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C is for Censorship

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The suppression of Palestine activism on American campuses is a well-documented phenomenon, with multiple Zionist organizations targeting students and faculty who organize for justice for Palestine, creating lists that vilify them as anti-Semites, threatening to destroy their careers and employment opportunities, and sometimes succeeding in doing so, in what has generally come to be known as The Palestine Exception to Free Speech.  

Meanwhile, an equally hostile campaign is being waged against a simple children’s book, P is for Palestine, by Iranian-American author Golbarg Bashi, who has been subjected to hate mail, intimidation, and death threats, after the 2017 publication of her alphabet book, with its cheerful celebration of Palestinian culture.  “A” is for Arabic, “B” is for Bethlehem, “F” is for falafel, the book informs young children, and, most controversially, “I” is for Intifada, with the explanation ““Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what’s right, if you are a kid or a grown up!” Public libraries and private bookstores where she held readings came under attack, even as she was maligned as a viciously hate-filled anti-Semite.  Uniformed member of the Jewish Defense League, classified as an armed right-wing terrorist group by the FBI, tried to intimidate and physically harass children going to the only reading she had in Manhattan–a reading organized by anti-Zionist Jews.

Cover of “P is for Palestine”

In the meantime, Bashi perseveres.  Her latest reading, at the Highland Park Library in New Jersey, on Sunday, October 20, was met with intense opposition, as Bashi and the library hosting her were threatened with legal action for “violation of federal law, including the anti-discrimination provisions of the civil rights acts,” as well as the ludicrous charge of “aiding and abetting terrorism,” because, according to the threatened lawsuit, the reading is promoted by two groups, Jewish Voice for Peace and Samidoun, which are said to “provide support to terror organizations.”  

With a crowd of Zionist protestors forming a cordon around the library, Bashi had to enter the library through the backdoor, under heavy police escort, and numerous police officers were stationed at the door as she read from the colorful book.  To ensure there would be no hostile crowds jam-packing the library room, pre-registration had been a requirement, and restricted to Highland Park library card-holding children, accompanied by one parent only. Nevertheless, the library director suspected many of the registrants were bogus, so as to allow hecklers and opponents in, instead of genuinely eager children. 

That tense reading itself was scheduled as an alternative date to an earlier reading, initially scheduled for May 18, which had to be shelved when members of the Highland Park community rose up in opposition to it.  According to the New Jersey Jewish News, “After Bashi’s reading was first announced, the ensuing firestorm attracted the attention of the Zionist Organization of America and the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (AMA). The AMA contacted library officials and said it wasn’t appropriate to cancel an event because of perceived legal or financial implications. The library also received a letter signed by the New Jersey ACLU, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, and Palestine Legal informing the library they considered a cancellation unconstitutional, an indication that cancelling the reading could prompt a legal challenge.”

Indeed, it was only after receiving the letters from these civil rights groups that the Library acquiesced to rescheduling the reading, out of fear of legal repercussions.  Now, the October 20 reading is being challenged as a violation of the federal anti-discrimination laws (Title VI), and the library, along with Basha, are threatened with further legal action because the book is promoted by Jewish Voice for Peace, and Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Solidarity Network.  A October 4 letter from Marc Greendorfer, attorney at Zachor, explains that the anti-BDS legal think tank will take action against the library and borough of Highland Park for hosting the event.  According to Zachor’s website, their primary focus is opposing BDS, but “Since there is a wide overlap between BDS and terrorist organizations in terms of objectives and methods, Zachor scholarship is also used in the anti-terrorism realm.” 

“Based on the information we have received, two of the primary promoters of the reading, Samidoun and Jewish Voice for Peace, have ties to organizations that are discriminatory and provide support to terror organizations. Consequently, we believe the reading constitutes a violation of the anti-discrimination provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”), as well as a potential violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B (the “Material Support Statute”). … In as much as the Highland Park Library is federally funded, should the library proceed with this reading we will file a complaint with the Department of Education for violating the anti-discrimination provisions of Title VI,” wrote Greendorfer.

 “The book is basically banned,” Bashi told me.  “Bookstores are afraid of stocking it, because of the physical intimidation their staff and management will face, and the protests that will be staged once word is out that they are carrying these books.” During “Banned Books Week,” an event held every year during the last week of September to celebrate freedom to read, Bashi posted on social media that Barnes and Noble, which has a display of once-banned books, refuses to stock her books.  Bashi says she tried for two years to have the Barnes and Noble chain stock her book, to no avail, hence her comment on the hypocrisy of their celebration of formerly “Banned Books.” Similarly, the independent New York bookstore chain Book Culture had to issue a groveling apology after stocking the book, with the owner, Chris Doeblin saying that  the last time the store faced such threats was decades ago,  after Iran issued a fatwa on Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses. With the refusal of brick-and-mortar bookstores to carry her titles, Bashi had to resort to selling it strictly online.  

P is for Palestine is currently out of stock, with plans to do an additional printing soon.  In the meantime, Bashi’s second Palestine-related children’s book, Counting up the Olive Tree, is available exclusively through the  Palestine Online Store.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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29 Responses

  1. eljay on October 22, 2019, 9:54 am

    Ms. Bashi has a modest children’s book about Palestine.

    Zionists have (seemingly) countless benjamins with which to intimidate, defame and destroy.

    She is a sling-less David set upon by an swarm of supremacist Goliaths.

  2. brent on October 22, 2019, 2:22 pm

    It is a tragedy that terrorism is focused on rather than the subject or storyline of the book.

    Terrorism was introduced in Palestine by Jewish groups to end the British mandate and drive them out. Palestinian resistance groups later picked up the practice. A book could be written on why that didn’t work and those resistance groups gave it up, but, the memory lingers and there is a price. Acts of retaliation are characterized as terrorism and the periodic lone wolf violence is not criticized forcefully enough to escape the reputation….. so far.

  3. Misterioso on October 23, 2019, 9:42 am

    Further confirmation that the Zionists are frightened to death of the ugly truth regarding their well documented monstrous crimes committed against the indigenous Palestinians becoming common knowledge. Well, as the American public’s rapidly increasing support for the Palestinians attests, they are fighting a losing battle.

  4. Jackdaw on October 24, 2019, 4:18 am

    Politically propagandizing pre-schoolers is wrong and borders on abuse.

    • eljay on October 24, 2019, 8:25 am

      || Jackdaw: Politically propagandizing pre-schoolers is wrong and borders on abuse. ||

      I agree: No more propagandizing and borderline abusing pre-schoolers with Zionism.

      Thanks, Jackdaw.

    • Mooser on October 24, 2019, 4:54 pm

      “Politically propagandizing pre-schoolers is wrong and borders on abuse.”

      Yeah, it virtually circumscribes the child’s political outlook.

    • echinococcus on October 24, 2019, 5:03 pm

      Hey, Jack*$$,

      You haven’t read it. Kindly mark whatever in the book can even distantly answer to the definition of propaganda. Hint: it bears no resemblance to your Zionist indoctrination stuff.

    • oldgeezer on October 24, 2019, 11:37 pm

      @jockdoh

      Risible. With Israel day, Jerusalem day, Holocaust day, Shoah day, religious days of observance, you are with the the least qualified of people on this planet to complain about pre schoolers being propagandied. Israelis. at leasted those born in Israel and in many cases outside of Israel are propagandized from the moment of birth. Israel spews and, fights for the right to spew, it’s fictional view of history at Jews and everyone else. In many states this same fictional view is vomited on young children due to the influence of wealthy corrupt individuals who fetishize Israel for ignoble and immoral purposes.

  5. Jon66 on October 24, 2019, 3:35 pm

    Once again Ms. Elia selectively opposes barriers to free speech.
    She cries, “censorship” if a reading by one her approved authors is cancelled, but applauds the suppression of speech by those she disagrees with such as Richard Spenser. https://mondoweiss.net/2017/08/network-against-fascism/

    She is upset that Ms. Barshi can’t do her readings, but calls it a victory that Yiannopolous has his speech cancelled.
    https://mondoweiss.net/2017/02/cannot-protect-ourselves/

    Protection of free speech means protecting the rights of those we most disagree with.
    Ms. Elia is only interested in promoting her cause. She favors censorship for those she disapproves.

    • echinococcus on October 24, 2019, 5:01 pm

      What do you know, even a John66 is right once in a while.
      Yes, Ms Elia is selective in this way but a Zionist, and a vicious propagandist at that, is certainly in no position to berate her for it. The crust that selective genocidaire must have!

      • Jon66 on October 24, 2019, 6:57 pm

        Echi,
        Not selective.
        She is simply not a free speech advocate. She is in favor of censorship and speech suppression for the folks with whom she disagrees. Same as those who oppose Ms. Barshi. I’m not sure why she is complaining when she seems comfortable with the tactics.
        I oppose any suppression of speech, even your irrelevant name calling.

      • RoHa on October 24, 2019, 10:36 pm

        Her position does seem to be “those I agree with should be allowed to speak freely; those I don’t agree with should be suppressed.” (I hope I’m wrong about her.) That looks selective to me.

        And it certainly doesn’t match my idea of free speech.

        But that does not invalidate this article. The censorship she reveals is abominable, and would be just as abominable if it were Jon66 or John Stuart Mill who revealed it.

      • oldgeezer on October 24, 2019, 11:28 pm

        @jon66

        In the same vein neither Israel, Israelis nor zionists are defenders of free speech. What’s your point?

      • Jon66 on October 24, 2019, 11:57 pm

        Roha
        It’s not selective.
        She doesn’t simply point out only the censorship that she dislikes. That’ would be selective.
        Rather she encourages censorship and suppression to of those with whom she disagrees.
        That’s what I find dangerous and despicable.

      • Jon66 on October 25, 2019, 11:08 am

        OG,
        The position of Israel is irrelevant.
        Ms Elia is bemoaning the “censorship” of a book while she supports censorship herself. She obviously is an opponent of free speech and as such should not be upset with the “censorship”. Her article is not simply reporting on the incidents, but rather is making a case that censorship is wrong.

      • eljay on October 25, 2019, 12:35 pm

        || Jon66: … Ms Elia is bemoaning the “censorship” of a book while she supports censorship herself. She obviously is an opponent of free speech and as such should not be upset with the “censorship”. … ||

        I agree that hypocrisy is a terrible thing and that Ms. Elia is wrong to be a hypocrite.

        But I gotta say it’s pretty funny to see a Zionist complaining about hypocrisy.  :-)

      • RoHa on October 25, 2019, 9:48 pm

        Hypocrisy doesn’t worry me a great deal. That is probably because I am interested in evidence and argument rather than the person who is presenting the evidence and argument.

        Elia may be a hypocrite, but that does not affect the force of her arguments. The charge is simply an argumentum ad hominem.

      • Jon66 on October 26, 2019, 9:52 am

        Roha
        Hypocrisy isn’t the issue
        Rather, Ms Elia is arguing through a series of articles that free speech should be limited to those of her approved thinking. It’s not that her stance is inconsistent or hypocritical. She consistently advocates for speech suppression of those she endorses and unrestricted speech for those she approves.
        The issue is that she hides this principle rather than enunciates it. If she was more transparent then we could discuss the merits of her argument,

      • eljay on October 26, 2019, 12:53 pm

        || Jon66: … Hypocrisy isn’t the issue … She consistently advocates for speech suppression of those she endorses and unrestricted speech for those she approves.
        The issue is that she hides this principle rather than enunciates it. If she was more transparent then we could discuss the merits of her argument, ||

        I don’t know whether you’re trying to be funny but your indignation is cracking me up!   :-)

        You Zionists consistently advocate Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism in as large as possible a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”, but you rightly oppose supremacism in other situations (and especially when it negatively affects Jews).

        Hypocrisy isn’t the issue. (I’m kidding – of course it’s part of the issue.)

        Instead of being transparent about it – instead of letting your hateful and immoral beliefs and actions stand or fall on their own merit (or lack thereof) – you bury them under:
        – destructive accusations of anti-Semitism;
        – manufactured “rights” for people who choose to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish;
        – fraudulent claims of indigeneity (“ancient / historic / eternal / lost / one true homeland”); and/or
        – Holocaust.

      • Jon66 on October 26, 2019, 2:57 pm

        Eljay,
        As Roha says, “ but that does not affect the force of her arguments. The charge is simply an argumentum ad hominem.”
        Do you have anything relevant to say about free speech and censorship?

      • eljay on October 26, 2019, 5:44 pm

        || Jon66: Eljay … Do you have anything relevant to say about free speech and censorship? ||

        I’ve already said it. Now I’m waiting for you Zionists to start being transparent about your colonialism, (war) crimes and religion-based supremacism.

      • RoHa on October 27, 2019, 2:27 am

        “The issue is that she hides this principle rather than enunciates it. If she was more transparent then we could discuss the merits of her argument,”

        Which argument? As far as I recall, she has never made an argument to support her idea that some speech is to be suppressed and some permitted.

        And this article about “P is for Palestine” is perfectly intelligible as it stands. One does not need to obsess – or know – about Elia’s position in order to understand the article.

    • Mooser on October 24, 2019, 5:06 pm

      It never fails; as goes the Right, so goes the all-rightnik.

      • RoHa on October 24, 2019, 10:26 pm

        You keep saying this. What does it mean?

      • echinococcus on October 24, 2019, 11:06 pm

        It sort of feebly alliterates. It also produces self-regard by placing the author as a nonconforming “left” person, without this having to do anything with either the property of means of production or opposition to imperialism and war — au contraire.

      • Mooser on October 25, 2019, 12:29 am

        “You keep saying this. What does it mean?”

        It means that Zionists end up sounding just like the White Nationalists and Alt-right idiots. Cause that’s the way the matzoh crumbles sometimes, into a half-baked cracker.

      • Mooser on October 25, 2019, 12:58 pm

        “It also produces self-regard by placing the author as a nonconforming “left” person”

        Okay, okay, I bow to the constructive criticism of the proletariat, its cadres and People’s Commissar! Charge me with me Article 58 and send me to gulag.

      • echinococcus on October 25, 2019, 4:42 pm

        Mooser,

        That wouldn’t have been a major problem. The horror of it is that it’s the converse, i.e. White Nationalists and Alt-right idiots are now sounding just like the Zionists.

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