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