Defend human rights, defend freedom of expression
Campaign for freedom of expression and against criminalisation of solidarity with Palestine
We, human rights defenders from different backgrounds who support the nonviolent struggle of the Palestinian people for its UN-stipulated rights, have been accused of crimes in connection with events that took place in August 2015 during the Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival in Benicàssim. We consider this a flagrant violation of our freedom of expression and an attempt to criminalize and suppress our democratic right to defend human rights at home and internationally.
We have been accused by Abel Isaac de Bedoya of committing acts of “threat and coercion” and “hate crime” for our peaceful campaigning to convince the Rototom Sunsplash Festival to cancel the invitation of an artist based on his track record of defending war crimes and gross violations of human rights, incitement to racial hatred, denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, and documented connections to extremist and violent fundamentalist groups. The artist’s identity has never been relevant to our campaign. We consider anyone, regardless of his/her identity, who advocates for such extremist, racist and violent crimes as not in harmony with the human rights and peace principles and spirit of this progressive festival.
Our entire campaign to convince the festival to cancel the invitation of this artist was conducted through public channels such as Twitter, exercising our freedom of expression and legitimate political freedom. In the summer of 2014, the previous year, the festival organisers had invited some of today’s defendants to take part in its social forum, even as bombs fell on Gaza, murdering over 2,100 people (including over 500 children).
The artist’s lyricist, Ephraim Rosenstien, is himself a settler in an illegal West Bank colony. Rosenstein is associated with Honenu, an Israeli legal organization that defends settler terrorists who violently attack Palestinians to push them off their lands.
We consider the false accusations against us to be part of the much wider, well-funded campaign led by Israel and its lobby groups,, to demonize or criminalise peaceful campaigning for Palestinian human rights, and in particular the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. Evoking memories of the darkest period of repression in apartheid South Africa, Israel’s strategy for fighting BDS employs legal warfare, espionage and intensified propaganda.
Launched in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations and unions, the BDS human rights movement calls on people of conscience, civil society organizations, churches, unions and grassroots groups to apply non-violent pressure on Israel’s system of occupation and injustice in order to achieve Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law.
BDS is inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid and the worldwide boycotts that helped to achieve its goals and also by the Civil Rights movement led by Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
We respect the principles of the BDS movement, which rejects all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Jewish support for BDS has risen sharply in recent years, especially in the US, where one poll conducted in November 2014 by an Israel lobby group reveals that 46% of non-Orthodox Jewish-American men under 40 support a full boycott of Israel.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the BDS movement and its tactics, one has to accept that advocating for Palestinian rights under international law through the nonviolent, inclusive and anti-racist BDS movement is perfectly legitimate under freedom of expression. This is precisely what the European Union’s official position is.
Federica Mogherini, the chief of the EU diplomacy, said: “The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU Member States’ territory, including with regard to BDS actions carried out on this territory. Freedom of expression, as underlined by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, is also applicable to information or ideas ‘that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.’”
In addition to the EU, the governments of Sweden, Ireland and Netherlands, as well as leading international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the American Civil Liberties Union, have defended the right to call for a boycott against Israel as a matter of freedom of speech.
BDS is supported or heeded by international figures of the weight of the scientist Stephen Hawking, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, the survivor of the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the late Stéphane Hessel, Holocaust survivors such as the late Hajo Meyer, the late Hedy Epstein, Suzanne Weiss, Alfred Grosser and Chava Folman Raban, who have demanded an end to colonisation, occupation and apartheid in Palestine.
As morally-consistent human rights defenders, we shall expose the fabrications and lies thrown at us by Israel’s lobby and its supporters in the Spanish State and mobilize our networks of grassroots support and solidarity. Everyone who cares about protecting our civic rights, especially our right to free speech, will see this witch hunt against us as targeting the principle of freedom of expression and attempting to silence solidarity with human rights causes, including the cause of the Palestinian people.
We ask you to nurture this network of solidarity. Sign and spread the word.
In order to sign, write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, surname and occupation. Thank you!