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Freedom of expression on Palestine is being suppressed says letter to the Guardian

August 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israel – Cartoon [Cartoon Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Freedom of expression on Palestine is being suppressed in the name of a controversial definition of anti-Semitism, some two dozen signatories have claimed in a letter published by the Guardian.

The letter highlights the recent decision by Tower Hamlets council in London to prevent a fundraising bike ride from using space in one of its parks.

It was subsequently revealed that officials refused to host the charity event for the Big Ride for Palestine because of “fears their criticism of Israel could breach antisemitism guidelines”.

In the letter, the signatories point to the emails published under a freedom of information request, showing that “the council feared that this advocacy for Palestine would violate the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism”.

“This use of the IHRA definition demonstrates the real threat to freedom of expression that it represents, ignoring its protection in our national rights legislation,” the letter states.

“Palestinian groups, eminent lawyers, academic experts on antisemitism, prominent British Jews and bodies such as the Institute for Race Relations previously raised these concerns publicly,” it continues.

READ: UK council’s ban on cycle ride for Palestine proof anti-Semitism definition is about protecting Israel

“The rights of all British citizens to accurately describe, inform and convey the reality of ongoing Palestinian dispossession, and to call for action to resist these illegalities, belongs in the public space. All public bodies have an obligation to protect and defend these rights, to maintain democracy.”

The letter concludes by describing the local authority’s decision as a dramatic demonstration “that freedom of expression on Palestine in this country is now being suppressed”.

“This is exactly what we and many others have repeatedly warned of. This dangerous silencing now underway must stop,” it concludes.

Signatories include Palestine Solidarity Campaign Chair and Director Professor Kamel Hawwash and Ben Jamal respectively, Salma Karmi Ayyoub Barrister and member of British Palestinian Policy Council, Geoffrey Bindman QC, as well as many other academics, human rights advocates and lawyers.