The organizers of Adelaide Writers' Week 2023, which started on March 4, are under pressure to withdraw invitations to two Palestinian writers, one for his views on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the other for his views on Israel and Zionism. South Australian Prime Minister Peter Malinauskas condemned both authors. "I totally hate the comments... they don't fit the SA's value system," he said. "Honestly, I'm surprised they were facilitators at Adelaide Writers' Week. I'm not coming to hear their talk." Each case raises issues with freedom of expression and the phenomenon of "canceling culture", but the cases are not the same. Lawsuits against Susan Abulhawa and Mohammed Al-Kurd The first relates to the fact that the Palestinian-American writer Susan Abulhawa has published a series of novels, including the bestselling Mornings in Jenin, based on the hardships of Palestinians in their ongoing conflict with Israel. The second is about the Palestinian writer and poet Mohammed Al-Kurd, who lives in East Jerusalem. Of these two, Abulhawa's case is simpler. The objections raised to him by mainly Ukrainian voices in Australia are fundamentally political. It stems from Zelenskyy's tweets saying that he would rather drag the world into a third world war than abandoning Ukraine's bid to join NATO, describing him as far more dangerous than his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. He also wrote tweets saying, "De-Nazify Ukraine". extreme opinions Frank Fursenko, president of the Association of Ukrainians in South Australia, calls these views "extremist" and says it contradicts how most people feel about Ukraine's position. There is no doubt that they are extremist views: they absolutely contradict the Western world's view of what is happening in Ukraine and play to Putin's propaganda that he supposedly wants to rid Ukraine of neo-Nazism. But none of this justifies silencing him. His words are reportedly saddening for Ukrainians and will no doubt anger popular opinion both here and in other countries that are widely opposed to Putin's invasion. But they are essentially political, and in a liberal democracy the bar is high if silencing of political discourse is to be justified. Boredom and anger are not enough. The bar is usually set at the level at which the speech does or is likely to cause objective harm: intimidation, humiliation, defamation, provocation. It is true that the Racial Discrimination Act sets a lower bar by including more subjective insults and insult tests, but we are not talking about racial speech here. 'Today is not my day': How Russia's journalists, writers and artists are turning silence into speech Massively offensive but antisemitic? Al-Kurd's case is more complex: some of his tweets were accused of being anti-Semitic by the Anti-Defamation League. The League particularly objected to its accusation of Zionists of eating Palestinian organs and thirsting for Palestinian blood, and comparing the State of Israel to the Nazi regime. By any objective test, these accusations are grossly offensive to any reasonable person with ordinary sensibilities, and civilized societies are justifiably vigilant against talk that constitutes any equivalence with the Holocaust. However, are they antisemitic? The Anti-Defamation League says they are, and the union's point of view should be respected. A counter-view, however, is that al-Kurd's comments are directed at Zionists rather than Jews as a people, and the State of Israel in particular, and are therefore political rather than racist in nature. This is a distinction that well-meaning people can diverge from. It's not just about the rise in antisemitism: Why do we need real stories for better Holocaust education in Australia? Fact and opinion Louise Adler, director of Adelaide Writers' Week, is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She made a different distinction between tweets by authors and published work. This is a proportional distinction. Should what an author says in a tweet be given the same weight as what he says in a major work of literature? She argues that it shouldn't. Shannon Morris/AAP Another distinction is between fact and opinion. No one disputes the fact that the Holocaust took place: the question of whether referring to the Nazis when criticizing Israel or Zionism is anti-Semitism. No one is arguing about the fact that Russia has invaded Ukraine; the issue instead boils down to conflicting views about Zelenskyy's strategy in response. This distinction between statements of fact and statements of opinion is important and influences both Abulhawa's and Al-Kurd's critiques. Explainer: what is freedom of expression? Cancellation calls 'unfair' SA opposition leader John Gardner fell into this trap when he made an opportunistic call to festival organizers to cancel both writers. He compared Abulhawa's tweets to spreading misinformation about the vaccine. This is bull. Both speakers tweeted openly polemically. However, these are comments, not real claims. False information is the expression of a false truth. Liberal democracies tolerate political views that do not violate the harm principle, no matter how extreme, offensive or offensive. For this reason, and besides proportionality issues, calls for the annulment of Abulhawa and Al-Kurd are unjustified.