Showing posts with label censorship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label censorship. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2013

Occupied Palestine, an Interview with David Koff

On June 5th 2013, at the Jerusalem Fund, I had the luck to watch the documentary by David Koff “Occupied Palestine”. This documentary was one of the best I watched about the colonization of Palestine.

Koff’s documentary offers an analysis of the Israeli occupation that is still today rare to find. The documentary is interesting to watch because it gives a visual representation to what the Palestinian scholars Walid Khalidi and Rosmary Sayigh have written in the 1970s. Koff in his documentary presents the Zionist project of the conquest of Palestine. It is close to Walid Khalidi’s work because it debunks the Zionist myth stating that Palestinians chose to leave. The documentary shows that they were forced to because of the extreme violence used by the Haganah. It is close to the work of Rosemary Sayigh because it shows how Palestinian peasants, deprived from their land, decided to resist. It explains therefore how the resistance in Palestine started from the bottom up.
The documentary does not leave out any aspect of the Israeli occupation. It shows how Israel steals water from the Palestinians, how villages and houses were and are destroyed by the Israeli and how Palestinians are imprisoned arbitrarily. It also mentions the tortures in prison, for instance, how some prisoners are force-fed
The documentary was first shown in 1981 at the San Francisco festival. A few minutes into the documentary, the building where the film was shown received a bomb threat and had to be evacuated. This documentary could have been the call of conscience for many individuals sympathetic to Israel. The rampant occupation of Palestine might have been stopped if individuals around the world saw images of the Zionist colonial project at the end of the 1970s. Koff’s documentary is still relevant today because it shows that contrary to what leaders and medias are asserting and have asserted, Israel never had any good attention, and that from the beginning, it was a vast colonial project. 

US Campaign: Why was your documentary not shown in other festivals across the United States after the San Francisco festival of 1981? What were the justifications that were given to you to justify it?

David Koff (DK): At the time the film was released, in the early 1980s, there was little public knowledge in the U.S. of the Palestinian movement and the resistance of Palestinians to colonization and occupation. Because the film doesn’t shrink from the realities of the confrontation between Zionism and the Palestinian resistance it was considered “controversial” and beyond the limits of reasonable discourse.  So, for example, when the film had its U.S. premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1981, the screening was interrupted for more than an hour by a bomb threat. The consequences of that were immediately manifest when a theater-owner in San Francisco who had shown my previous films, and who came to the premiere with the intention of doing the same with Occupied Palestine, told me afterwards he would not show it.  I had a similar experience in London, where another theater owner, who compared the film to The Battle of Algiers, also refused to program it. Both these reactions were driven, in my opinion, by fear of audience reactions and public opinion.

US Campaign: Why did you not try to show your documentary after a certain amount of time? Was your documentary censored in the United States? 

DK: The film was not formally “censored” in the US because there was no “official” attempt to suppress it by the state or state agencies. It was effectively censored, however, by the unwillingness of distributors to represent or show it. One major distributor of films in the US refused to represent the film on the basis of the title alone - “I don’t have to see it,” he said, “to know we don’t want to have it in our catalog.” 

The film has been shown over the years on a limited basis in the U.S., mostly on college campuses where it has been used by instructors and more often by student organizations active in Middle East political issues. A shorter version of the film was shown on some public television stations in the U.S. in 1986 but the major stations in New York and Washington DC refused to air it. Depriving the audiences in those cities of a chance to see the film was definitely a form of censorship.

US Campaign: Why did you decide to make this documentary about Palestine?

DK :Long before I began making films I was a student of colonialism and national resistance. I had lived and worked in Africa and had traveled around the world observing and writing about colonialism and independence movements. The first films I made were in Africa, focused on African resistance to colonial rule.  I had always had an interest in Israel, having grown up in a Jewish (but not Zionist) home, and by the late 1970s I wanted to learn more about what was actually happening on the ground in Israel and the occupied territories.  I realized that the Palestinian experience of Zionism was missing from much of what was written, and almost completely absent from what was shown on the cinema screen. When I set out to make the film in 1979 it was soon after the Camp David Accords. There was a lot of talk about ‘land for peace’ and the possibility of resolving the conflict. I wanted to make a film that went beyond the current events and paid attention to the deeper currents that drove the conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians.

When you went to Palestine in the late 1970s did you remember which American companies were present? Which ones were benefiting from the Israeli Occupation?

DK:In the film itself you see a Mack earth moving truck and a Caterpillar tractor.

US Campaign: According to the Guardian, you stated that you were surprised that your documentary was shown. Why were you surprised?

DK: I wasn’t so much surprised that the 2013 London Palestine Film Festival decided to show Occupied Palestine, but rather that the organizers of the festival chose to feature it for the opening night Gala. I had hoped the film would simply be selected to be shown during the festival. This was a courageous decision on the part of the festival directors, given that the film was made more than thirty years ago. However, I think their decision was validated by the excitement the film generated and by the audience response at two separate screenings. The festival program called the film “trailblazing,” a “tour de force” and “a singular work of engaged filmmaking.” There was a vigorous Q&A with the audiences after the screenings, and there was also a substantial amount of media coverage.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

1,000 UC Students Sign Petition Against HR-35

Press Release from University of California Students for Justice in Palestine
January 9, 2013
Students voice their united opposition to California Resolution HR-35 and thank the UC Students Association for vocally opposing it while taking a morally consistent stand against racism. HR-35 proposes broad bans on student speech supporting Palestinian rights and criticizing discriminatory Israeli policies.
Today a petition signed by UC students and recent graduates who support the University of California’s Student Association (UCSA) resolution regarding HR-35 surpassed 1,000 signatures. Signers applauded UCSA “for standing up on behalf of the UC community and defending [their] right to advocate for human rights,” and for representing the “majority viewpoint at the UC which opposes racism in all forms, whether it be anti-Jewish acts by anti-Semites or anti-Palestinian policies undertaken by Israel in its discriminatory and illegal occupation.” The petitioners thanked the UCSA for its robust rebuke of State Assembly bill HR-35.
HR-35 is a non-binding resolution passed through the California State Assembly over the summer. The bill inappropriately labels criticism of Israeli state policy as anti-Semitic and recommends broad forms of censorship of students and faculty at the UC to prevent criticism of Israel.
Attorney Liz Jackson, cooperating counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights characterized HR-35 as "an anti-democratic attempt to intimidate and silence students from expressing pro-Palestinian views." Jackson explained, "HR-35 mislabels advocacy for Palestinian rights as inherently anti-Semitic. This is a complete distortion of students' human rights advocacy. To argue that such speech should be restricted, as HR-35 does, is to decimate the principle of free speech and it is plainly unconstitutional."
HR-35 is part of a well-documented pattern of intimidation against those speaking out in support of Palestinian rights on UC/CSU campuses, noted in a recent letter from civil rights groups to the UC Administration. Its passage comes shortly after the release of a controversial Campus Climate report that recommends similar forms of censorship of pro-Palestinian students, ranging from limiting the pro-Palestinian speakers allowed on campus to “enforcing balance” when pro-Palestinian speakers do come to campus.
Both the climate report and HR-35 have been widely criticized and opposed by civil rights groups such as the National Lawyers Guild and Center for Constitutional Rights, community organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the Council on American Islamic Relations, and academic groups such as the California Scholars for Academic Freedom and the Middle East Studies Association. The ACLU of Northern California recently warned of the “chilling effect” that related federal lawsuits targeting Palestine human rights activists are having on UC students’ constitutionally protected speech rights.
UC Berkeley student Ley Cerezo added that “HR-35 inevitably encourages a climate of fear in a student body whose dedication to activism ought not to be censured nor even reserved for mere toleration, but celebrated in a system of public universities. Just as we speak out against the many injustices sustained by various bodies of government, so too do we continue our opposition to any illegitimate limitations on our speech.”
Today’s petition, signed exclusively by current and former UC students in the space of a few weeks, demonstrates the breadth of public opposition to censorship and attacks on the pro-Palestine community. Students say that as a new year starts and students return to campus, they look forward to collecting more signatures and building public awareness of threats to pro-Palestinian advocacy.
Read full petition here

Thursday, September 6, 2012

There is No Occupation So Why Are We Holding Our Conference?

There are only two weeks left to register online for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference at St. Louis University, September 21-23. We keep adding great speakers and workshops to our program, so check out what we have planned and register today!

We have many achievements to celebrate since last year. This increasing success of BDS campaigns and of efforts to educate the public about the moral and economic costs of U.S. military aid has Israel's supporters fighting hard to stifle any discussion around U.S. complicity in Israel's occupation and apartheid policies toward Palestinians. 

The Louis D. Brandeis Center, which supposedly works to "promote justice for all," issued a press release recently calling our conference "controversial" because of a "likelihood that anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate will be expressed." The president of St. Louis University, who went on a propaganda trip to Israel this summer sponsored by the "educational institute" of the American Jewish Committee, is being asked to speak out against our conference and make it clear that the "hateful, anti-Israel message of the boycott movement" is not consistent with the Jesuit mission of St. Louis University. 

Another group, Scholars for Middle East Peace, which purports to promote honest and fact-based discourse on Middle East issues, claimed that the Israeli occupation is a "relic of the past" as a recent Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists likewise concluded. They argued that it is time for Palestinians and their allies, including the US Campaign, to stop spreading "lies" about the existence of Israeli occupation. 

Why are these pro-Israel groups making ridiculous claims about the US Campaign and our work, and pressuring the university president to speak out against our conference? Because they know we’re succeeding and our conference is an important venue to move our work forward even more. Join us!

Initiatives to curtail efforts to expose Israel's crimes against Palestinians are also being taken up by state governments. The California State Assembly last week passed a resolution calling upon public universities to condemn “student- and faculty-sponsored boycott, divestment, and sanction campaigns against Israel that are a means of demonizing Israel and seek to harm the Jewish state.”

Several of our member groups, including American Muslims for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, signed a letter to lawmakers organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations- California. The letter condemned the resolution, which "encourages university administrators to infringe upon students’ free speech rights. By equating legitimate political debates about geopolitics with anti-Semitism, the resolution emboldens administrators to take action to chill and prevent such speech."

Join us and our member groups at our conference to stand up to these attempts to censor efforts to end U.S. support for Israel's brutal policies toward Palestinians. Register today and help us change U.S. policy to support human rights, international law, and equality.

Take Action: Tell the Chapel Hill Town Council to Keep Our Ads Running!

If you live in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC area, then please sign the petition to the Chapel Hill Town Council to keep the bus ads running that call for ending U.S. military aid to Israel.

Town Councilwoman Penny Rich is really banging the drums to kill these ads. She told Indyweek that the ads are a "manipulative way to essentially call for the destruction of Israel." Check them out below and judge for yourself.

Please read on for an appeal by Rev. Mark Davidson, of the Church of Reconciliation, to help mobilize political support for next week's key Town Council meeting, whose outcome might determine whether the ads are allowed to continue running, or if they will be censored.


By now, you’ve probably heard about the controversy that was generated by our Chapel Hill bus ad campaign to end U.S. military aid to Israel. In case you missed it, here’s a sampling of local media coverage.

The congregation I serve, the Church of Reconciliation, with endorsements from the Coalition for Peace with Justice, Jews for a Just Peace NC, and North Carolina Veterans for Peace, put these ads in the entire 98-bus fleet in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. They read: “Build Peace with Justice and Equality. End U.S. Aid to Israel.”

After a few weeks, the ads were temporarily taken down by the transit authority because its officials wanted us to add more contact information to the ads.  We did so and we’re happy to report that the ads are back on the buses as of last weekend.

However, we’re concerned that the Chapel Hill Town Council might take action next Wednesday, September 12, 7PM at its next meeting to change the advertising guidelines to prohibit non-commercial ads. If this happens, then our ads might get taken down again!

We can't let that happen. I need you to sign this petition to the Town Council calling on it to maintain non-commercial ads on Chapel Hill's buses and to continue running our ads for the one-year duration of the contraction we signed.

After you sign the petition, you’ll be given the chancto forward it via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Please share this petition far and wide so that we can show the Town Council how much community support exists for these ads.

We’ll deliver your petition signature at next week’s Town Council meeting. At the meeting, we’ll also be speaking about U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians and the importance of keeping these ads running.

These ads to end U.S. aid to Israel have sparked an important community conversation around this issue. It’s an important conversation that we need to have. Please keep this conversation going by signing the petition to the Town Council to keep the ads running.

I hope to see you at next Wednesday’s Town Council meeting.


Rev. Mark Davidson
Church of Reconciliation, Chapel Hill

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Were these Billboards to End Aid to Israel Torn Down in L.A.?

As we marked our country’s independence yesterday, we recall the ringing, aspirational words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” that all people “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The long struggle for equality in the United States isn’t over.  As we continue to struggle today for equality here, our country’s $30 billion in military assistance and our invaluable diplomatic support for Israeli occupation and apartheid denies Palestinians that same equality, the very principle on which our country was founded.
A few weeks ago, the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, a member group of the US Campaign, drew attention to how our taxes bankroll Israel’s inequality toward Palestinians. They erected 23 billboards in the Los Angeles area to tell Congress to end aid to Israel. 
Guess what? Almost as soon as the billboards went up, the billboard company—CBS Outdoor—took them down.
Why? Could it have been for the laughable reason that CBS Outdoor provided for breaking the contract, which was that we, along with the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, set up a petition to thank them for running these ads? Doubtful.
Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the Anti-Defamation League didn’t take a shine to the ads? Or, maybe, it was because Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) complained about them in a press release? 
Berman, who seems to have had no more important matter to take care of, such as helping to solve the national economic crisis or ending the war in Afghanistan, was agitated because he “must drive past” the billboards “every morning.” And, as Berman noted, he believes that he was elected to Congress by his constituents “in large part to fight for a stronger U.S.-Israel relationship. This has been, and will continue to be one [of] my top legislative priorities in Congress.”
Really, Rep. Berman? According to our website, your constituents are paying nearly $57 million of their hard-earned tax dollars from 2009 to 2018 to bankroll Israel’s illegal military occupation. We’re betting that you didn’t ask the 20 percent of families with children living below the poverty line in your district whether they sent you to Congress to fund the Israeli military?
Whether Rep. Berman is your Member of Congress or not, we need you to take action this July 4th and stand up for the principle of free speech by signing this petition supporting the message in these censored billboards.
From now until July 9, which is the seventh anniversary of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and corporations that profit from its oppression of Palestinians, help us collect 10,000 signatures to deliver to Rep. Berman letting him know that you support sanctions against Israel, including ending U.S. military aid. 
This is not just another lame internet petition that won’t go anywhere. We deliver our petitions to their intended targets and put effective political pressure on them. Just last week, we organized a delegation to the State Department headed by Sandra Tamari, a Palestinian-American, who was discriminated against both by Israel and the United States when she was recently denied entry at Ben-Gurion airport. 
Together with member groups Jewish Voice for Peace, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, and our friends at the Arab American Institute, we delivered more than 17,000 signaturesto the State Department protesting U.S. and Israeli discriminatory policies.  Check out the video from Palestine Studies TV as Sandra discusses our meeting with the State Department.
We’ve got a creative delivery planned for these petitions to Rep. Berman on July 9, but only if we have enough signatures to really show our strength. Help us reach our goal of 10,000 signatures by signing today, and then forwarding it to all your friends, and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for standing up for free speech, and working to end U.S. aid to Israel! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Protect the Academic Freedom of Prof. Marc Ellis

By Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director

I met Professor Marc Ellis nearly ten years ago when he invited me to speak at a conference he organized at Baylor. As one of the foremost and inspiring contemporary Jewish theologians who is critical of Israel's actions toward the Palestinian people, it is unfortunately not surprising to see that Baylor is now taking steps to force him out.

Having learned of a secret investigation against him that resulted in the cancellation of his courses, Marc writes, "I believe this is a pretext to silence an independent voice at the place for which I have had deep appreciation."

Join Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cornel West, Rosemary Radford Ruether, me, and thousands of others in signing this petition to Baylor University President Kenneth Starr asking him "to honor Dr. Ellis' academic freedom and stop all hostility toward him and any attempt of dismissal."|Start an Online Petition »

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Op-Ed in The Tennessean Calls for Solidarity with Palestinian Activists

The story of Palestinian nonviolent resistance is one that is rarely told in mainstream US media. On Tuesday, Nashville's largest daily newspaper, The Tennessean, published an op-ed, "Two roads to justice meet in Palestine," by Nour Joudah. Joudah's op-ed brings attention to the Palestinian Freedom Riders and gives voice to the struggle of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. She highlights the similarities of Palestinian nonviolent resistance to Israeli apartheid with the stories she heard growing up in Tennessee about African-Americans' nonviolent protests throughout the Jim Crow South. For Joudah, the common theme tying these struggles together is the brave men and women who stand in defiance of gross discrimination and injustice. She ends her piece with a call to action, "To those who stood against injustice in the 1960s and who are proud of that moment in history, the time has come to raise your voices again, to demand justice for Palestinians. The ride to freedom is long and ever-evolving. But it is a ride that knows no geographical boundaries — whether in the Jim Crow South or Occupied Palestine."

Two roads to justice meet in Palestine

I grew up with two stories, two histories and, in many ways, twocountries. From the age of 5 until 21, I roamed, lived in and lovedTennessee’s hills. But, in those same formative years, I lived from newspiece to news piece, following with bated breath the events of my homeland,Occupied Palestine.

I was blessed with historians who raised me with stories of justice. Ourneighbor, Mr. Miller, would tell me stories of a South I never saw: the JimCrow South. He told me of African-Americans attacked by mobs, of segregatedschools and towns, of redlining and, most importantly, of the brave men andwomen who stood in defiance of the gross discrimination of Jim Crow.

I would go home and listen to my father’s lessons on the IsraeliOccupation of Palestine. Lessons filled with settler attacks on Palestinianvillagers, with checkpoints forbidding movement, with roads and land forJews only, and again, most importantly, lessons about the brave men andwomen who continue to stand in defiance of the gross injustice of anillegal and unjust system of discrimination.

It wasn’t long before it became difficult to tell the narratives apart.This week, my histories merged in a new way.

Tuesday, Palestinian Freedom Riders re-enacted the U.S. Civil RightsMovement’s Freedom Rides in the American South by boarding segregatedIsraeli public transportation in the West Bank to travel to Occupied EastJerusalem. By nonviolently challenging the system of segregation andapartheid that governs their lives, Palestinians took a page from thehistory of another rights movement that stood for justice and freedom.

Some in the Israeli Peace Camp or in Washington, advocates of theso-called peace process, will say this is not the way. They will echo thosewho stood on the wrong side of history.

President Barack Obama honored and thanked the Freedom Riders this pastweek for their courage and dedication 50 years ago. In a Cairo speech in2009, he appeared to encourage similar initiatives of Palestiniannonviolence. Obama has an opportunity now to send a powerful message to theworld by voicing strong support for the efforts of Palestinian FreedomRiders.


Monday, November 7, 2011

US Campaign Member Groups Picket for Peace at the Jewish Federation's General Assembly

Earlier this week US Campaign coalition member groups Front Range Jewish Voice for Peace, Sabeel Colorado, CU-Divest! and the Rocky Mountian Peace and Justice Center braved the Denver cold to picket for peace outside the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly (GA). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had originally been slated to speak at the GA, but was forced to cancel due to scheduling conflicts. You may recall that Netanyahu's speech last year before the GA in New Orleans attracted widespread news media attention when activists from the Young Leadership Institute of Jewish Voice for Peace interrupted the speech to protest Israel's occupation, the ongoing siege of Gaza and the silencing of dissent.

In October it was revealed that the JFNA had disqualified Jewish Voice for Peace activist Cecilie Surasky from their "Jewish Community Heroes" contest because of her active support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Speaking to Haaretz last week about Surasky's ban from the contest, JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman defended the decision saying that JFNA "draws a line in the sand for organizations that support boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel" as well as those that "disrespect Israeli leaders," referring to JVP's involvement in disrupting Netanyahu's speech last year.