to the entire Carleton community in which he threatened indefinite expulsion for anyone contravening the code; although vaguely worded, the letter alludes to “harassment and intolerance which can take the form of inappropriately challenging or questioning a person’s race or beliefs.” One has to wonder how this stock anti-war graphic can be seen as “inappropriate,” unless Carleton is concerned to protect Israel’s image rather than the rights of its students to free expression. “
No matter your opinion of the poster message or the art work, the rationale given by the administration is a direct affront to free speech, particularly academic free speech. (When 56 faculty members asked Carleton president Roseanne Runte to condemn the recent Israeli bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza, she refused.)
“Both the current and former Carleton Presidents have taken very clear positions on the Israel-Palestine conflict by condemning the academic boycott of Israel out of hand, offering no alternative to this justice-oriented civil-society initiative. Students and faculty at Carleton have requested that the administration hold a public debate on the issue, to allow the Carleton community to determine the most responsible course of action, yet have been repeatedly rebuffed.”
Carleton’s administration use of human rights language to limit free speech is considered a “double insult” because
Internationally, the movement against Israeli apartheid has been endorsed by hundreds of universities, unions, religious groups and social justice organizations. This campaign is proudly anti-racist, and founded on the principles of opposition to all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It draws its inspiration from the global campaign to end South African apartheid and is led by many of the same individuals who were at the forefront of that earlier struggle. By contrast, the administration that banned the poster could not summon enough concern for human rights or the right to education to speak against the bombing of a Gazan university.”
Read the Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) demands and consider the following actions:
1. Immediately email the Carleton University President, Roseanne Runte, at email@example.com demanding that she immediately restore the Charter rights of Carleton students and send a copy of your message of support to Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA Carleton) at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Call or fax Carleton University President, Roseanne Runte, at 613 520-3801(phone) or 613 520-4474 (fax) demanding that she immediately restore the Charter rights of Carleton students.