we-can-defeat-the-lobby-–-ilan-pappe

By Ilan Pappe – The Palestine Chronicle  

The sight of the children buried under the rubble, salvaged by older children, is enough for me and, I am sure, for anyone who was ever silenced by the lobby, not to cave in but to overcome any hurdles they put in our way of speaking truth to power. 

Nine months into the Israeli genocidal assault on the Gaza Strip, it seems that its parallel attack on freedom of speech on Palestine is continuing with intensity, making it difficult for the general public to appreciate the reality in Palestine beyond the manipulated and distorted coverage offered by mainstream media.

It is clear that we are facing a coordinated campaign led by the pro-Israeli lobby and aimed at continuing the historical denial of the ongoing Nakba.

The campaign began with a warning to many journalists and academics in the West not to mention the historical, let alone moral, context to the Hamas assault on Israel on October 7. A warning was even directed at the General Secretary of the United Nations for merely mentioning the historical context. 

Analyzing the unnoticed acts of repression put in place since October 7 is very important because it allows us to raise an important question: is the pro-Israeli lobby still powerful enough to silence free speech on Palestine or has the October 7 events exposed its deficiencies? 

This question prodded me to write a 500-page history of the lobby, as I believe the answer can be best given by providing a historical context, which enables us to appreciate the nature of the lobbying efforts today and predict their future impact. 

Immediately after October 7, not only it was prohibited to mention the context, but also any criticism of the Israeli actions in Gaza was silenced. 

All over the global north, universities ousted students simply for being members of outfits such as Students for Justice in Palestine. They even disinvited academics or authors who dared to criticize Israel. Similar actions were taken against journalists and people in public services, even those who accompanied their criticism with a condemnation of the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023.

In the first wave of suppression, some venues across the United States canceled pre-planned film festivals or annual conferences on human rights. 

It felt like being back in the 1960s when the word ‘Palestine’ in the US was equated with terrorism. This equation, at least in the US, is not valid anymore among the general public, painfully only once the full picture of the horrors of Gaza reached the American television screens. The censorship and suppression, however, are still there.

The assault on freedom of speech on Palestine also appeared in cyberspace. Meta, which runs most of the social media platforms, was and still is active in silencing voices in support of the Palestinians on both Instagram and Facebook. 

The non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch recorded more than 1,000 takedowns of Palestine-related content on these two platforms by the end of 2023. According to the organization, only one of the contents removed could have been considered inappropriate. 

What is even more worrying is the claim by the organization that the suppression of free speech by Meta is systematic and global.

Suppression was also intensified at a legislative level. The American Congress is discussing a bill under the name “anti-Semitism Awareness Act”. There are already bills against antisemitism, so the aim of the new legislation is merely to weaponize antisemitism and remove any criticism of Israel from the categories protected by the First Amendment. 

Unbelievably, according to the new bill, antisemitism can also be defined as accusing someone of double standards over Israel or “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”.

Such legislation was translated into brutal police actions in many parts of the world against pro-Palestinian protests and encampments. This was accompanied by intensive scrutiny of messages, on any platform, of employees in private and public sectors who dared to show solidarity with the Palestinian victims of the genocide in Gaza. 

I do not recall being asked to help, just in Britain alone, with so many different cases of lawyers trying to defend clients who were persecuted for their messages online. Most of these messages stated well-known facts and legitimate emotions of anger, sorrow, and hope. 

As readers may know, my own freedom of speech on Palestine was curtailed in more than one way. 

Here are just a few examples: the French publisher Fayard, bought by a Zionist billionaire in 2023, stopped printing and disseminating my book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

In just another example, I was detained for a couple of hours at the Detroit airport to be interrogated. Additionally, most of my lectures in Germany and the Czech Republic, to mention a few countries, were canceled. Luckily, activists and organizers were good enough to find new venues at the last moment. 

Just recently, I learned that Amazon UK (unlike Amazon US) is doing everything in its power not to sell my book Lobbying for Zionism on Both Sides of the Atlantic, probably because the British e-commerce giant is indeed, under the influence of the lobby the book describes. So far, none of my books on Amazon were treated that way, but here we are now. 

A similar experience to the one I had in the US was faced by Ghassan Abu Sitta, the rector of Glasgow University when he traveled to Germany and the Netherlands. It seems no one is immune to such a treatment, regardless of their academic position or professional reputation. All in the service of a lobby that attempts to prevent us from speaking freely on Palestine in the West. 

Thus, nine months since October 7, the efforts to silence support for the Palestinians in general and those in the Gaza Strip in particular have intensified. 

These efforts are not motivated by moral imperatives and are not articulated as moral arguments. They are exercised through the employment of sheer force of mafia-like intimidation to silence all messengers whose message is disliked by the lobby.

This, however, should not be seen only as a challenge or a setback. The ferocity with which the lobby assaults any attempt to show solidarity with the Palestinians cannot hide its failure to manage the swelling support that is exponentially growing by the day. 

The abundance of Palestinian flags in all the celebrations of the popular front after their amazing success in the French national elections; the growing isolation of the Israeli academia; the rulings of the ICJ and ICC are just a few of many indications that show that it would be impossible to deny Palestine or silence the Palestinians and their solidarity movement. 

The lobby does not have enough resources and capacity to deal with the widespread solidarity. It is indeed the success of the mobilization of so many people on behalf of Palestine that forces the lobby to use its most destructive weapons and tactics. 

As I am writing this piece, I read the news of the fourth Israeli attack on an UNRWA school in Nuseirat, which left sixteen people dead. 

The school hosted refugees from other parts of the Strip who were told that was a safe space. 

The sight of the children buried under the rubble, salvaged by older children, is enough for me and, I am sure, for anyone who was ever silenced by the lobby, not to cave in but to overcome any hurdles they put in our way of speaking truth to power. 

After all, when it comes to the truth, Palestinians have nothing to lose.

– Ilan Pappé is a professor at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, The Modern Middle East, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Ten Myths about Israel. He is the co-editor, with Ramzy Baroud of ‘Our Vision for Liberation.’ Pappé is described as one of Israel’s ‘New Historians’ who, since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel’s creation in 1948. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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