Free speech means free speech? I don’t think so.
By Laura Stuart
There is a huge war for freedom of speech and expression. This is a serious issue, but how many people, even those who are victims of no-platforming policies or all the way down to those who have had their social media accounts suspended, have actually managed to identify the problem?
This week, I myself, was a victim. Someone hated my words so much that I was summarily ejected from a social media group. Without warning, discussion or any reason given, I was just blocked.
But should I be surprised? After all, we haven’t seen any protests against Government policies to, without warning, trial or any pretence of justice, assassinate British citizens on a “kill list”. Like me, those victims didn’t see it coming.
But that’s fair enough, right? Surely we can believe the Government when it tells us that those are the bad guys who want to take away our freedoms, right? Theresa May is actually the great liberator.
My own sudden demise was as a member of the ironically named “Free Speech on Israel” Facebook group. Having failed to be accepted into the racially exclusive ‘Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods Group’ some years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to be allowed into the “Free Speech on Israel” group, a group consisting not only, but mostly of highly-active anti-Zionist Jews.
As a member of the group, I posted articles onthe huge crackdown on Palestine activism on campus and, since it was a ‘free speech’ on Israel group, I even posted articles (for group discussion), by “the other side” i.e. Jonathan Hoffman, Campaign Against Anti Semitism and other relevant writings by perpetrators of the vicious pushback against Palestine activism. It seemed that as far as posting articles by the enemy, free speech meant free speech.
So l don’t know for sure what my crime was, or who ejected me, but I have a fair idea that it was for posting Gilad’s article on the event in the discussion, but without any comment from myself.
We see again the Atzmon effect! Gilad is like dynamite, blowing open the discussion as he asks questions that are uncomfortable for those who do not wish to self-reflect, revealing the duplicity in much of the discourse. Gilad has been a target for harassment by people on both sides of the I/P divide. In one day last week Gilad was called a Nazi, a fascist, an Islamophobe, an anti semitic provocateur, a holocaust denier and a vile anti semite by one side and an arrogant bigot by the other.
Is it not the truth that no Palestinian voices were heard at LSE? It is true or not that the voices heard were a pro Palestinian Jew, some very rude pro Israel Jews (before they were kicked out) and an ex Jew? Even the ex Jew is apparently not allowed to identify as an ex Jew, told before the talk, by the pro Israel Jews that being Jewish is something you can’t wash out.
How did it happen that the discourse on Palestine has become dominated by Jewish voices? Is it more acceptable for us to listen to non-Palestinians? Are Palestinians allowed to express themselves about how occupation and ethnic cleansing feels for them or would they have to be advised that they might only speak within the limits set by the enemies of free speech? Why should they have to submit to the niceties of acceptable language and not say anything that might be upsetting to others? Clearly this is just another form of occupation.
We claim to be activists for Palestinian freedom, yet we are occupied too. “We are all Palestinians” is a popular chant heard at protests, but how many actually understand that we are, literally a besieged people? Every banner we hold high, every speech we make and every time we post on social media – we are actually writing within parameters imposed upon us. We are afraid to speak out, afraid of expressing ourselves; we have jobs, businesses and families who may be targeted, the threat is very real and such things have actually happened to friends of mine.
Who is it removing our freedoms? Our Government you might say – so who is lobbying, bullying and pressuring our leaders to make rules, even laws as to what we can write and say? Who lobbies our M.P.s and university leaders to have speakers barred from the country or from speaking at events? Who is advising Twitter on what it is acceptable to post? Is it solely pro Israel Jews? No it is not, it is both pro and anti Israel lobbyists, each who want to close the other side down. If you managed to join the dots and come up with the answer that all roads lead back to Israel, you have only spotted 50% of the problem.
In my opinion, Gilad only provokes such violent responses from both sides because he is shining a light onto the real issues and that light is a bit too hot for some. The real problem is an alien culture that whilst demanding the right to impose its hate speech on all of us, constantly lobbies for our voices to be silenced.