Palestine Legal, along with 13 national civil rights and social justice groups, wrote to 280 U.S. universities this week to demand that they take forceful action to protect free speech in response to targeted harassment by right-wing Israel advocacy groups.
The letter describes the climate of suppression targeting students and faculty who are vocal supporters of Palestinian rights. Defamatory harassment and cyberbullying campaigns by extremist pro-Israel groups like Canary Mission and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, among dozens of others, are escalating.
The letter attaches a report by Palestine Legal which documents the increasingly punitive measures used to intimidate and chill the free speech of those who advocate for Palestinian rights on campus.
The letter states:
Allowing outside actors to chill campus speech undermines the very purpose of our universities: to encourage critical thought, free from the constraints of political orthodoxies. You have an essential role to prevent the erosion of free speech in our universities.
At a time of heightened attacks on communities of color, supporters of Palestinian rights are especially susceptible targets of the Trump administration’s anti-Muslim, anti-civil rights, anti-immigrant and anti-free speech agenda. In February, a UCLA student was visited by the FBI and questioned about her support for Palestinian rights. Palestine Legal has recently responded to other similar incidents that illustrate the severe consequences that defamatory campaigns can have on individual activists.
The letter asks administrators to stand resolutely against attacks on students and faculty advocating for human rights, including by issuing a public condemnation of defamatory blacklisting tactics, reaffirming students’ free speech rights to advocate for Palestinian freedom, and other proactive measures.
The Middle Eastern Studies Association is also calling on universities to condemn Canary Mission and support students and faculty in resisting its intimidation tactics.
Read the entire letter here.