Widespread efforts to stifle pro-Palestinian sentiments in the United States in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel have led to the abrupt termination of significant conferences, calls for the dismissal of individuals expressing solidarity with Palestinians, and campaigns of intimidation against Arab American voices critical of Israeli policies.
Earlier this week, a prominent U.S. Jewish organization successfully compelled the cancellation of a major national conference organized by a Palestinian advocacy group, alleging it had affiliations with Hamas, which executed an attack from Gaza resulting in the deaths of more than 1,400 Israelis and the abduction of about 200 individuals.
Palestinian American activists contend that television networks have either censored or canceled interviews. Both NPR and the BBC withdrew advertising for a highly regarded new book concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following a series of “listener complaints.”
The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce claimed a “victory” after pressuring Hilton hotels into canceling an event by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, where Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was to be the main speaker. Duvi Honig, the chamber’s founder and CEO, publicly decried the USCPR event as a “conference for Hamas supporters” and labeled Tlaib and other speakers as “notoriously proud Jew-haters.”
Ahmad Abuznaid, director of the USCPR, stated that the Hilton venue was booked months in advance, and Hilton contacted him shortly after the Hamas attack to discuss security. They claimed to have received numerous calls pressuring them to cancel, yet Hilton initially professed neutrality on political matters and sought only to establish a security plan. However, they abruptly canceled the event the following day, citing security concerns.
Abuznaid decried the move as unjust and discriminatory. The chamber of commerce, situated in New York, emphasized the cancellation as an illustration of Jewish community groups uniting against terrorism.
Supporters of the Jewish Voice for Peace staged a protest on the National Mall in Washington DC, echoing concerns over the suppression of Palestinian voices.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott expressed support for the cancellation, asserting that Texas would not host or sponsor the USCPR due to its alleged ties to hate and anti-Semitism.
The chamber has also initiated a campaign to pressure Starbucks into closing stores and dismissing thousands of employees purportedly sympathetic to Hamas, following a union statement expressing “Solidarity with Palestine.” Starbucks contended that it would be illegal to shut down stores in response to the post but agreed to file a lawsuit against the union to prevent its use of the name “Starbucks Workers United” and the company’s logo.
Abuznaid noted that the campaign to pressure Hilton and other companies was not new but had intensified since the Hamas assault. He highlighted that the atmosphere of misinformation and attacks on activists across the U.S. had reached a level not witnessed in recent years.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced the cancellation of its annual banquet in Arlington, Virginia, following bomb threats. CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, cited threats that included planting bombs in the hotel’s parking garage and harming hotel staff. CAIR secured an alternative venue but did not disclose its location.
Palestinian American activists believe that the conference cancellations are part of a broader campaign by staunch supporters of Israel to silence views critical of Israeli policies and their role in perpetuating the conflict. This effort sometimes leverages the extreme rhetoric of certain student and left-wing groups celebrating or excusing the Hamas attacks.
Noura Erakat, a Palestinian American human rights lawyer, detailed her live appearances on CBS and ABC that were subsequently removed from online broadcasts after challenging pro-Israel narratives. She sought to contextualize the Hamas attack within the broader framework of occupation and oppression. Erakat stated that her appearances on MSNBC’s Katy Tur Reports resulted in close scrutiny and allegations of a mistake in bringing her on the show.
In contrast, when the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, appeared on MSNBC, he delivered an unchallenged speech likening discussions of the conflict’s root causes and Israeli policies to support for terrorism. He also compared the Hamas attack to the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and criticized the network for showcasing “the rubble in Gaza” instead of speaking with Israelis who had lost family members.
Erakat expressed frustration, feeling that her appearances were intended to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza without delving into the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She noted that after her critical appearance on CBS News’ Prime Time, it was removed from the online program.
Several Palestinian American analysts have reported similar treatment by television networks, including CNN. Some stated that scheduled appearances were canceled after producers inquired about their intended remarks and did not approve of the responses.
Pro-Israel organizations have also targeted Palestinian American journalists. A right-wing pressure group, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), accused the Palestinian American managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, Sara Yasin, of sympathizing with Hamas and breaching professional ethics. The LA Times staunchly defended Yasin.
CAMERA, largely run by Americans in Boston, has targeted Israeli journalists and others as insufficiently pro-Israel. They have displayed billboards across New York City accusing The New York Times of anti-Israel bias.
Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, Samira Nasr, faced backlash for expressing concern for ordinary Palestinians following the shutdown of essential services to Gaza, which human rights groups regard as a war crime. After criticism, she issued an apology, emphasizing that she was not sympathetic to Hamas.
An Arab American journalist revealed a coordinated campaign to discredit reporters with Arab names as biased, aiming to silence Palestinian and pro-Palestinian voices and constrain discussions of the conflict’s causes.
In Germany, the Frankfurt Book Fair was accused of “shutting down” Palestinian voices after canceling an awards ceremony honoring a novel by Palestinian writer Adania Shibli following the Hamas attack. Over 350 authors, including notable figures, criticized the move.
Jewish American author Nathan Thrall had several events related to his well-received book called off, along with advertising on NPR and the BBC’s American platforms, due to “listener complaints.” Thrall expressed skepticism and argued that a book advocating for Israel would not face similar actions.
The suppression of discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had diminished the space for open discourse in recent years,raising concerns about long-term setbacks to progress.