North Texas Daily

Censoring Palestinian activists is unconstitutional

Censoring Palestinian activists is unconstitutional

Censoring Palestinian activists is unconstitutional
June 23
12:00 2022

Pro-Palestinian activists and advocacy groups in America have suffered unnecessarily cruel consequences for condemning the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank. As pro-Palestinian sentiment in the United States grows, many are threatened not only with online harassment but by legal action from state governments, including Texas. 

Activists should not fear censorship for reprimanding human rights violations. For a state government to participate in blatant censorship violates the First Amendment. If this continues, it could set a dangerous precedent for anyone whose views don’t align with those of their state’s politicians, and there have already been rulings declaring certain laws unconstitutional. 

Lawmakers in Texas signed the controversial House Bill 793 in 2019, stating that any large business making contracts with the state of Texas worth $100,000 or more has to declare they will not boycott Israeli products during the contract period. The bill was initially signed in 2017 but had no monetary exceptions.

It wasn’t until a federal judge ruled that the law violated the Constitution that lawmakers narrowed the law to apply to only bigger companies. Twenty-six other states have passed laws to deter boycotting Israeli products as well.

Speaking out against the occupation of the Palestinian Territories is no easy task, especially since social media giants have allegedly limited the reach of posts advocating for Palestinian rights, according to the Washington Post.

Supermodel Bella Hadid, of Palestinian and Dutch descent, claimed Instagram prevented her from posting on her story after speaking out on an Israeli Defense Force raid. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Hadid explained that she had a million less viewers than usual when she posted about the Palestinian cause.

Online suppression of pro-Palestinian sentiment isn’t limited to forcibly decreased viewership on social media platforms. The activists fall victim to privacy violations. Websites like Canary Mission dedicate themselves to documenting “people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews,” according to their website.

Canary Mission includes detailed profiles of anti-Zionist organizations such as Jewish Voices for Peace and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), as well as profiles of college professors and students who have tweeted out anti-Zionist messages, including their names, photos, organizations and jobs. 

Proponents of Canary Mission and government censorship of anti-Israeli government sentiment argue that all hateful speech, including antisemitism, should be monitored and censored. To Canary Mission, anti-Zionism is a terrorist endeavor and is equivalent to being a supporter of militant groups like Hamas. There is this idea that anyone that opposes the actions of the Israeli government is inherently antisemitic and that organizations like BDS are hostile to Jewish people. 

There’s no denying that individuals and organizations oppose Israel because they don’t like Jewish people regardless of nationality, and identify as anti-Zionists. Of course, we must condemn antisemitism all over the world.

Being against the illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories and the countless human rights violations that the government carries out in Gaza and the West Bank is just being against settler colonialism. Organizations like BDS are not against the existence of a Jewish homeland but the displacement and violence committed against Palestinian civilians.

What about Palestinians? Don’t they deserve to stay in the homes their ancestors built?

It is the condemnation of government oppression of indigenous people and nothing more. Just as the Anti-Apartheid Movement opposed South African colonialism through economic sanctions and boycotting, BDS puts financial pressure on Israel to recognize Palestinians’ rights and prevent further discrimination. 

By boycotting products from Israel, protestors are refraining from products that benefit from actively removing Palestinians from their homes. BDS is putting financial pressure on Israel to recognize Palestinians’ rights and prevent further discrimination.

The fight against colonialism is brutal, but we must protect the freedom to protest. Often, it’s the only voice we have.

Featured Illustration by Cuinn Cornwell

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Hana Musa

Hana Musa

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