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US universities caving to Israeli lobby, tech giants ‘serious problem’: Palestinian activist

The file photo shows Leila Khaled giving a speech during an event for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) in South Africa.

A top Palestinian activist says the move by the video conferencing platform, Zoom, to block her scheduled webinar at an American university under alleged pressure from Israeli lobbies will have “implications” for all university teachers.

“We believe the university should have actually fought Zoom and insisted on honoring the contract with Zoom and not allow Zoom to decide what the content of the classrooms are. That is actually a very major problem because that means that now Zoom, a private company, as well as Facebook which is also a private company can determine what we teach in our classrooms, what is the content of our curriculum and censor it”, Leila Khaled told Press TV in an interview on Friday.

“The problem of the university, they also caved to Zionist pressure. They accepted their definition that this event is not acceptable and they refused to provide us alternative venue,” she added.

Khaled also noted that the university has an obligation to provide the teachers with an alternative space, but instead, the university authorities sided with the giant tech companies and the Israeli lobby.

She also stressed that as part of the US law, universities have a responsibility to protect freedom of speech and “academic freedom”, adding that “controversial issues” cannot be kept outside of the classroom.

Khaled further said the fact that public universities in the United States are caving in to private companies like the tech giants and the Israeli Zionist groups is "a very serious problem".

“This is really serious. It has implications for everybody in our universities because Zoom is being used by multiple academic institutions to do so. So if this is allowed to pass this is going to have implications for everybody not only for us and not only people who teach, research and advocate for justice and for Palestine,” she stated.

Khaled, who is also a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was due to deliver a speech through the webinar at San Francisco State University (SFSU) on Wednesday.

The video conferencing platform, Zoom, initially prohibited the university from using its software to host the event, titled "Whose NARRATIVES? Gender, Justice and Resistance,” and the webinar was also restricted by Facebook, which has a lengthy history of censoring Palestinians on behalf of Israel.

Later, the event went ahead via YouTube but shortly after it began, the company cut off the video stream and replaced it with a notice that said, “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service.”

Many Palestinians and rights activists censured the social media platforms for censoring the webinar’s content and limiting free speech, and said the event was cancelled due to pressure from the Israeli regime and Zionist lobbying groups.

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