Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Blog

Today, the Baltimore Sun reported that WYPR-FM has dropped Managing News Editor Sunni Khalid after 9 years on the job. Khalid was placed on probation last month for posting the following on his personal Facebook page:

"I, for one, have had enough of this pandering before the Israeli regime… The war-mongering toward Iran has, once again, distracted the world from Israel's brutal military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights."

It’s unclear whether WYPR terminated Khalid’s employment for an unrelated matter (their management refused to comment on the matter when I contacted them). But if Khalid was indeed fired over these remarks, it raises another question: is any employee at WYPR who expresses a personal political opinion on Facebook reprimanded as a matter of policy (unlikely), or was this opinion in particular considered problematic? We won’t know the answer to that one until WYPR decides to publicly comment on this issue, but what we do know is that attempts to unseat academics, journalists and commentators from their jobs for criticizing Israel is not a new problem.

A few weeks ago, Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald wrote an elaborate piece exposing the right-wing campaign to brand progressive organizations that are critical of Israel as “Anti-Semitic,” in an effort to dissuade these organizations, and liberal media at large, from making room for criticism of Israel. As part of that effort, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz (the most dishonest intellectual I know) has been explicitly waging a campaign to get Israel-critic and Iran-war opponent MJ Rosenberg fired from progressive watchdog group Media Matters.

When I was a weekly columnist for my school newspaper while I was in graduate school, I received an email from the editor, after a column I wrote criticizing Israel’s extensive use of cluster bombs in civilian areas, informing me that I could no longer talk about Israel in the paper. When I made a passing reference to Israel in another column, that part was inexplicably cut off in what the editor called an “accidental” error. Norman Finkelstein, the late Tony Judt, and many others have been the victims of similar censorship efforts.

In relation to Khalid’s case, WYPR should be pressured to explain why his Facebook comments led to probation, why he was ultimately let go, and whether they had come under any pressure to terminate his employment. More broadly, we have to get to the point in this country where we can have an honest conversation about Israel, how its lobby influences American policy, and how that policy impacts American national interests. To demand that those critical of Israel be silenced is principally an assault on free speech, and practically an impediment to a healthy process towards sound policymaking.

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