JVP denounces Zoom, Facebook and YouTube for censoring Palestinians

Jewish Voice for Peace

Posted September 26, 2020

Edward Said Mural at San Francisco State University, host to the censored event

New York City, NY (September 24, 2020) — In an unprecedented campaign of coordinated repression, Zoom, Facebook and YouTube shut down an open classroom academic event dedicated to the voices of Palestinians and other political prisoners organized by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, founding director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies program, and Professor Tomomi Kinukawa, lecturer in the Women and Gender Studies Department at San Francisco State University.

The virtual open classroom featured Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled in conversation with Professors Abdulhadi and Kinukawa, along with academics and former political prisoners from South Africa, the United States, and Palestine, including JVP member Laura Whitehorn.

Abdulhadi and Kinukawa were joined by a team of graduate and undergraduate students from several institutions, including Saliem Shehadeh, UCLA doctoral candidate and AMED lecturer, Anais Amer, president of Arab Women Organization and leader of Students for Justice in Palestine at Wellesley College, and the full Board of the General Union of Palestinian Students-Sabreen Imtair, Ashar Abdallah, Daniella Shofani, Ariana Al-Khatib, and Lena Azzouz.

This is an extreme example of a well-documented and deeply troubling pattern of repression against and silencing of Palestinian scholarship and advocacy, both in the academy and on social media platforms. At a time when Facebook, YouTube and Zoom are regularly criticized for their failures to halt the rabid growth of white supremacist hate speech and calls for violence on their platforms, it is reprehensible that these businesses instead chose to silence an academic discussion about the voices of political prisoners across the world – including Palestinians.

As a Jewish organization committed to equality and dignity for all people in Palestine/Israel, we cannot allow this censorship to stand. The “Facebook, Stop Censoring Palestine” campaign, which we are proud to be a part of, calls on Facebook to stop its suppression of Palestine and Palestinian voices. Zoom, Facebook and YouTube’s censorship underscore the urgency of combatting the silencing of human rights struggles worldwide.

We demand an immediate, strong response from SFSU ensuring that they will do everything in their power to ensure that Palestinian voices are not censored on campus. We also hope to see from SFSU a strong statement naming the actions today by Zoom, Facebook and Youtube as a dangerous overreach and a chilling precedent.

Rabbi Alissa Wise, Deputy Director, Jewish Voice for Peace: “We know that the machinery of antisemitism is being wielded by those in power to divide us, and we refuse to have our pain used to repress others. Palestinians deserve to be heard, and we will repeat until its heard: Criticism of the Israeli state is not antisemitic.”

Dr. Tallie Ben Daniel, Director of Special Projects at Jewish Voice for Peace: “This latest censorship is especially frightening as so many universities now use  Zoom or similar software. In this time of increased digital learning, we believe tech companies have a special responsibility to ensure debates and discussions continue unobstructed by right-wing political forces.”

Ellen Brotsky, JVP-Bay Area member: “The JVP-Bay Area chapter was outraged to learn today that Facebook removed our event page for the webinar “Whose Narratives?” featuring a conversation with Laila Khaled, Palestinian activist and leader. We co-sponsored this webinar because we believe that Palestinian voices must be lifted up and heard by people in the United States, even when those voices are critical of Israel and Zionism and may cause discomfort to some. We are even more outraged that all three media platforms – Facebook, Zoom and YouTube – caved to anti-Palestinian pressure and pulled the plug on the webinar. We stand with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, land and human rights and we stand against all attempts to censor Palestinian voices.”

Dr. Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor Emerita at the City University of New York and JVP-NYC member: “Given the decades of intensive repression of Palestinians and their allies, it is no surprise that the issue of Palestinian rights is the first to be subject to such an overt campaign of coordinated censorship by these tech giants. Private corporations deciding what is acceptable speech on a college campus should scare us all. Dr. Abdulhadi has built a career as one of the foremost authorities on Arab and Palestinian feminisms in U.S. academia and the world — despite enormous pushback and discrimination against her field and her personal self as a Palestinian scholar. It is an outrage that her hundreds of students were denied exposure to the historic panel of speakers she assembled for today’s webinar.”

JVP staff and members are available for interviews.

This press release was issued by Jewish Voice for Peace on September 24, 2020. It appears on the JVP website here. Listen to Professor Rabab Abdulhadi speak on the situation in Palestine and the growth of the global solidarity movement in this webinar Justice Is Indivisible.