Skip to main content

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Mike Johnson (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Design: Palestine Chronicle)

By Robert Inlakesh

Following a crackdown by the New York Police Department (NYP), resulting in around 100 arrests, the encampment only expanded and began to attract significant attention.

As pro-Palestinian protests escalate throughout college campuses across the United States, so too there been a ramping up of efforts from Israel Lobby affiliates, corporate media and the political establishment, to curtail freedom of expression at academic institutions.

On April 17, students from Columbia University set up tents in the communal area of their campus, refusing to leave until their academic institution divest from companies affiliated with Israel. 

Following a crackdown by the New York Police Department (NYP), resulting in around 100 arrests, the encampment only expanded and began to attract significant attention on both broadcast and social media.

It wasn’t long before other Ivy League colleges throughout the US would join in and form their own encampments/protest movements. 

As the riot and anti-terrorism police, along with State Troopers and even the National Guard being called upon to disperse the protests, the corporate media lit up with stories of alleged “anti-semitism on campus”. 

This was then re-enforced by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who released a video in which he directly called for the US authorities to end the university protests, which he predictably labeled “anti-Semitic”. 

Following Netanyahu’s comments, the speaker of the US House of Congress, Mike Johnson, took to delivering a speech at Columbia University, in which he not only called the protesters anti-Semitic and sought to legitimize combating their first amendment rights, but also made up allegations that Hamas had raped and beheaded babies on October 7.

In the Orwellian double-speak tradition, professors at the Columbia University have also been targeted by what they call “deliberate misrepresentations” and outright smear campaigns, undermining their right to free speech.

Specifically at Columbia University, professors Mohamed Abdou, Katherine Franke and renowned scholar Joseph Massad, have been subjected to pressure campaigns which have included distortions of their views and even outright lies about them, with petitions and corporate media articles written in attempts to have them fired from their positions.

According to the American Association of University Professors, what is currently happening in the world of academia is “a new strain of McCarthyism in the US.”

 Some other professors who have endured smear campaigns includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Rula Abisaab (McGill), Khaled Abou El Fadl (UCLA), As’ad AbuKhalil (California State), Sahar Aziz (Rutgers University), Hatem Bazian (UC Berkeley), John Cheney-Lippold (University of Michigan), Juan Cole (University of Michigan), Lawrence Davidson (West Chester University), Noura Erakat (Rutgers University), John Esposito (Georgetown), Wa’el Hallaq (Columbia University), Henni Samia (Cornell University), Ibrahim Kalin (Georgetown University), Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University), Dina Khoury (George Washington University), Rebecca Lopez, (University of Arizona), Mohammad Mahallati (Oberlin’s College), Lynn Mahoney (San Francisco State University), Ussama Makdisi (UC Berkeley), Jasbir Puar (Rutgers), Rebecca Zapien (University of Arizona).

Students on college campuses, who are currently bravely standing up to their own institutes, have for years been subjected to pro-Israeli groups that have placed them on blacklists with the intent to ruin their careers. Pro-Palestinian students on campus are frequently incorrectly labelled anti-semites, this includes Jewish students, while the students from Muslim and/or Arab backgrounds are often labelled as supporters of terrorism.

During a recent interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show, the Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was quoted as having said that “Iran has their military proxies like Hezbollah, and Iran has their campus proxies like these groups like SJP and JVP,” when commenting on the ongoing protests across the US.

In response to this, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called upon MSNBC to ban Greenblatt. 

CAIR Deputy Executive Director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, stated that “Mr. Greenblatt’s increasingly unhinged and outrageous comments must be condemned, and MSNBC should no longer give him a platform to peddle his hate speech.”

“Falsely claiming that Jewish and Palestinian student organizations are literal proxies of the Iranian government is a dangerous and defamatory slander that has no place on MSNBC or any other television network,”  Mitchell also added.

A hostile environment already exists for free speech, on campus, when it comes to voicing criticism of Israeli government policy. With the development of the student protest movement, the efforts to stifle free speech at academic institutions are intensifying and endanger the very future of these institutions.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. He focuses on the Middle East, specializing in Palestine. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

Leave a Reply