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A New Wave of Censorship and Repression

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

18 April 2024

German police shut Pro-Palestinian conference.

There is no doubt that the ghost of Joseph McCarthy wanders the earth through many a hallowed university hall, newspaper editorial room, police headquarters around the world and of course the cabinets of many western governments.

Censorship when it raises its ugly head, does so in a similar fashion to its past incarnations, though with new twists and turns that perhaps take us by surprise.  However, it should come as no surprise to see that voices on Palestine are being shut down, though the recent German police assault on an international conference in Berlin was a major escalation in government attempts to criminalise those critical of the genocidal regime that holds sway in Tel Aviv and the white supremacist philosophy that is Zionism.(1)

Various issues are thrown into the mix.  Palestine and Palestinian demands are presented as hate speech by governments and right-wing media, but so too is any defence of women’s spaces, though in this latter case the right-wing governments find some support from sectors of the Left who think that when they argue for censorship and the suppression of freedom of speech that somehow it will never be applied to them.

The German police stormed the three-day event as the first speaker was addressing it.  They claimed they did so to prevent antisemitic statements being made i.e. not only are we in McCarthyite land of criminalising certain ideas by labelling them as antisemitic but we are in the land of Minority Report(2) where thought crimes can be punished in advance, before they have been committed.  This is not that far removed at all from the Irish Hate Speech Bill that some on the Left have given support to, as the Police may inspect computers and phones and you may be charged with possession of material that may be used to commit hate speech.  It was laughable and ironic that one of the photos of the police intervention of the Berlin event was the arrest of a young Jewish man, wearing a Kippa, who was there in solidarity with Palestinians.  Following the event a number of Jews were charged with antisemitism.

Not only that but some of the speakers were banned from entering the country, amongst them Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah who was an eyewitness to what was happening in Gaza and is also the Rector of the University of Glasgow.  The former Greek politician Yanis Varoufakis was also banned from entering Germany and both were warned that they could not participate even by Zoom from another jurisdiction, an unlawful extension of German jurisdiction and a suspension of the free movement of European citizens within the EU.

This is part of a wider criminalisation of protest and the criminalisation of thought. Though some on the Left in Ireland such as People Before Profit T.Ds like Paul Murphy who support hate speech legislation believed in the benevolence of capitalist leaders when restricting commentary on women’s rights would never be extended to them, it has and for obvious reasons.  Most right-wing governments, particularly those that claim some liberal kudos on certain social issues have taken advantage of the defeat of workers, critical thinking and any opposition at all to capitalism to advance right-wing hate speech legislation and restrictions on academic freedom, including the dismissal of staff, limitations on the right to voice opinions that go against government policy and in the process have garnered the support of many liberal currents and of course major NGOs who depend on government largesse to finance themselves.

The German event is not an isolated incident.   Over the years various lecturers in the US have been suspended or not had their contracts renewed for speaking out about Palestine.  Zionists were the original cancel culture specialists who managed to turn spoilt students whining into action, getting staff sacked and silencing other students.  Recently, a professor of 30 years standing at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the US was suspended over a contribution made to a blog.  In their suspension of the employee the president stated that “I find her comments repugnant, condemn them unequivocally, and want to make clear that these are her personal views and not those of our institution,”(3)  It was liberals, the wokerati and even some Marxists who pushed for employers to take action against employees for their personal views and activities outside of the workplace and now it has come back to bite some of them, though not all, as  many liberals and wokerati in the US are Zionists.  Some of those who had been targeted were vile racists who shouted “Jews will not replace us” as they marched with torches.  But you fight Fascism, you don’t give employers control over employees’ lives, ever.  As Trotsky once quipped, if you can’t convince a Fascist, acquaint their head with the pavement.  He didn’t say give your boss and the state more control over you and beseech them to act in your interests.  A few days prior to that, Columbia University had suspended six students for allegedly participating in a panel discussion on Palestine.(4)  And in a further sign that jackboots are once again goosestepping through Germany, the University of Cologne rescinded a job offer to Nancy Fraser, a Jewish American professor of philosophy, over her condemnation of killings in Gaza.(5)

They will not stop at that and it is not limited to issues such as genocide, but even local domestic politics.  In April 2023, a French journalist Ernest Moret was arrested by British anti-terrorist police due to his involvement in protests in France against the Macron government’s pension proposals.  He refused to give the police access to pass codes for his electronic devices and was charged with obstruction.(6)  There are other precedents for this, one of them being the arrest of David Miranda, Glen Greenwald’s now deceased partner, in Britain when returning from a meeting with another journalist who had also worked on the files released by Edward Snowden.(7)  The courts later upheld his detention to be lawful.  Police held him and demanded access to his electronic devices.  Then there is the jailing and punishing of Julian Assange.  The charges against Assange were dressed up in various disguises.  The first of them was the now discredited rape charges in Sweden which were dropped and also espionage charges when the real reason for jailing Assange is that he, as a journalist, exposed US war crimes in Iraq.  The message is clear, censorship is the order of the day as is the hounding of journalists who hold unpopular views and expose the crimes of the state.  Assange did not receive the support he should have, due to the trumped-up rape charges, with many on the Left, like the cowards they are running for cover.  Even today, when the rape charges have been exposed for the lies they were and have been dropped there are those who refuse to speak out on his behalf for this very reason.

There is no world in which right wing governments suppress freedom of speech, academic freedom, freedom of assembly and criminalise broad opinions that they label as hate speech and don’t target the Left.  It has never happened and never will.  When they stood aside on Assange, they prepared the way for the assault on the Berlin Conference.  When they harassed and tried to silence women defending women’s spaces they prepared the ground for the assault.  When they advocated and supported right-wing governments’ attempts at introducing hate speech legislation they paved the way for the criminalisation of solidarity with Palestine.  When the Hate Speech Bill comes back before the Irish parliament, they should take note and do the correct thing and oppose it, unequivocally.

Leftists who advocated employers taking control of employees lives and opinions, those that demanded that JK Rowling and others like her be hounded from the public sphere and that what they termed hate speech, in reality thought crimes, should be punished in law have aided and abetted right-wing governments in getting us to where we are now, which is that it is now very easy to criminalise pro-Palestinian voices.  All you have to say is Hate Speech!  Meanwhile Rushi Sunak in Britain is pushing ahead with a very broad and loose definition of extremism which will see almost everyone who does not support Sunak or Starmer in the dock.


(1)  See interview with Yanis Varoufakis

(2)  Minority Report is a Tom Cruise film in which three mutants can see the future and predict who will commit crimes and they are arrested, charged and sentenced in advance before the crime is committed.  In the film the system unravels.

(3)  WXXI News (16/04/2024) Hobart and William Smith Colleges professor suspended for comments on Israel-Hamas war. Noelle E.C. Evans.

(4)  WSWS (09/04/2024) Columbia University suspends and evicts pro-Palestinian students.  Tim Avery.

(5)  The Guardian (10/04/2024) German university rescinds Jewish American’s job offer over pro-Palestinian letter.  Kate Connolly.

(6)  The Guardian (18/04/2023) French publisher arrested in London on terrorism charge.  Matthew Weaver.

(7)  The Guardian (19/08/2013) Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours.

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