‘UK curbing academic free speech on Israel’
The British government is helping universities across the UK suppress the right to criticize Israel over its human rights violations in Palestine, says a Jewish professor, vowing to never give in to the pressure.
“They are trying to stop us talking about Palestinian rights, and about peace and we will just not shut up,” Dr. Haim Bresheeth, a Jewish academic and filmmaker, told Press TV on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately the government has helped the universities that want to shut up free speech by accepting a definition of anti-Semitism that makes anti-Semitism any criticism of Israel,” he added.
The scholar was referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s definition that was adopted by the government of Prime Minister Theresa May last year.
It was based on IHRA’s definition that the University of Exeter and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) cancelled an annual pro-Palestinian event on Monday, which was aimed at raising awareness about human rights violations in the occupied territories.
Following the move, some 250 academics at dozens of universities across the UK penned an open letter, condemning the Tory government’s attempts to curb their right to free speech by banning criticism of Israel.
The professors said in their letter that the government’s definition of anti-Semitism is too broad and can include any criticism of Israel with regards to its occupation of Palestinian lands.
“The government has ‘adopted’ the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which can be and is being read as extending to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism,” read the letter, sent to the Guardian.
“This definition seeks to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism,” the academics charged, accusing universities minister Jo Johnson of asking for the definition to be “disseminated” throughout the higher education system.
In his interview with Press TV, Bersheeth said the definition sought to protect “Zionism and Israel” from criticism.
“You can criticize and you should criticize every political institution that you wish,” he argued. “We are told now that Jews who criticize Israel like me are anti-Semitic. This is nonsense.”