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On the Sacking of Nathan J. Robinson: An Open Letter to Guardian US Editor John Mulholland

Regardless of one's opinions on the Middle East, everyone should be distressed by The Guardian's act of blatant censorship.

Copies of The Guardian newspaper. (Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Copies of The Guardian newspaper. (Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

We write in support of Nathan Robinson, founder of Current Affairs magazine, who was fired as a columnist for The Guardian for a joking tweet critical of U.S. military aid to Israel. This is shocking behavior for a publication that has earned the respect and loyalty of millions of readers around the world for courageous journalism that has often offended the sensibilities of the powerful.

The paper has not denied that it terminated Robinson’s column over the tweet and has only said that it did not technically “fire” Robinson because it does not offer its columnists contracts. The Guardian’s US editor, John Mulholland, sent Robinson a “confidential” message saying that while Robinson was “free” as an opinion columnist to speak his mind, his tweet had antisemitic connotations. Though Robinson immediately deleted the tweet and apologized for violating the Guardian’s unwritten policy, the paper immediately stopped accepting his pitches before discontinuing his column entirely. It was made clear by an editor that this was a direct result of the tweet criticizing U.S. military support for Israel.

The Guardian has been criticized before for its casual use of antisemitism accusations against critics of Israel. We strongly condemn antisemitism. We also strongly condemn the deployment of the baseless charges of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israeli policy or U.S. support of that policy. Regardless of one’s opinions on the Middle East, everyone should be distressed by The Guardian’s act of blatant censorship.

Aside from the loss of Robinson’s contributions to the Guardian, we are worried that this action will have a chilling effect on other media workers, who will be under increased pressure to avoid straying from orthodoxy lest they lose their jobs. The ability to harshly criticize the policies of powerful governments is a basic freedom and is essential to preventing atrocities. Even if the Guardian regularly publishes material critical of Israel’s policies, which it does, by not making it clear what writers are and are not allowed to say, the paper chills the ability of its contributors to comment openly and freely on the issue.

The Guardian’s termination of Robinson has evoked widespread criticism. His firing has sent a message to writers at The Guardian and elsewhere that they will be punished if they post unapproved opinions on Israel. We demand that Robinson be reinstated and that Mulholland apologize for this crime against free expression. The Guardian must make clear that its writers have the freedom to comment critically on Israel without suffering career consequences.

Support for Palestinian rights and criticism of US policy toward Israel can’t be an exception to free speech.

Liza Featherstone, Jacobin & The Nation

Doug Henwood, Behind the News

Noam Chomsky, Laureate Professor of Linguistics, University of Arizona

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University

Johann Hari, author, Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections

Ilan Pappé, Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter

Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford

Dina Matar, Director, Center for Palestine Studies, SOAS, University of London

Nur Masalha, Professor, SOAS, University of London

Maximilian Alvarez, editor in chief, The Real News Network

Jason Stanley, Professor of Philosophy, Yale University

Corey Robin, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College

Greg Grandin, C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, Yale University

Noura Erakat, Rutgers University

Katie Halper, Rolling Stone & The Katie Halper Show

Sam Seder, The Majority Report

Katha Pollitt, The Nation

Cornel West, Harvard University

Glenn Greenwald, co-founder, The Intercept

Jeet Heer, The Nation

Meagan Day, Jacobin

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Molly Crabapple, artist

Diana Buttu, Institute for Middle East Understanding

Andrew Cockburn, Harper’s

Steven Lukes, Professor of Sociology, New York University

Ben Burgis, Jacobin and Rutgers University

Robby Soave, Reason

Ryan Grim, The Intercept

David Palumbo-Liu, Stanford University

David Klion, Jewish Currents

Jonathan Cook, former Guardian journalist

Samuel Moyn, Professor of History, Yale University

Jodi Dean, Professor of Political Science, Hobart & William Smith Colleges

Natasha Lennard, The Intercept

Ken Klippenstein, The Intercept

Osita Nwanevu, New Republic

Briahna Joy Gray, Bad Faith, former press secretary for Bernie Sanders

Ryan Cooper, The Week

Jim Naureckas, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Janine Jackson, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Julie Hollar, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Luke Savage, Jacobin

Branko Marcetic, Jacobin

Jonathan Rosenhead, Emeritus Professor, London School of Economics

Ana Kasparian, The Young Turks

Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University

James Livingston, Rutgers University

Michael Moore, filmmaker

Writers and Scholars Opposing Censorship

This list of signatories came together to denounce the Guardian for terminating journalist Nathan J. Robinson as a columnist over a tweet criticizing U.S. military aid to Israel.

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