Dismantling a Socialist Project in Deception
In all honesty, one should probably know better – know much better – than to expect cogent argument from a publication like the Socialist Project.
But when considering a recent essay published on their website decrying what they consider to be the relentless oppression of the “Palestine Solidarity Movement”, only one response really comes to mind: oh, brother.
You see, it apparently isn’t enough for the “Palestine Solidarity Network” to stand up on behalf of what they considered to be an oppressed people. Apparently, they themselves have to be oppressed, even if they themselves actually tend to be the most relentless censors.
The essay, penned by Mary-Jo Nadeau and Alan Sears, starts out with the narrowest sliver of merit, and quickly degenerates into a disingenuous effort to conflate legitimate criticism into oppressive censorship.
Nadeau and Sears kick off the essay by complaining about a very recent effort to ban “Israeli Apartheid Week” entirely from the campus of McMaster University. This happened in 2008. They also point to efforts to shut down a 2009 conference at York University entitled “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”.
Indeed, academic freedom does demand that the “Palestine Solidarity Movement” be allowed to hold their Israeli Apartheid Week, even if the very name of the event is incredibly dishonest. Likewise, if the “Palestine Solidarity Movement” wishes to hold a conference discussing “paths to peace”, they should be free to knock themselves out doing it, even if they all-too-frequently show zero interest in genuine peace.
Moving beyond this, the authors of the essay have actually chosen to distort legitimate criticisms of the “Palestine Solidarity Movement”, and the political activities of its adherents, as oppressively censorious.
Among the complaints levied by Sears and Nadeau are objections to George Galloway speaking at the campus of York University, the Ontario Legislature passing motions condemning Israeli Apartheid Week, and the criticisms of Jennifer Peto’s Master’s thesis.
The authors go on to peddle a bizarre thesis that a neoliberal agenda is to blame for this censorship – some it actual censorship, and some of it falsely alleged by Nadeau and Sears. They note that radical student groups won important battles for academic freedom in the 1960s, when they faced off against technocratic university administrators to expand available space for political expression on campus.
Again, Sears and Neveau offer a sliver of truth. What they decline to mention is that, after establishing such important academic freedoms, many of these student radicals graduated into the upper echelons of academia and made an important caveat crystal clear: they had won these freedoms, but they were reserving them strictly for themselves.
As Alan Boroboy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Union points out, these radicals used a growing society preference for equality to eventually promote a very deep inequality in civil liberties.
“In the 1950s, it was the left – liberals, social democrats, and other equality-seekers – that bore the brunt of the battle against McCarthyite threats to free speech,” Borovoy wrote. “In the 1980s and ‘90s, many members of these constituencies were seeking to limit free speech. This irony is further compounded by the extent to which the current advocates of censorship are the beneficiaries of the very freedom they would curb.”
The radical left struggled hard amidst utilitarianism, preference for the establishment, and red scares to win the freedom to voice their political opinions. Now, it’s their political adversaries who have had their freedoms of expression diminished.
In recent memory in Canada, it’s become clear that it’s conservatives, not the far-left denizens of the “Palestinian Solidarity Movement” that are the targets of censorship.
In November of 2010 – just last year – journalist Christie Blatchford was scheduled to give a speech at the University of Waterloo. The speech never took place, as a small group of protesters seized the stage, sat back-to-back, and wrapped bike locks around their necks. Neither campus security nor Waterloo police felt confident they could remove the protesters without seriously harming them. In the end, Blatchford’s speech had to be cancelled.
In 2009, the Canadian Union of Public Employees attempted to organize a boycott of Israeli academics who refused to condemn Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. CUPE President Sid Ryan would later claim that the boycott was actually intended to target institutional arrangements between Israeli universities and Canadian universities.
Most famously, protesters at the University of Ottawa were successful in shutting down a speech by US conservative firebrand Ann Coulter. While the far left has remained steadfast in their claims that speech organizers cancelled the speech of their own volition, they choose to omit the detail that one of the protesters stormed the lecture hall and pulled a fire alarm. Even more outrageously, University of Ottawa Provost Francois Houle had written Coulter a letter suggesting she could face criminal charges if her comments were judged too inflammatory.
This is among a plethora of suppression of anti-abortion groups, as well as attempted inquisitions under university speech codes all across Canada.
All of this done in the name of “equality”. As it pertains to Israeli Apartheid week the matter is no different. The alleged antagonisms between liberty – including freedom of expression – and equality deeply matter.
In adopting the phrase “Israeli apartheid”, the “Palestine Solidarity Movement” not only appropriates the language of egalitarianism, but they also deeply pervert it.
After all, what the “Palestine Solidarity Movement” describes as “Israeli apartheid” in no way resembles actual apartheid. In South Africa, blacks were not permitted to participate in politics at all. While in 2009 the Israeli Knesset attempted to ban Arab political parties from participating in future elections, that ban lasted only 14 days.
Moreover, while black South Africans were subjected to the merciless rule of a government of white Afrikaaners, Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank – separated from Israel by what the “Palestine Solidarity Movement” deems the “apartheid wall” – actually have their own parliamentary government. The notion of the “apartheid wall” is itself a farce – it separates two separate political jurisdictions, if not yet two separate countries.
In fact, much of the destitution suffered by Palestinians is not the result of Israeli actions, but rather the result of their own government. There’s something about a Palestinian Authority that seems more interested in launching rockets at Israeli civilian settlements than in paying doctors.
It’s worth reiterating that the real source of Palestinian inequality – the inequality of Palestinian women, and of Palestinian homosexuals – is caused by Hamas itself.
But you will hear nary a criticism of Hamas and its brutalization of Palestinians during Israeli Apartheid Week. It’s ironic to think that a movement that relies on the predominance of the language of egalitarianism would be so interested in those inequalities.
What Sears and Nadeau decline to mention is that in university speech codes, the far-left – among them the “Palestine Solidarity Movement” that far too often refuses to show solidarity against the greatest oppressor of Palestinians – has given themselves the perfect tool to silence their opponents. They’ve already used them to attempt to silence their adversaries in other areas, and if they think that anyone believes it’s not just a matter of time before they use it against their pro-Israel adversaries, then they must think that no one is paying attention.
Mary-Jo Nadeau's and Alan Sears' Alinskyite screed would merely be insulting if it wasn't so incredibly disingenous. On Canada's University campuses, the far left isn't the censoree, it's the censor.
Patrick Ross is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist