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Wayne, PA (March 9, 2001) -- Palestine Media Watch, a media watch group that monitors US media coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, expressed "shock and dismay" over the March 2 dismissal of a high school teacher in Miami Beach, Florida, from the Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy for expressing pro-Palestinian polictical views on the mailing list of Palestine Media Watch. "It is extremely troubling," said Dr. Ahmed Bouzid, president of Palestine Media Watch, that personal political opinions expressed outside of one's professional setting could result in punitive actions against the individual expressing those opinions. It is the definition of discrimination on political grounds, and it is shocking and shameful that such discrimination would occur here in the United States of America, where freedom of speech and expression are basic rights."

Michael Lopez-Calderon, a member of Palestine Media Watch, was dismissed on March 2, 2001, from his position as teacher at the Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach, Florida, for his involvement with Palestine Media Watch and his support of the Palestinian cause. Mr. Lopez-Calderon was accused by anonymous monitors of the Palestine Media Watch mailing list of endorsing violence against Israelis when he stated in one of his emails that Palestinians have the right to resist the Israeli Defense Forces through violence when necessary. (See Statement from Michael Lopez-Calderon for the full account.)

"It is highly troubling," said Dr. Bouzid, "that Mr. Lopez-Calderon's accusers chose to surreptitiously monitor a subscriber-only mailing list and to make their accusations under the cover of anonymity. Mr. Lopez-Calderon's remarks, when read in their proper context, express the obvious: that in a situation where an army is shooting at civilians under occupation, those civilians have the prerogative to exercise their internationally enshrined right to resist by any means. Given the flimsy accusation, it is clear that Mr. Lopez-Caledron was terminated simply because he expressed opinions that did not fully conform to those of some members of the school community."

"It is moreover telling," Dr. Bouzid added, "that Mr. Lopez-Calderon's dismissal was not based on the merits of the accusations or the weight of any evidence, but simply because the accusers threatened the school administration with retaliatory action should Mr. Lopez-Calderon not be removed. This is blackmail of the worst kind and it is a shame that the school decided to cave in rather than stand on principle."

In a statement titled, "In Defense of Michael Lopez-Calderon," Palestine Media Watch describes itself as "an inclusive watch group that welcomes and proudly counts among its membership Jews, Israelis, and anyone who is interested in reacting to rampant anti-Palestinian bias in the American press. (See "Our message to our Jewish supporters".) The group tolerates no anti-semitic expressions, but instead operates on the basic principle that Jews and Arabs in the Middle East and anywhere else have equal right to life and liberty."

Commenting on Mr. Michael Lopez-Calderon, Dr. Bouzid said, "Mr. Lopez-Calderon has been one of the most ardent supporters of the Palestinian cause. He has courageously put principle in front of self-interest by voicing his solidarity with the long-suffering Palestinian people. We are proud to have him on our side and we will do our best to fight for his right to express himself without any fear of intimidation or black mail."

Asked what Palestine Media Watch plans to do in reaction, Dr. Bouzid said, "first, we want to ensure that Mr. Lopez-Calderon does not suffer in any way from this painful episode. We want to make sure that his life is disturbed as little as possible and that his livelihood is not threatened. This is important, since it is clear that the dismissal was meant not only as a direct punishment against Mr. Lopez-Calderon, but also as a warning to anyone in the Jewish community who may dare express sympathetic sentiments towards the Palestinians. Second, we want to mobilize the pro-Palestinian community and beyond to stand in firm solidarity with Mr. Lopez-Calderon. We plan to publicize Mr. Lopez-Calderon's case as widely as possible. People need to know that the right to hold your own political opinions is not something that is held sacred in some quarters of our society, but is instead trampled on with little care. Beyond that, we will consult with peer organizations to coordinate other civil efforts."

Other sources: http://www.miami.com/herald/content/news/local/dade/digdocs/037578.htm