Posted on Middle East Monitor, October 25, 2019
This is and older report which only now came to my attention. I think it is worth sharing. Recently, a Palestinian American friend who lives in a largely Arab immigrant community showed me what local teenagers (working at home due to COVID) are learning about Palestine and Israel in school. She was quite horrified by the Zionist bias underlying the ‘facts’ asserted there which literally contradict what these children learn from their families and in the community. Apparently it isn’t good enough to teach this inaccurate and biased worldview in school, but books available for teaching a different perspective to children are under attack. [jb]
More than 100 people showed up at a New Jersey library to protest against a public reading and talk of children’s alphabet book “P is for Palestine” by the Iranian-born author Dr Golbarg Bashi.
Highland Park Public Library’s delayed its May reading due to objections from the local Jewish community after the event was publicized, rescheduling it for 20 October.
Approximately 125 people protested the reading as they allege the 2017 self-published book is anti-Semitic and promotes violence.
Dr Bashi along with her supporters, which included a US-based rights organization Jewish Voice for Peace spoke out against the postponement.
She told the Courier News:
“American librarians have allowed a group to break the First Amendment – a violent group.”
“Zionists based in that neighborhood. People who adhere to the ideology of Zionism. It is very important [to differentiate] between Judaism and Zionism. These are two different things.”
The book celebrates Palestinian culture by teaching children the alphabet while using concepts from Palestinian history and culture, attracted controversy after it was published in 2017 because its entry for the 9th letter was
“I is for Intifada. Intifada is Arabic for rising up/For what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!”
According to Dr Bashi,”intifada” is the Arabic word for “resistance” and has a peaceful connotation. She compared it to the movements “Black Lives Matter” and the “Woman’s March”.
“The people who object to it and come up with all kinds of false lies about it do not know Arabic.”
“In the American media context, intifada has been used in connection with violence imagery. Just like other Arabic words. 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. You have violent aspects in that, but you also have mostly peaceful resistance. You have to completely use the Native American example in the context of Palestinian resistance.”
A week before the event, Zachor Legal Institute, a legal think tank against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, sent a letter to the mayor of Highland Park, stating that if the event is not cancelled, the institute will be filing a formal complaint with the US Departments of Justice and Education to begin an investigation to determine if the library was in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for promoting anti-Semitism.
A response from the mayor, Gayle Mittler, was posted on the town’s Facebook page yesterday morning, in which she explained that she disagreed with the library’s decision to host the reading, but added she is “a fierce advocate of free speech”.