Carla Cohen blames "dumbness" for her decision to cancel an appearance at Politics and Prose by an author who proposes a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an interview last week, the co-owner of the independent District bookstore said that she decided to re-invite Saree Makdisi, author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, to the store because she realized that customers "can listen to him, can make their own decisions [and] debate whether they agree or disagree with him."
She also said her decision, made when she returned from a trip late last month, came before an e-mail campaign spurred by a family member of Makdisi's.
Cohen originally had agreed to a May 28 appearance by Makdisi, a professor of English literature at the University of California at Los Angeles, back in April, before she had read his book. Within days, she realized that the author, whose book is mostly about Palestinian life amid the conflict, proposes a single, democratic, multicultural state for Israelis and Palestinians. She soon rescinded the invitation.
A longtime activist with Americans for Peace Now and involved with the newly established pro-Israel J Street, Cohen doesn't believe such a solution is practical. "It's like saying let's put Bosnia and Kosovo back into Yugoslavia," she said.
At the same time, she believes that she "made a mistake" and wants to "let [Makdisi's] views be heard."
Cohen said that she has not spoken with Makdisi -- he is out of the country -- but has contacted his publisher and hopes to set up an appearance at the store for September. The controversy seems to have boosted book sales; the store has sold four copies in the past two weeks after selling just two last month, according to Cohen.
She's also anticipating the "worst of both worlds," since she is expecting to receive some complaints from those unhappy with her decision to reschedule Makdisi's talk. As of Wednesday morning, though, she said she that of the 50 e-mails she had received since her Close to Home opinion piece appeared in Sunday's Washington Post, most supported her decision.