The Palestine Exception to Free Speech in America

by Joshua Stacher | published February 17, 2016 - 6:51pm

Omar Shakir and Megan Marzec came to northeastern Ohio last week to discuss the constraints on speech about research and activism with regard to Palestinian rights. Their host was the Northeast Ohio Consortium on Middle East Studies (NOCMES).

Shakir is the Bertha Fellow at the Center of Constitutional Rights and a lead author of the report The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the US, published jointly by CCR and Palestine Legal. Shakir was also a lawyer for Steven Salaita in his successful suit against the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. That institution infamously revoked Salaita’s hiring as a tenured professor following his tweets critical of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014.

Marzec is a graduate of Ohio University, where she served as Student Senate President in 2014-2015. Her outspoken opposition to the 2014 assault on Gaza brought hateful attacks on her, replete with misogyny and racism, emanating from Athens, Ohio and around the world.

Shakir’s visit included a lecture for NOCMES at Cleveland State University in addition to events at Kent State that included a Know Your Rights workshop and the discussion with Marzec.

At the Kent State discussion, Shakir and Marzec covered everything from general trends and organizing strategies to personal experiences. Video of the discussion is here.

Two MERIP editors, Pete Moore and Joshua Stacher, founded NOCMES in 2010 to bring the best of Middle East studies to Cleveland and environs. The consortium now includes six universities, with about a dozen civic partners including the City Club of Cleveland and the Cleveland Council of World Affairs. NOCMES has invited over 35 speakers on such topics as the Arab uprisings, oil and Saudi Arabia, women and religion, ISIS, the global war on terror and policing in the US, the Iranian revolution, public opinion and comic books. Lectures are held at Cleveland-area universities, Islamic centers, churches, high schools, public libraries and bars, as well as prestigious venues such as the City Club. Previous speakers include Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Jillian Schwedler, Laleh Khalili, Arang Keshavarizian, Joel Beinin, Noura Erakat and Toby Jones. For more information and video of many previous events, see the NOCMES website.

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