Don’t shut down Debate! Don’t Abruptly Switch off the Microphone!
Survivors, Panelists and Participants in Sabra and Shatila
9/16/2020 Open Classroom Webinar Speak Out!
Zoom must reverse Censorship and Respect Free Speech!
San Francisco State University must commit to Academic Freedom in Words and Deeds!
We, the undersigned, are astonished and appalled by the abrupt cancellation by Zoom, Facebook and YouTube of Open classroom webinar, "Whose Narrative? Gender, Justice and Resistance," co-organized by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, director and senior scholar of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies and Professor Tomomi Kinukawa, lecturer in Women's and Gender Studies Department at San Francisco State University and supported by Jewish Voices for Peace, and several other community groups on 23 September 2020.
We are fully aware of the political pressures placed on the media giants and the university objecting to one of the invited speakers, Ms Leila Khaled, who was imprisoned for her role in the TWA Flight 840 hijacking in 1969, and one of the four simultaneous Dawson's Field hijackings the following year.
Upon release, Ms Khaled has continued her political activism for Palestine, and has become a stateswoman as a member of the Palestine National Council, the Palestinian Parliament in Exile. She has also written, taught and travelled extensively. She lectured and spoke in Europe and the rest of the world, including addressing the European Union in Brussels and the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, and participating regularly at the World Social Forum, considered the embodiment of international civil society. Leila Khaled is an icon of feminism and liberation. As such, she participated in several UN Women conferences including in Copenhagen, and countless interviews.
She has never killed anyone - not even in the hijackings. Her request was that the pilot should fly the plane over Haifa, for her to see the place where she was born and to which she was never allowed to return since she and her family were displaced along, with almost 750,000 Palestinians. As a refugee, she wanted so much to see her ancestral home.
As for hijacking, Dr Swee Ang, a signatory to this letter, was on board the Freedom Flotilla, al-Awda, loaded with medical supplies for Gaza, when it was hijacked by the Israeli Navy in international waters on 29 July 2018. The second Flotilla Freedom was similarly hijacked three days later in international waters. All members on board including the doctor were taken prisoners, while the boat and medical supplies and personal belongings were robbed by the Israeli Navy. None of the Israelis responsible for this illegal action were ever brought to justice.
We recall that it was the suppression of the voices of the uprooted and displaced Palestinians that led Palestinians including Leila Khaled to such a drastic action of hijacking planes in 1969 to bring to the world attention the injustices her people suffered and continue to be suffering today. Neither Zoom nor SFSU must be allowed to block the voices of people suffering gross injustices from being heard. Shutting down free speech is a crime against justice.
It is a sad state of affairs that Zoom has so much power and that it was allowed by the university to silence the voice of Ms Khaled along with the other invited featured panelists in the same open classroom webinar. Her co-panelists, including two Jews, are courageous people who have suffered prolonged imprisonment for standing up for their beliefs. We learned from this act of censorship that we truly do not have freedom of speech; and how easily voices can be silenced if we do not speak up. We did not imagine that we would see the day when commercial social media corporations would summarily silence people of such stature and commitment, despite the claims of Zoom, Facebook and YouTube to uphold freedom of speech. Likewise, we never expected the university to go along with this silencing of Palestine. Unfortunately these violations of freedom of speech and academic freedom were in full view of the public!
We, the undersigned are survivors, panelists and participants in another webinar the previous week, 16 September 2020, co-organized by AMED Studies and the General Union of Palestinian Students to memorialise the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, thirty eight years later. The webinar was broadcast by Zoom and several media including Facebook.
We demand that Zoom reverse its censorship of the webinar as soon as possible so as not to rob people from all over the world from hearing from the voices of these icons of liberation and struggle for justice, freedom and equality. Those who object to what is being said, including the executives of the social media giants and the university administrators, can easily join and make their views known, instead of shutting down debate by abruptly switching off the microphone.
• Dr (Professor) Rabab Abdulhadi, Director and Senior Scholar, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, San Francisco State University.
• Dr (Professor) Tomomi Kinukawa, Faculty lecturer in Women's and Gender Studies Department at San Francisco State University.
• Ellen Siegel, American Jewish Nurse, life-long peace activist, survivor of the Sabra and Shatilla Massacre. Recipient of the Rachel Corrie Award. Witness to the Israeli Kahan Commission 1982.
• Dr (Professor) Zulaiha Ismail, Perdana Global Peace Foundation and KL Commission to Criminalise Wars
• Dr Rosemary Sayigh, oral historian and anthropologist, author, and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Arab and Middle East Studies, at the American University of Beirut.
• Nohad Hammad, former director of Association Najda, became a refugee whose family fled to Lebanon in 1948, after her own family survived the Zionist massacre of over 150 Palestinians at the Safsaf village. Nohad is a survivor of the Sabra Shatilla massacre in 1982.
• Jaber Suleiman, Consultant and Researcher in Refugee Studies and co-ordinator for the Founding Committee to support the Case of the Sabra & Shatilla Massacres in the Belgian Courts (2001-2004)
• Dr. Lilliane Ghanem, professor of anthropology at the Sorbonne University, editor-in-chief, Political Ecology; President, "Friends of Ecology in the Arab World"; and founder of Palestine Solidarity Association in France. Participant and organiser of Brussels Courts and other international courts to try war crimes, crimes against humanity and ecocide.
• Saliem Shehadeh, PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Research Associate in the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies at San Francisco State University.
• Dr Swee Ang. survivor of the Sabra Shatilla massacre 1982, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, former consultant with the United Nations and the World Health Organization, author of From Beirut to Jerusalem - A Woman Surgeon with the Palestinians. Witness to the Israeli Kahan Commission 1982.
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