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Cancel Culture Hypocrisy

Cancel Culture Hypocrisy

Categories: Latest News

Monday February 06 2023

The improper treatment of Shaima Dallali, the former President of the NUS, has uncovered a truth of contempt for Palestinian activism in student politics. Ever since her election, Ms Dallali has faced a barrage of hate, with right-leaning press and lobbies supportive of Israeli policies, participating in smear campaigns. Ms Dallali has faced allegations of antisemitism over historic tweets dating back to 2012, comments for which she has since apologised. Furthermore, Ms Dallali has welcomed an inquiry into antisemitism, and has shown her commitment to making Jewish students “feel like they have a place in the NUS”. Following an internal investigation, Ms Dallali was dismissed for a breach of NUS policy, though the organisation has not publicly specified which policy and remains reticent on the issue. As Ms Dallali awoke to the first day of Islamophobia Awareness Month in November 2022, she learnt of her dismissal through Twitter, rather than direct communication from the organisation, demonstrating another failure of the organisation. Added pressure from the media pressure, particularly from outlets critical of Palestinian activism, further suggests the influence of a set of actors on the decision of the NUS. In particular, it alludes to the profile of Ms Dallali, a vocal Palestinian activist, with many suggesting her public stance on the issue being a motivation for her dismissal. Unfortunately, this is a story all too familiar for many Palestinian activists, who find themselves victims of ‘cancel culture’, and those who wish to be vocal, however opt to self-censor for fear of being ‘cancelled’. Yet the same papers that cancel Palestinian activism ironically are critical of cancel culture, arguing its inhibition on freedom of speech.

From the outset, neoconservative actors have criticised ‘cancel culture’ for limiting free speech, particularly targeting left-wing politics. Right-wing think tanks such as the Henry Jackson Society have warned how ‘cancel culture’ remains a great ‘threat’ to democracy, while the Conservative Government has echoed the same rhetoric. In May 2021, the Government introduced plans which could fine student unions for stifling freedom of speech. Such plans effectively ban no-platforming policies on campus, a policy that prevents hate preachers from speaking on campus, playing a crucial role in combating hate crime on campus.

It seems, however, that opposition to ‘cancel culture’ is overlooked within Palestinian activism. The same actors who usually advocate against ‘cancel culture’, smear Palestinian activists, and anyone who demonstrates any form of disapproval of Israeli policies. Indeed, Ms Dallali is a recent example of the ‘cancelling’ of Palestinian activists. Since her election in March 2022, Ms Dallali has been a victim of smear, leaving her concerned for her own safety as she faced a barrage of hate. Unfortunately Ms Dallali’s case is not an isolated incident, Palestinian activists are continually faced with opposition. The Government’s Prevent programme advises that Palestinian activism on campus should be “risk assessed and managed”. Moreover, a study by SOAS University found that Muslims are self-censoring on campus. It seems that the cancelling of Palestinian activism has also entered school classrooms, famously, a headteacher of a school in Leeds told students not to bring in Palestine flags as it may cause Jewish students to feel unsafe.

The hypocrisy over the issue could further be observed through enshrining ‘cancel culture’ in legislation. This Conservative Government has ordered schools against the use of material from organisations that promote anti-capitalist ideas, and further prevent schools from teaching about white privilege. In addition to this, the Government has banned public institutions from joining boycott movements, targetting the BDS movement, which calls for the boycotting and economic sanctioning of Israel for its occupation of Palestinian territory. Such policies ironically curb freedom of speech, not allowing for discussion and debate to take place in schools and campuses, where it is a crucial point in pupils’ educational development. Furthermore, it seems that while conservative lobbies push for the preservation of freedom of speech, their actions are contradictory, proving an inconsistency in their track record, thus questioning their true intentions. Neoconservatives effectively pick and choose who and how they cancel, while advocating against ‘cancel culture’, they create a hostile environment threatening free speech pertaining to Palestine and Palestinian activism.

The debate of freedom of speech is morally devoid if the same actors continue suppressing Palestinian activism. Indeed such practices reek of hypocrisy. The Right weaponise ‘cancel culture’ with their right hand to silence Palestinian activism, while with their left arguing against it in the name of free speech. While it is imperative that debates surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be held in a safe and sensitive manner, Palestinian activists are victims of right-wing ‘cancelling’. MEND condemns the practice of selective freedom of speech, calling it out for what it is, Islamophobic, and will continue for the right to support Palestine without any fear of repercussions.


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