2016 Year-in-Review: Suppression of Palestine Advocacy

Palestine Legal responded to 258 incidents in 2016

When Fordham University banned a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in December 2016, student Ahmad Awad, explained the impact on his education:

“My own university told me I can’t share my culture and history like other students because I’m Palestinian who believes in Palestinian freedom.” After delaying the students’ application for over a year, Fordham rejected the group, arguing SJP is too “polarizing” to tolerate on campus.

“I just graduated last month, so I’ll never have that chance,” Ahmad said. Ahmad’s maternal grandfather was a Polish survivor of Nazi labor camps, and his paternal grandparents were born in Palestine before 1948.

Censorship at Fordham epitomizes the intensifying measures to silence advocacy for Palestinian rights across the U.S.

 Brooklyn College students cleared after disciplinary hearing

Brooklyn College students cleared after disciplinary hearing

Palestine Legal responded to 258 incidents of suppression in 2016, and a total of 650 incidents over three years. A report summarizing Palestine Legal’s data, 2016 Year-In-Review, illustrates the ongoing suppression playing out on 74 university campuses, in addition to grassroots communities.

Elected officials – Republicans and Democrats alike – also targeted activism for Palestinian rights in 2016 by introducing 38 legislative measures focused on punishing support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Seventeen of these bills became law in 2016. At least ten new measures have already been introduced in the first 26 days of 2017.

Incidents tallied in 2016 include blatant censorship at University of California (UC), Berkeley, baseless lawsuits against the American Studies Association, and disciplinary actions to punish protected speech at Saint Louis University, and elsewhere.

“Alternative facts,” or false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism against critics of Israeli policies dominated the majority of cases in 2016. These charges were, however, consistently refuted after lengthy investigations – for example, at UC Irvine, San Francisco State University and City University of New York – found allegations to be unsubstantiated.

Palestine Legal expects the trends in suppression to intensify in 2017, with an administration openly hostile to the First Amendment and to Palestinian rights. Meanwhile, Israel advocacy organizations continue to invest tens of millions of dollars in heavy-handed tactics to thwart student activists.

“As Trump carries out his promises to curtail civil and constitutional rights, we have an exceptional responsibility to make sure that dissent is protected,” said Palestine Legal director Dima Khalidi. “Now is the time for people who believe in a free and democratic society to stand up and ensure that all of us, especially the most vulnerable, can exercise our rights, without exception.”

Palestine Legal is an organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of people in the U.S. who speak out for Palestinian freedom.

Read the full report, 2016 Year-In-Review, here.