CamdenNewJournal

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To be consistent with Camden’s anti-racist policies, freedom of speech on Palestine should be maintained

21 April, 2017

• CAMDEN Abu Dis Friendship Association is a charity working for human rights and respect for international humanitarian law in Palestine.

We have been building a link between Camden and Abu Dis in Palestine since 2003 and now work with local schools, youth clubs, community centres, organise EU-funded youth exchanges with Palestine, run events with music, dance and talks about people’s experiences in Palestine.

We are proud to be inclusive and anti-racist and we work in a calm and honest way with respect for people across the community.

We were shocked in March when Kentish Town Community Centre cancelled the booking for our International Women’s Day event at two days’ notice.

Someone had raised a concern about our speaker – Baroness Jenny Tonge, a respected member of the House of Lords. KTCC decided to stop the booking whether or not Baroness Tonge attended, despite knowing us well and the fact that we had been organising the event for some weeks.

We were very upset and are taking this up with them separately.

The issue is wider however. Across Britain, many events relating to Palestine have recently been cancelled in a similar way following unfair allegations. Pressure is being levelled at decent organisations in order to stop debate about Israel’s activities.

Venues are being alerted to a new definition of anti-Semitism which Theresa May has promoted, and which we hope Camden Council will not adopt.

If anti-Semitism is about racism, we stand firmly against it; but we have to reject the term being used in a political way. Human rights are enshrined in international law; actions of Israel such as building settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law and have been condemned by our own government; people must be allowed to say this.

If Israel is enforcing apartheid, oppressing people and breaking international law, what decent people should do is call for a change.

Camden as a borough has a proud history of standing against discrimination locally and internationally. Camden housed the HQ of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and renamed a street after Nelson Mandela.

Now, as Bishop Desmond Tutu and many other respectable commentators have said, the raw ethnic discrimination that is practised by the Israeli occupation authorities in Palestine can very seriously be compared to apartheid.

Your readers are invited to join one of our visits to Palestine to see the situation. To be consistent with Camden’s anti-racist policies, freedom of speech on Palestine should be maintained, and a solution sought that is consistent with human rights.

We call on Camden Council not to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism but to defend people’s right to free speech as well as support the struggle for equal rights.

Freedom of speech is rightly limited in the case of hate speech but it is very important in the battle against racism and discrimination. Speaking the truth is one of the ways in which the battle for equal rights will be won.

NANDITA DOWSON
Director, CADFA
PO Box 74047 NW5 9HH

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