Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech and the Battle for Palestinian Right

May 4, 2019 - 6:30pm
Fine Arts Center, UMass Amherst, USA
Legendary rocker Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, who has emerged as one of the world’s most prominent advocates for Palestinian human rights, will appear at this event for a panel discussion on the accelerating backlash against pro-Palestinian voices. 
The panel, “Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech, and the Battle for Palestinian Human Rights,” will address recent attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar and other progressives who have spoken out against Israel’s 50-year military occupation of Palestinian land and pushed back against the claim that criticizing Israeli government policies is “anti-Semitic.” 

Waters, who has himself been repeatedly vilified as an “anti-Semite” for his criticisms of Israel’s human rights abuses, will be joined on the panel by other activists and journalists who have come under fire and faced death threats for their outspoken criticisms of the occupation. 

They include: Palestinian-American political activist Linda Sarsour, the co-founder of MPower Change and co-chair of the Women’s March, who was recently targeted by a private Israeli intelligence firm as part of a coordinated U.S. campaign to prevent her from speaking out against Israeli policies on American college campuses; Marc Lamont Hill, a professor and political commentator who has visited the West Bank with Black Lives Matter and was fired earlier this year by CNN for remarks he made in support of Palestinian rights; and Nation magazine sports editor and author Dave Zirin, a frequent contributor to MSNBC and ESPN who has been called a “self-hating Jew” for his criticisms of Israeli human rights abuses, his outspoken defense of Ilhan Omar, and his support for NFL players who refused to go on a promotional trip to Israel funded by the Israeli government. 

“The vicious smears these four people have been subjected to are part of a systematic effort to change the subject and deflect attention away from the billions of dollars in financial and military aid the U.S. continues to give Israel despite its ongoing violations of international law and Palestinian human rights,” said Sut Jhally, a professor of Communication at UMass and the Executive Director of the Northampton-based Media Education Foundation (MEF), which is organizing the event. “The good news is that more and more people – Palestinians, African-Americans, young progressive Jews and Christians alike – are staring down these intimidation tactics, refusing to be silenced, and speaking up for Palestinian human rights regardless of the consequences. This panel is clear evidence of that.” 

The panel will be moderated by Vijay Prashad, a journalist and historian who appears regularly on Democracy Now! and the Real News Network and is the author or editor of over 30 books, including Letters to Palestine: Writers Respond to War and Occupation. 

This event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. For more information, visit


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