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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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14 Responses

  1. Misterioso on May 27, 2019, 9:10 am

    Recently released Videos regarding the horrors the borderless entity referred to as “Israel”
    continues to inflict on the indigenous Palestinians.

    1.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXqWSyLkmyk

    Gaza Trailer : Gaza Official Trailer (2019) Documentary Movie HD | Movie Trailers 2019
    Copyright 2019 – Fine Point Films

    Release Date: 29 January 2019 (USA)
    Director: Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell
    Producers: Brendan J. Byrne, Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell, Paul Cadieux
    Genres: Documentary

    Storyline (Source – IMDB)
    In this cinematic journey through Gaza we unfold a portrait of its ordinary people who attempt to lead meaningful lives beyond the rubble of perennial conflict. Gaza brings together an eloquent, resilient and courageous group of souls, whose struggle, resilience and sense of family goes to the very heart of humanity…a people whose lives are shaped by conflict but not defined by it.

    2.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdMo1_GazG8

    The Advocate, 2019:
    “’I’m the lawyer who always loses,’ Lea Tsemel remarks. The Israeli human rights activist represents those who the nationalists call Palestinian terrorists. Tsemel talks about freedom fighters. In the fiery political climate, she speaks out for justice tirelessly.”

  2. just on May 27, 2019, 9:19 am

    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 ‘intifada’ , etc., this is wrong, wrong, wrong. This is a public space and the First Amendment is being trounced again. Does this “pro-Israel Jewish community” in NJ, USA care about that? Are they afraid of the word ‘Palestine’? Come on! How many books written by Zionists and folks from American Jewish communities are published and presented without any problem in the US and the West? How many movies? How many pro- Israeli talking heads are given top billing in and on MSM? How many Palestinians are given any time at all? More zio- hypocrisy.

    Thanks to “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” and to JVP. Special thanks to Dr.Golbarg Bashi!

  3. Misterioso on May 27, 2019, 9:41 am

    Meanwhile, much to the consternation of Netanyahu and Trump, more and more American Jews are waking up:

    https://www.jewishelectorateinstitute.org/poll-domestic-issues-dominate-the-priorities-of-the-jewish-electorate/#ftn1

    POLL: “Domestic issues dominate the priorities of the Jewish electorate.” Jewish Electorate Institute, May 22/19

    Summary:
    “On behalf of the Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI), Greenberg Research conducted a survey of 1,000 Jewish voters to understand what drives their engagement in politics in advance of the 2020 elections. The results demonstrate that domestic issues dominate the policy priorities of the Jewish community as they determine which candidate to support in the 2020 election, as opposed to issues related to Israel, which remains the lowest policy priority of Jewish voters. The results also demonstrate that the Jewish American electorate remains overwhelmingly opposed to President Trump, motivated largely by the Jewish community’s positions on domestic policy issues. These include immigration and health care, as well as concerns about rising anti-Semitism, gun violence, and rise of white nationalism, which respondents partially attribute to President Trump.

    “Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Jewish voters believe Jewish Americans are less secure than they were two years ago, 71 percent disapprove of the way President Trump has handled anti-Semitism, and nearly 60 percent believe that he bears at least some responsibility for the shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway. Two-thirds of the Jewish electorate remains firmly aligned with the Democratic Party, and there has been no change in the percentage of Jewish voters identifying as Republicans since JEI’s October 2018 poll; it remains at 25 percent.

    “Finally, the results demonstrate Jewish voters’ view of President Trump and how they plan to vote in the 2020 election: 71 percent disapprove of President Trumps’ overall job performance, 70 percent view him unfavorably, 67 percent would vote for a generic Democrat over President Trump, and 65 percent would vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden over President Trump.

    “Key Findings:
    1. “Healthcare remains a top policy priority for Jewish voters. As JEI found in its October 2018 poll, a broad majority within the Jewish community prioritize protecting Medicare and Social Security, as well as health care, above other policy issues when determining which candidate to support. These policy priorities are consistent with values long-held by leading Jewish organizations and the Jewish community overall.

    2. “Israel is the lowest policy priority for Jewish voters. What is striking in this poll, as well as JEI’s 2018 poll, is that a candidate’s stance on Israel ranks at the bottom of a list of 16 policy priorities of Jewish voters. Overall, the Jewish community continues to identify as strongly pro-Israel and views the Democratic Party as pro-Israel, but Israel remains the lowest policy priority when determining which candidate to support. Similar to the October 2018 poll, while approximately 90 percent of Jewish voters identify as ‘pro-Israel,’ more than half (53 percent) of those polled are critical of at least some of the current Israeli government’s policies.

    3. “Anti-Semitism and violent threats to the Jewish community are a growing concern. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given recent attacks against synagogues and other hate crimes, this survey shows increased intensity and prioritization of anti-Semitism and other security threats targeting the Jewish community. Enacting gun safety laws, as well as combatting terrorism, anti-Semitism, and white nationalist threats have all grown in importance as political issues for Jewish voters compared to the October 2018 poll.

    4.”There is broad agreement that American Jews are less secure than they were two years ago, and many blame President Trump. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) say Jews in the United States are less secure compared to two years ago. A majority (59 percent) think President Trump is at least partially responsible for recent targeted attacks on synagogues, and a plurality (38 percent) have concerns that President Trump is encouraging violent ultra-right extremists. A broad majority (71 percent) disapprove of President Trump’s handling of anti-Semitism, including a 54 percent majority who strongly disapprove.

    5. “Insecurity, violence, and rising anti-Semitism are driving Jewish Americans to take political action. When asked what is the best way to improve the security of Jews in the United States, the largest bloc (43 percent) say they are looking to elect a candidate who shares their values, and 39 percent say they want to work to defeat President Trump in 2020. Thirty-one (31) percent want Democrats to do more about anti-Semitism.

    6. “Jews overwhelming oppose President Trump generally, and disapprove of his handling of a wide range of domestic policy issues. This determination to vote for change leaves President Trump with only 23 percent voter support, 29 percent job approval, and 26 percent favourability among Jewish voters. Those are all virtually unchanged from the 2018 JEI poll

    “Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the majority of policy issues, including many related to his handling of immigration. Out of 23 issues tested, Trump gets some of his lowest ratings on family separations at the Mexican border (78 percent), handling of DACA recipients (74 percent), guns (74 percent), handling of the Mueller Report (73 percent), anti-Semitism (71 percent), building of the border wall (71 percent), taxes (70 percent), Supreme Court nominations (69 percent), healthcare (69 percent), and banning immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries (66 percent).”

    • echinococcus on May 27, 2019, 3:22 pm

      Misterioso,

      “…much to the consternation of Netanyahu and Trump, more and more American Jews are waking up…”

      That consternation is good. Even priceless.
      But even if the fact were absolutely established (which sure isn’t reflected by more than one congregation, or perhaps two, correct that if I’m wrong) the whole of the involved population would make up a grand total of 2% or 3% of the US public. In fact, 3% also include an unspecified number of people who don’t consider themselves “Jewish” in any way or wise.

      The Zionist “Jewish vote” that makes policy is One Dollar One Vote and totally independent from any number of persons defining themselves as Jewish.

      One must appreciate the optimism, but that and a legendary token will take you all the way to the Bronx.

  4. wondering jew on May 27, 2019, 12:18 pm

    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 bombing. To pretend it only describes nonviolent events is historically inaccurate.

    I am not sure how one should introduce the Palestinian versus Zionist struggle in our public spaces, certainly in our children’s libraries. It certainly is an interesting question. We don’t need to complicate the argument with lies: such as intifada is an innocuous term.

    • Mooser on May 27, 2019, 1:08 pm

      “I am not sure how one should introduce the Palestinian versus Zionist struggle”

      Oh not so,”yonah”, you are indeed very sure how the subject should be introduced, because you started immediately, with false equivalence and obfuscation. That is the way you invariably introduce the “struggle”, and you will continue to fight it out along that line.
      It’s been years, so you must have a lot of faith in the method.

    • eljay on May 27, 2019, 1:32 pm

      || wondering jew: … Intifada is a vague term. … ||

      The same cannot be said about Zionism, which term is precisely about Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of (geographic) Palestine.

    • Misterioso on May 27, 2019, 3:23 pm

      “Intifada” means “shaking off,” i.e., indigenous Palestinian Arabs rising up to rid themselves of their Zionist occupiers and oppressors.

    • RoHa on May 27, 2019, 7:37 pm

      Why promote “diversity”? Concentrate on truth and justice.

    • Marnie on May 28, 2019, 5:28 am

      ‘Palestinian versus Zionist struggle’

      ‘Zionist struggle’ – the difficulty zionists experience when attempting to swallow great swaths of palestinian land and how to keep it from coming back up. And the great difficulty explaining to the rest of the universe why they continue to do such a horrible thing. But please continue to explain historically inaccurate things, such as any claim to palestinian land……………..

      • Mooser on May 28, 2019, 11:53 am

        I’ve found that “wj” is almost always histrionically accurate.

  5. Tom Suarez on May 28, 2019, 6:54 am

    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, Protective Edge, etc., and “we” let Tel Aviv blame the victims. But the moment the victims “rise up” [uprising] against the slaughter, suddenly we have to judge the nuances of language to see if they are allowed to defend themselves.
    The entire issue of concern over definitions of “intifada” is propaganda.

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