2016: Ten Ways Palestine Legal Changed the Narrative on Palestine Advocacy

This year, Palestine Legal influenced the way the media reported on advocacy for Palestinian rights in the U.S.  Here are some examples.

10) Impacted coverage of Palestine activism with the Palestine Exception report. More than a year after its release, our report “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the U.S. remains an important and frequently cited resource for reporters covering the suppression of Palestine advocacy in the U.S. The report continues to be cited in outlets including the Forward, Slate, Inside Higher Ed, and more.


9) Exposed the imbalance of power. We showed the skewed power dynamics in campus Israel-Palestine debate, highlighting the multi-million-dollar suppression effort to shut down the growing movement for Palestinian human rights.


8) Showed that Brooklyn College students were targeted for investigation because of their Palestine activism. The Nation, The Forward and Politico quoted Staff Attorney Radhika Sainath on the politically motivated disciplinary process against Students for Justice (SJP) in Palestine members. Sainath represented the students in an investigation launched in response to complaints, which were found to be unsubstantiated.


7) Defeated the Zionist Organization of America’s attempt to ban SJP from all 23 City University of New York campuses. Radhika Sainath was quoted in the Wall Street Journal, saying that the ZOA allegation “conflates political speech criticizing Israeli policy with genuine anti-Semitism,” and inaccurately pinned “some instances of real anti-Semitism” on Palestinian activists. Sainath also testified to CUNY-commissioned independent investigators, who found that the “tendency to blame SJP...is a mistake” and that calls for boycott and divestment “should not be tarred as anti-Semitic.”


6) Got quoted twice in the New York Times on the trend of campus censorship of Palestine advocacy. Linda K. Wertheimer’s story “Students and the Middle-East Conflict” gave voice to SJP students in their struggle for justice and quoted Staff Attorney Liz Jackson criticizing efforts to suppress their speech activities: “‘It is not the place of the president, the chancellor or the former chancellor to tsk-tsk the students because they don’t like the style of debate,’ said Liz Jackson, a lawyer with Palestine Legal.” A March article on the UC Regents’ statement on anti-Zionism quoted Director Dima Khalidi explaining the motivations of Israel advocacy groups that promoted the statement:“It’s very clear that they have as a goal a restriction of political speech criticizing Israel and its policies,” she said. 

5) Educated about the right to boycott in response to legislative attacks on BDS activities. Staff Attorney Rahul Saksena was quoted in a number of articles about legislative efforts to suppress Palestine advocacy saying, The right to speak out and to engage in robust debate about important political issues — including through boycotts — is a cornerstone of democracy and is enshrined in our Constitution. Radhika Sainath testified in opposition to an anti-BDS resolution at a New York City Council hearing.

4) Beat back a blatant attempt to censor Palestine in academia. Advocating in the media and to the university, we helped to reinstate Paul Hadweh’s course on Palestine at UC Berkeley after Israel advocacy organizations pressured the university to suspend it.


3) Shaped the media’s framing of Gov. Cuomo’s blacklist as McCarthyist and unconstitutional. We were quoted in a number of articles explaining the unconstitutional and chilling nature of the blacklist. We placed two Op-Eds in The Nation opposing the blacklist. Dima Khalidi wrote, “Governors have significant authority in issuing executive orders, and in many situations, they do so to circumvent legislative roadblocks. But executive orders cannot wish away the Constitution.”


2)  Exposed the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” as an unconstitutional attack on our First Amendment right to criticize Israel. Liz Jackson wrote an Op-Ed opposing the bill in the Los Angeles Times, and the next day they editorialized against it. Jackson also gave a Facebook live briefing on the bill with Jewish Voice for Peace, reaching over 12,000 viewers. Other media coverage echoed our criticism of the bill.


1) With over 150 media mentions in dozens of outlets in 2016, we have made it possible for the media to recognize the suppression of advocacy for Palestinian rights as “the greatest threat to free speech in the west.”


You can expand our reach in 2017 by following us on Twitter, Liking our Facebook page, and sharing our stories!

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