The Pro-Palestine protests ARE standing up for free speech


11:01 am - March 3rd 2013

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by Josiah Mortimer

Though billed as a ‘public’ event, Thursday’s controversial visit to the University of York by the Deputy Ambassador of Israel was anything but. Open to only students and staff, the lecture, ‘Israel and the situation in the Middle East’, was announced less than a week before the event itself, with the location itself given just a couple of days before.

So, contrary to Matt Hill’s analysis on this site, it was in the spirit of free speech that campaigners decided to protest.

The protest was lively, peaceful and upbeat, and never had the intention of shutting down the lecture. Instead, the aim of the dozens there was to ensure the Palestinian’s side of the story was heard, a perspective almost never heard in mainstream media debates or in lecture halls across the country.

Indeed, if the Israeli and the Palestinian causes were given equal treatment, there would be no need last week’s protest. But given no platform to debate with Roth-Snir, we created a platform to ensure the reality was heard – that over half of Palestinians are refugees, that Israel’s 230 illegal settlements devastate the livelihoods of millions of poor Palestinians, and that Gaza is still recovering from last November’s siege by Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 158 Palestinians, many of whom were children.

The true purpose behind the ambassadorial university visits over the past few months has been anything but transparent.

A University of York statement said the Deputy Ambassador “wasn’t invited. The Embassy contacted the University and asked if a representative could speak”. Since Operation Pillar of Defence – the 2012 War on Gaza – Alon Roth-Snir has been touring campuses – the last being the University of Essex, where students there too stood up to attempts to legitimise serious war crimes.

The Deputy Ambassador visits are never debates, are announced at late notice – self-invited – and there is no opportunity for Palestinians’ voices to be heard. The Palestinian Solidarity protest, then, was fundamentally a free speech issue.

Far from a desperate need “for supporters of the Palestinians to take a principled stand against attempts to silence advocates of Israel”, as Hill claims, there’s a much more urgent need for Palestinian supporters to take a stand against the gross freedom of speech violations Israel conducts, and its Ambassadors defend – the more than 4000 political prisoners – including nearly 30 Palestinian MPs, the penalisation of boycott supporters, and the victimisation of pro-Palestinian academics in Israeli universities, among countless more examples.

Pro-Palestinian activists wholly welcome debating with defenders of Israel’s actions. But the Deputy Ambassador’s campus visits come to put forward one side of the story, with little opportunity – save a few token questions – for engagement.


Josiah York is from University of York Palestinian Solidarity Society, and one of the main organisers of the protest.

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Reader comments


“the aim of the dozens there was to ensure the Palestinian’s side of the story was heard, a perspective almost never heard in mainstream media debates or in lecture halls across the country.”

Have I somehow been transported to an alternate universe over night?

So, contrary to Matt Hill’s analysis on this site, it was in the spirit of free speech that campaigners decided to protest.

It might be a very good thing to protest. It might draw attention to the Izzy-Pally situation (for those who have just emerged from a coma). It might vent the passions that people feel on this subject. But please don’t call it in “the spirit of free speech”.

Pro-Palestinian activists wholly welcome debating with defenders of Israel’s actions.

As George Galloway did by flouncing out of a debate with an Israeli, simply because he was an Israeli. Or has he ceased being pro-Palestinian?

Do stop treating your readers as idiots.

It’s true, I never hear any criticism of Israel.

Never ever

Utter nonsense from start to finish. You wanted to shut him up, just like the BDS so-called “pro-Palestinian”movement make every effort to shut up anyone Israeli.

They are fine orotests.

Taking the piss out of Sunny’s proofing aside, come on. This is not George Galloway refusing to debate a dude because he’s from Israel (GG is a dick); this is a dude who refuses to debate being slated for his refusal to debate (slaters are right).

Writer for the Ministry of Truth are we Josiah?

7. Shatterface

The protest was lively, peaceful and upbeat, and never had the intention of shutting down the lecture. Instead, the aim of the dozens there was to ensure the Palestinian’s side of the story was heard, a perspective almost never heard in mainstream media debates or in lecture halls across the country.

You are taking the piss, right?

The public debate on Israel in this country is largely divided between those who think ‘Israelis should be wiped from the face of the Earth’ and those who think they should also include ‘the jewish (sic) lobby which controls the media’

Very thoughtful of Shatterface to provide an equally and oppositely ludicrous comment to balance out the absurdity of the original post.

Do University of York “activists” have any thoughts on what’s happening in Syria?

Or didn’t that strike them as important too?

“Indeed, if the Israeli and the Palestinian causes were given equal treatment, there would be no need last week’s protest”

Ha, ha, ha!

BDS.

Galloway.

Hi Josiah,

Three questions:

Why did activists try and break into the hall where Roth-Snir was speaking, with the result that they had to be stopped by police?
http://www.yorkvision.co.uk/news/palestine-protest-attempt-to-disrupt-deputy-israeli-ambassadors-talk/

What would they have done once inside the hall, if they’d succeeded in breaking in?

Do you condemn pro-Palestinian demonstrators for forcing the University of Essex to cancel Roth-Snir’s lecture last month?
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4350701,00.html

Also: you complain about the lack of opportunity for engagement (the standard Q&A format being insufficient, I suppose). But if you were invited to debate Roth-Snir on an equal footing, wouldn’t you have declined to do so on the grounds of a boycott of Israeli government officials?

Did you really want a debate? Be honest now, Josiah.

One more thing. There’s absolutely no contradiction between standing up for the right of pro-Israelis to speak freely and protesting against the treatment of Palestinian political prisoners and other abuses of the occupation. In fact, as a simple matter of principle, they should go hand-in-hand.

You do understand this point, don’t you?

Another question,

What opportunity – save for a few token questions – did pro-Israeli campaigners have to put their side of the issue at this event?

http://theyorker.co.uk/politics/york/13172-palestinian-soc-launches-with-brief

15. Left Not Liberal
16. Left Not Liberal

Stupid fucking liberal fuckwits and their dumb as fuck ‘free speech’ fetish. To these middle class shitheads its all about fucking university debating societies and other utterly trivial, self-indugent bullshit. Its bollocks, the only issue here is that Israel is engaged in systematic racist violence against the Palestinians and the question of concern should be how to stop that violence. The question of what to do is purely a tactical one, these bullshit ‘moral concerns’ are smokescreens for apologists for apartheid Israel’s ongoing barbarism against the Palestinians.

17. Man in the street

Why is it that you just know that someone from York University called Josiah is guaranteed to be a total and utter cock?

Left not Liberal states “Israel is an Apartheid state” with all the confidence of a true ignoramous.

Serious anti- racists and, especially, those of us from a Marxist tradition have a rather clearer and more nuanced position:

http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2009/01/28/israel-apartheid-south-africa

It appears Left not Liberal has given the game away…

20. Left Not Liberal

Jim Denham, ever the dogmatist, thinks posting a link to a poorly argued piece penned by a member of his sect constitutes a substitute for argument. The fact that Israel and Aparthied South Africa are very different should not blind us to their similarities. South Africa was not the only state that practiced Aparthied and it was not the last. Did you read the link I posted below my assertion Jim? How else could you possibily describe a State that allows for the creation of racially segregated bus services?

Israel is worse than an apartheid state. The fundamental impetus of South African apartheid was exploitation whilst for Israel it is extermination. This second rate third reich comes with two of the biggest ghettos the world has ever seen (west bank and Gaza), it is surrounded by the refugees it created, prison camps that are more akin to concentration camps, religious sectarianism, self-serving bogus secularism for the consumption of its imperialist backers whose hypocrisy would make the butcher Assad blush and a policy of lebensraum via exterminatory colonialism.

Pal Joey is absolutely right and the only reason the Israelis haven’t got round to carrying out their extermination plans so far is well it’s certainly all part of some terrible plot anyway just you wait and see add some more random references to nazis here please just use your imagination

It’s not as if you people are doing any harm by making Israel’s critics look like a bunch of nutters, is it?

Left Not Liberal and Pal Joey,

People like you are a big part of the reason it’s so easy to dismiss the pro-Palestinian movement as being a sinkhole of hatred and misinformed nonsense.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/9907661/Good-and-evil-caricatures-of-the-Israel-Palestine-conflict-are-costing-lives.html

25. Left Not Liberal

Matt Hill, I’m not really bothered to be honest. Supporters of the Palestinian cause are slandered regardless of what they say. Furthermore, I’m not interested in playing your up to your ‘why can’t be all just be nice to each other’ liberal platitudes. Israel subjects the Palestinians in the occupied territories to systemic racist violence and discrimination which the Palestinians and their supports are obliged to resist.

It is unlikely that there is any meeting ground between us at all. I’m a socialist, you’re a liberal. I want the oppressed to overthrow ruling classes everwhere, you want the ruling classes to be a bit nicer to the down trodden. Never the twain shall meet.

You’re right, we have nothing in common.

I’d top myself if I thought I had anything in common with the Matt Hill’s of this world and their ability to countenance theft and murder on a grand scale.

Down with the Israeli genocidal colonialist state.

If genocide is occurring in Gaza, shouldn’t there be fewer Palestinians now than there were before the genocide began? Rather than more?


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