A book that was so controversial the University of Michigan Press stopped selling it is now back on U-M's distribution list.
The Press' executive board decided unanimously last week that "it would be a blow against free speech" to remove "Overcoming Zionism" from its Web site, despite members' "deep reservations" over the content.
Critics characterize the book as anti-Semitic hate speech, and some have faulted U-M for facilitating its sales.
U-M Press began distributing the book in February, but pulled it last month. In all, U-M distributed 800 copies.
"The issue here is not censorship, as some have claimed," said Jonathan Schwartz, 24, a U-M graduate who has blogged in opposition of the book, written by Joel Kovel. "The real issue is the university's knowing association with Mr. Kovel's racist hate speech."
Kovel says it's a carefully reasoned position that should be part of public debate. He argues Zionism has led Israel to "state-sponsored racism."
The book is published by Pluto Press, a left-wing publishing house in London. Pluto's only U.S. distributor is U-M Press. Since 2004, the university has agreed to sell all of Pluto's titles without reviewing them.
"Had (Kovel's) manuscript gone through the standard review process used by the University of Michigan Press, the board would not have recommended publication," read a statement by the executive board of directors. "But the arrangement with Pluto Press is for distribution only."
The agreement does not constitute an endorsement, said U-M spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham.