P is for Palestine: A Library, A Book, and the Battle for Free Speech

Once upon a time, the public library of a little town in New Jersey was forced to cancel a reading of the children's book "P is for Palestine" after vocal opposition, mainly from the pro-Israeli Jewish community, who claimed the book is anti-Semitic. This is a true story, and you won't believe what happened!

What was supposed to be a family event featuring Dr. Goldbarg Bashi, a Swedish-Iranian professor of Middle Eastern History, speaking about her alphabet book about Palestine was followed by discussion among those attending and a book signing ended up suddenly being shelved. The book is told in a simple stunning illustration that acts as an educational and colorful reference for children about the geography, the beauty, and the strength of the Palestinian culture.

One of the objections to the book was the page, “I is for Intifada,” which the author explained means "Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right if you are a kid or grown up". She further stated, "In my book, the intifada stands for peaceful and artistic resistance to the occupation."

The second objection was that they dislike the author because she identifies herself with BDS movement. I should note here that this is the first book written about Palestinian children in America in the English language.

Anticipating that a board meeting was on shortly after, a large coalition pro-Palestinian group petitioned the Highland Park Public Library to “rise up for what is right, reject this racist and naked attack on free speech, and immediately reinstate the planned ‘P is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book’ event."

Thanks to a poster at Mondoweiss online news magazine, with the name " Just " who explained this big drama best by raising these pointed questions. "I wonder if the 'Israeli partisans' are 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 cruel and inhumane Israeli treatment of Palestinians, including children, is questioned? I suggest that those 'Israel’s partisans' read this wonderful book and stop with their hasbara."

They will also learn that the book included pages such as "A is for Arabic my native tongue, a language that is spoken by 422 million speakers, and it is ranked as the 5th most spoken language in the world, and "E is for Eid, it means festival... when we come together with family and friends, exchange gifts and have a big feast."

During that debacle, a local rabbi sent an email to the bookstore who hosted the reading for the author asking him to publicly resend his support of this book. The rabbi further warned that if the bookstore continues to support the book, the bookstore will not be allowed to participate in an upcoming book fair at his synagogue preschool later that year. If that was not intimidation and blackmail, I do not know what is.

This is nothing more than an assault on the First Amendment. Does this “pro-Israel Jewish community” in NJ care about free speech? 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 forums on MSM? How many of those whiners condemned the Israeli murder of 12,000 children in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem during the last 108 days? Zero, zip, zilch, nada! Truth is that "P for Palestine" book's opponents should be ashamed for what they did.

One year before the book was published, I heard the most bizarre argument about Palestine from Anat Berko, a then lawmaker from the governing Likud Party, who said in Parliament debate on the two-state solution that "No 'P' in Arabic means no Palestine.

In response to this Israeli silly cow suggestion, Omar Al Ghazzawi mocked her in a Twitter post " If Palestine and Palestinians don't exist because there is no letter 'P' in Arabic, then I guess Jews don't exist because there's no letter 'J' in Hebrew?

It is comforting to know however, that according to Rasmusen Report, 93% of Americans feel freedom of speech is more important than making sure no one is offended.

Thanks to the publicity generated by its critics, 'P is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book' sold out within the first few days of its launch.

Finally, I would like to add to that the list below of American civic organizations that are demanded this event be reinstated: 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 Jewish Voice for Peace. A special thanks to the book author, Dr. Golbarg Bashi!

Mahmoud El-Yousseph is a Palestinian free-lance writer and retired USA veteran. He could be reached at: [email protected]

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