ZOOM CENSORSHIP OF PALESTINE SEMINARS SPARKS FIGHT OVER ACADEMIC FREEDOM

ZOOM CENSORSHIP OF PALESTINE SEMINARS SPARKS FIGHT OVER ACADEMIC FREEDOM

Zoom cited anti-terrorism laws to shut down an event with Palestinian activist Leila Khaled — and other events criticizing its censorship.

FEW COMPANIES HAVE benefited from the coronavirus pandemic as much as Zoom, the online conferencing platform that has become a ubiquitous substitute for in-person interaction, work, and school. But a fight over Zoom’s right to censor speech is now brewing across the academic world, after the company shut down a seminar at San Francisco State University earlier this year over the participation of Palestinian activist Leila Khaled. Last month, Zoom continued its crackdown and canceled several online events organized at other universities that did not include Khaled herself but were critical of Zoom’s censorship of her.

Khaled, 76, is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a resistance group and political party that the U.S. government lists as a foreign terrorist organization. She rose to prominence after her role in two plane hijackings in 1969 and 1970 — and as the first woman to hijack a plane she has since earned global recognition, regarded as a terrorist by some and a feminist icon by others. On September 23, Khaled, who has long spoken in solidarity with liberation movements worldwide, was one of several speakers set to participate in a seminar on gender and resistance narratives at SFSU, a public university. But the seminar became the target of a coordinated campaign by pro-Israel groups, which pressured both the university and Zoom to cancel it.