The Indiana University (IU) branch of an Israel lobby group attempted to censor a November 7 talk about Palestinian rights delivered by Jamil Dakwar, a prominent international human rights lawyer and director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program.
In an email sent to the professor who organized the talk, an Indiana Israel Public Affairs Committee (IIPAC) representative noted Dakwar’s history of supporting boycotts for Palestinian rights and warned that Dakwar’s lecture must not advocate for boycotts or “demonize, attempt to delegitimize or apply double standards to the State of Israel.”
Outlining local and nationwide efforts to discourage people from joining the global movement demanding equal rights for Palestinians through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), the email stated that the “movement has been deemed antisemitic by the State of Indiana, The State Department, [Indiana University Student Association] IUSA, the ADL, and the Jewish community. According to the attached Anti BDS resolution passed by IUSA, no Indiana University sponsored event can advocate for BDS.”
Pro-Israel students on campus also pushed for a student government resolution (attached to the email sent to Dakwar) to publicly condemn Dakwar’s lecture citing his support for BDS. J-Street of IU and other groups objected to the resolution. It was ultimately vetoed by the president of the student government, who stated in an email to the Indiana Daily Student:
"I do not believe it is in the purpose of IU Student Government to condemn academic discussions that promote free speech, encourage the voice of underrepresented students and allow for opportunities to learn about a different world view.”
IIPAC is affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has a history of censoring criticism of Israel, including by advocating for legislation that criminalizes boycotts of Israel.
Dakwar’s lecture, delivered in his personal capacity and not representing the views of the ACLU, went ahead as scheduled. In it, he described the different forms of oppression, institutional discrimination and racism practiced against Palestinian communities living under Israeli control, drawing on his personal experience as a Palestinian citizen of Israel and as a founding lawyer of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. He also shared detailed analysis of the current and systematic Israeli human rights violations observed as part of a recent Center for Constitutional Rights delegation he co-led to Israel and the occupied West Bank with participation from Black, Latinx and indigenous lawyers and advocates.
After the lecture, Dakwar reflected on the censorship of speech about Palestine in a Facebook post:
“Silencing Israel's critics and intimidating advocates for Palestinian human rights represent serious assault on free speech and academic freedom and shouldn't be tolerated on U.S. college campuses. I strongly reject the attempt to label me as anti-Semitic merely for defending my humanity and for advocating for the fundamental and equal rights of the Palestinian people.
The attempt to redefine anti-Semitism to encompass criticism of Israel or Zionism is very troubling and must be resisted. It diverts attention from real and dangerous hatred towards Jews including increased hate crimes committed by white nationalists who feel emboldened by Trump and his racist policies.
I will never apologize and will not be intimidated or silenced for my human rights advocacy and principled position against all forms of racism including anti-Semitism.”