My reading at Evanston Public Library has been reinstated

The al-Nada towers in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, had ninety apartments before they were destroyed in Israeli attacks.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

This afternoon I spoke with Karen Danczak Lyons, director of the Evanston Public Library, who confirmed that my 11 August reading from The Battle for Justice in Palestine has been reinstated.

Lyons informed me that updated information for those wishing to attend will be posted to the library’s website.

I have no doubt that this reversal owes much to the many people – including a number of professional librarians – who wrote to Evanston Public Library to express their concern at the cancelation.

I am truly grateful to everyone for their support. Gone are the days when institutions could quietly push aside the question of Palestine.

Earlier today, Lyons issued a statement about her unilateral cancelation of the reading.

“The statement that the Evanston Public Library banned or censored the work of author Ali Abunimah is false,” Lyons wrote. “We are co-sponsors of this event and have been promoting this program through flyers, posters, social media and our electronic newsletters.”

But the fact is that on Saturday, the library deleted my reading from its calendar and tweeted, “We will reschedule Ali Abunimah’s talk. With this complex issue, we now plan to schedule more speakers on other dates too.”

And on Friday, Lesley Williams, the library staff person responsible for the program, wrote me an email warning me that the event may be canceled because Lyons had ordered her to confirm the booking of a “pro-Israel” speaker prior to my event in order to ensure “balance.”

My response

In our conversation and in an email, I told Ms. Lyons that I saw no valid reason to cancel or reschedule the 11 August event and I am pleased it has now been reversed.

Now, more than ever, people want to talk about what is happening in Palestine.

I’m ready to engage with everyone who comes, whether they agree with me or disagree. And I understand well enough that by co-sponsoring a reading, the library is not endorsing my views any more than it would be endorsing the views of any other author.

“Balance”

My talk about my book has been canceled by the Evanston Public Library.

My speaking next Monday does not preclude the library from seeking authors with differing view from speaking in the future.

I told Ms. Lyons that I hope the library does continue this conversation with a range of speakers, but that it pushes beyond the narrow and misleading framework of “pro-Palestinian” and “pro-Israeli.”

This restrictive framework not only sidelines Palestinian voices, but often excludes a broad range of Jewish people who refuse to be implicated in Israel’s colonial and apartheid crimes against Palestinians.

“The spurious commitment to ‘balance’ implies an effort to undermine or challenge Mr. Abunimah’s perspective even before his presentation,” the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) said in its letter to the Evanston Public Library.

“It suggests a predetermined bias against Mr. Abunimah’s open record of speaking on behalf of Palestinian civil rights.”

USACBI asks: “Would the Evanston Public Library insist on inviting a member of the Ku Klux Klan to present the ‘other side’ of a presentation by Cornel West?”

Palestine remains one of the last major taboos in American society and the only one where a requirement for “balance” is routinely used as a tactic to silence Palestinian experiences and voices.

Palestinians are the only people whose mere existence in any cultural, academic or intellectual space is required to be “balanced” by the presence and voice of their oppressors or their oppressors’ apologists.

Next Monday I will read a section from my book about Gaza that provides context for the current struggle the Palestinian people there are waging, at an unbearable cost, to end Israel’s criminal and murderous siege.

I will talk about what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has rightly termed Israel’s “genocidal slaughter” in Gaza which has, since 8 July killed 1,888 people, 84 percent of them civilians and 447 of them children.

Yes, this should be an inclusive conversation and an urgent one, but let’s not pretend anything can justify or “balance” the horrifying facts of this massacre.

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Comments

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Was wondering where is Evanston .?

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Alright! We did it! Shows that even on such a tabooed subject as the opression of the Palestinian people by Israel, pressure exerted by the population can have an effect. Hopefully these small steps to a more open dialogue can lead one day to justice for the Palestinian people. Best wishes on a succesful and special talk, Mr. Abunimah.

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UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review – USA

In the same regard, in defense of the Human Rights of all children, we denounce the complicity of the US government in contracting with the government of the Zionist apartheid state of Israel to supply armaments being used at this moment to massacre the civilian population of Palestinians in Gaza, including an unbearable number of children as victims of state sponsored genocide.

http://unpfip.blogspot.ca/2014...

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In reference to the last part of Ali's statement, there will be a press conference at 9:30am tomorrow in front of the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington, Evanston, IL 60201 . At issue will be "The Palestine Taboo - A Temporary Breakthrough Is Not Enough - What Needs to Be Done to Dispel the Palestine Taboo?"

1) The Social Media aspects of this issue presented by Karen Pallist of Neighbors for Peace.
2) The international aspects of this issue presented by Maha Jarad, former head of the Arab American Action Network, and Lynn Pollack of Jewish Voice for Peace, both to be introduced by Dale Lehman of Neighbors for Peace
3) The domestic aspects of this issue presented by Andy Thayer, renowned Chicagoland activist, and introduced by Laura Paz of Neighbors for Peace.
4) What the Library Administration has said to us
5) What Neighbors for Peace and other organizations are going to do next.
6) Other organizations joining in this action are Jewish Voice for Peace, and World Can't Wait Chicago (list still in formation)

Neighbors for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, and World Can't Wait Chicago

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It was a shock when I heard that Ali Abunimah's talk was--apparently--cancelled. I no longer live in Evanston (I live in Montreal now) but I did for nearly 10 years, I was involved with Neighbors 4 Peace. We presented many programs there. I really enjoyed that library, and the nice people who worked there. I am very sorry not to be able to be present. I am relieved to know that this talk is being given after all--but I do strongly agree with what Ali Abunimah says about "balance." The very idea of a "balanced" view of a massacre is truly obscene.

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Thanks Ali for alerting us to this matter and giving readers here a chance to register our dissatisfaction with Lyons and her decision. To everyone who contacted the library's board and its director, well done. We must never believe that our voices make no difference.

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Thank you Ali and to those people who contacted the library.
As Tom says we can all make a difference, no matter how small, and let's remember that in failing to do anything at all we are complicit in the crimes that are being committed.

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I hope someone will video Ali's talk and post on YouTube or other online video place. I'd love to "be there." And yes, this reversal of the cancelation feels so good: people power!!! We did it!!! It gives hope that the tide can turn, even the tidal tsunami of the zionist machine in US politics. We can turn it around by speaking our conscience. Peace and justice in Palestine!

To the person who asked where Evanston is, it's a town just to the north of and adjacent to Chicago, IL USA.

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Delighted to hear that registration is full! Apparently, the waiting list queue began forming early this afternoon :)

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Ali,

I'm happy the library finally let you speak. It's free speech.

I supported you with comments on your posts and on others, and with numerous tweets. But one teacher at one graduate library school in Illinois is not publishing my comment in support of your free speech, likely because of who I am. It's remarkable that a professor who supports your free speech squelches mine in doing so. And she's a professor -- at a library school -- teaching "Information Ethics and Policy"! Wow.

So I'm happy you'll finally get to speak. Have fun. And thanks for allowing me the free speech to say this.

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It was great to be able to view Mr. Abunimah's talk online on Monday, and encouraging that the event drew so many spectators and brought attention to his book. (I had hoped to receive my own copy of the book from Mondoweiss, which supposedly offered it as a gift to donors, after making a now-regrettable contribution to that site last month; if I'd received the book, I planned to donate it to a library in my own area.)

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.