CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Protect free and radical speech

22 November, 2018

• NORTH London Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) rightly complains about the heavy-handed attitude by Camden against those who speak out for Palestinians, (We are fighting this attempt to censor us, November 15).

John Gulliver, your correspondent, had previously attended a peaceful meeting organised by RCG and highlighted the presence of Camden “spooks” at the back of the hall.

We understand they were members of the “Prevent” team. Prevent is a programme aimed at countering violent extremists but has been criticised by some for unfairly targeting the Muslim community­­.

The government’s Prevent guidance says schools, for instance, “should be safe spaces in which children and young people can understand and discuss sensitive topics, including terrorism and the extreme ideas that are part of terrorist ideology, and learn how to challenge these ideas”.

But the opposite seems to be happening. Instead of creating safe spaces where sensitive topics can be discussed, Camden seems eager to stop any discussion in the first place.

The same can be said of the notorious International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which was approved by the council with the promise to monitor implementation.

The definition, which conflates anti-Semitism and criticism of Israeli policies, is vague and ambiguous. Top lawyers have indicated it would not have much standing in court. Psychologically, though, it risks scaring off supporters of Palestine.

Many months have passed without any sign of the promised review. Anti-Semitism is a heinous form of racism which is present in our society and should be fought without relenting, like all other forms of racism.

All forms of racism have a common core but also specific features which need to be confronted with specific tools. But the IHRA definition is a poor tool to do so, and a dangerous tool against free speech. The Prevent strategy may be distorted to impede the very discussions it aims to foster.

Camden has a proud history of standing tall against apartheid in South Africa and injustice in the UK and all over the world.

Camden Council needs to show that it is proud of this history and that it is committed to protect free speech and radical speech in defence of human rights instead of sending spooks to spy on supporters of Palestine.

SABBY SAGALL Chair
LUCA SALICE Press Officer
GEOFF LEE Treasurer
Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign

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