Petition to stop ban of Palestine children’s book at Highland Park, NJ, public library

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On May 19, a New Jersey public library canceled a reading by Golbarg Bashi from her children’s book, “P Is for Palestine,” after vocal opposition, notably from the pro-Israel Jewish community. This is hardly the first time Bashi has faced banning. Among the objections to the book is the page, “I is for intifadah,” which Bashi has explained is a word for 70 years of resistance to occupation.

Jewish Voice for Peace issued this statement on the New Jersey cancellation, in a town near Rutgers University:

Jewish Voice for Peace – Central New Jersey (JVP) and the Highland Park, NJ, Public Library scheduled a program at the Library, for 5/19/19, on the acclaimed children’s book, “P is for Palestine.” This family event was to feature Goldbarg Bashi, an Iranian professor of Middle Eastern History, speaking about her alphabet book about Palestine, followed by discussion among those attending, and a book signing. This was the to be the 1st in a series of collaborations between JVP – Central New Jersey and local libraries to foster cross-cultural enrichment, tolerance, and conflict management for children. Two weeks before the scheduled event, JVP learned that some local residents had complained about the event and that the library had canceled the event, pending a board meeting, open to the public, to be held on 6/5/19. Our event, meant to promote tolerance, was canceled due to intolerance and the promulgation of proven falsehoods about Palestinians.

Anticipating that board meeting on June 5, a coalition of groups including the Council on American Islamic Relations NJ, Al-Awda NY, and Jews for Palestinian Right of Return is now petitioning the Highland Park Public Library to “rise up for what is right, reject this racist attack on free speech, and immediately reinstate the planned ‘P is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book’ event…”

Here is the full petition text, which more than 2600 people have signed already, followed by a list of the sponsor orgs:

To the Highland Park Public Library Director and Board of Trustees,

It is inexcusable that the Highland Park, New Jersey, Public Library has bowed to pressure from Israel supporters to cancel its previously scheduled reading of the children’s alphabet book, “P is for Palestine” by Dr. Golbarg Bashi, an event originally sponsored by the library and Jewish Voice Peace-Central NJ. The book is “the world’s first-ever English-language ABC story book about Palestine.”

The pretext for this censorship is that the book’s entry “I is for Intifada” is “hate speech” that promotes “violence and terror”against Jews.

That is completely false.

Intifada means “rebellion” or “resistance”; as the entry says, “Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!” And Palestinians are certainly justified in rising up against the settler-colonial regime that occupies the West Bank, has enforced a barbaric siege on Gaza for over a decade, denies Palestinian refugees it forcibly expelled and dispossessed in the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) their right to return to their homeland, and practices systemic discrimination against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

As Bashi recently summarized, “Intifada is actually 71 years old. It is resistance to occupation of a people’s land. It is like Native American resistance to white settlers.” She also likened it to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Furthermore, we denounce the racist characterizations of Palestinians as a “fake people” with “no history,” driven by anti-Semitic blood-lust, promoted in so many pro-censorship comments (see the book’s Facebook page for examples).

The event cancellation is not an isolated case. As of April this year, 27 states have adopted anti-BDS laws designed to muzzle our constitutional right to boycott Israel. Elected officials who have the courage to speak up for Palestinian rights — mainly women of color like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — are slandered by Israel supporters as anti-Semitic. Just this past February, they similarly tried — and failed — to shut down a “Your Right to Boycott and the Campaign to Silence BDS” event at the Maplewood Public Library.

Fortunately, this McCarthyite campaign has only boosted support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). Moreover, mainstream media is finally giving voice to those, including a growing number of Jews, who challenge not only Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, but the entire Zionist regime. Indeed, the call to cancel the Highland Park book reading is a tacit concession that, having lost the moral argument, apartheid Israel’s enablers have no recourse but to silence pro-Palestinian voices — including authors of children’s books.

We call on the Highland Park Public Library to rise up for what is right, reject this racist attack on free speech, and immediately reinstate the planned “P is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book” event with author Dr. Golbarg Bashi.

You can find the petition here. The sponsor orgs are: Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Muslims for Palestine – NJ, Council on American-Islamic Relations – NJ, Occupy Bergen County, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Palestine, People’s Organization for Progress, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, SOMA for Palestine, USACBI: US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

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Are they afraid that attendees might just get educated and that the truth may come out in a public library? Are they afraid that conversations will occur and that the horrible status quo wrt to Israeli treatment of Palestinians (including children) is questioned? I suggest that those “from the pro-Israel Jewish community” read this wonderful book and stop with their hasbara. From the deliberate mistranslation of Ahmadinejad’s words, to the bs mistranslation of ‘jihad’ and… Read more »

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The book should not be banned from the shelves of the library, but an event of this sort is not a good idea. It does not promote diversity. Maybe it promotes equal time, but “diversity” means more than equal time. This idea that “intifada” is an innocuous term: that’s bullchips. Intifada is a vague term. It can be used to describe a sign and a flag and it can be used to describe a suicide… Read more »

This idiocy over the term “intifada” is a case-in-point of how statehood has afforded Zionism privileged language over that allowed the people it oppresses. Israel does not need to worry about terminology — having the language perks of statehood, it can call its oppression and its terrorism “defence”. For its victims, whom Israel has made sure to deprive the vocabulary of nation-states, it is an uprising. Israel can conduct the mass murder of Cast Lead,… Read more »