Editor`s Note: A year ago (the issues dated Dec. 27, 2002 and Jan. 17, 2003, to be precise) The Jewish Press featured a pair of front-page essays by a librarian who, under the pseudonym N. Leonard Tolkan, examined a phenomenon we called "Librarians Against Israel." The author documented case after case of anti-Israel (and, not incidentally, anti-U.S.) bias in the ranks of America`s librarians and demonstrated how that bias affects the selection of books, films, and lecture presentations on the part of our public libraries.
The situation has not changed for the better, as former library administrator George Baker (also a pseudonym makes clear.
Are you ready for this one? Hamas and Fatah are not terrorist groups, but rather political organizations. That is what it says on a website, and, sadly, you do not have to be very naive to believe it. You see, a librarian put it together, and people tend to trust librarians. They think of them as knowledgeable and fair-minded. Well, maybe they shouldn`t.
The website is the handiwork of Christof Galli, Middle East resources specialist at Duke University`s Perkins Library, and member of the Muslim Networks Consortium, a group run, in part, by Ebrahim Moosa, who teaches at Duke. As reported in the April 23 edition of The Chronicle, a Duke University newspaper, Professor Moosa has exclaimed: "I think the language of `terrorism` is going to go out, and it`s going to be replaced with `resistance` and `liberation` from American power."
In its original form, Galli tellingly entitled the website "Palestine Internet Resources," and it contained a map on which Israel was nonexistent. The website -- defended in writing by head librarian David Ferriero -- is hardly limited to bashing Israel and spouting the usually subtle anti-Jewish asides employed by so many of those who despise the Jewish
state. In fact, it can be quite overtly anti-Semitic, linking to a racist cartoon, for example, in which the Star of David is crafted from barbed wire.
I consider myself to be on the center of the political spectrum, but must give considerable credit to the Duke Conservative Union. It was the DCU whose members first exposed the website`s bigotry, as well as the overwhelmingly pervasive anti-Bush sentiments found on a second Perkins Library website, likewise constructed by Galli.
A recent editorial in New Sense, a DCU magazine, summed up this sorry state of affairs: "Mr. Galli and Mr. Ferriero should be deeply ashamed of their actions. The former `librarian` misused his post as a bully pulpit to preach to unsuspecting students. The latter is too foolish to realize this. Neither man deserves a position at a serious institution of higher learning."
But what has occurred at the Perkins Library is by no means unique. Ponder what has been taking place at the Boulder Public Library in Boulder, Colorado. The outreach librarian there is Lebanon- born Ghada Elturk, who has been active in the American Library Association`s International Relations Round Table. Her published writings reveal someone who is a passionate advocate of the Palestinian cause. But has Elturk used her job to propagandize for it?
You be the judge:
In April of 2002 alone, at least six pro-Palestinian films -- and not one that even by a stretch of the imagination could be considered pro-Israeli -- were shown in the library`s main branch. The distributors of one of those, "The Bombing," describe their creation as a motion picture that does not take sides, but that is simply not the case. Its narration unequivocally blames Israel for homicide/suicide bombings, without a hint of placing any of the onus on the Palestinian Authority's unrelenting indoctrination of its young people into the "glories" of jihad.
Moreover, several of the pro-Palestinian films viewed that month were added to the Boulder Public Library`s permanent collection, and are currently available for loan. Acquisitions at the library have, for some time now, been heavily skewed against Israel. An examination of its online catalog will confirm that. Yet another pro-Palestinian program has already been scheduled there for November 1, 2004. And to promote that event, the library's website, already quite hostile to Israel, gushes over with praise for the likes of Hanan Ashrawi. Nothing is said of Ashrawi's justification for the torture and lynching of the two Israeli reservists who wandered into Ramallah in October of 2000. Not a word is mentioned of her
steadfast refusal to make an unambiguous denunciation of Palestinian terrorism.
Clearly, we are witnessing a disturbing trend -- one that raises distinct questions about professional ethics and accountability -- at work in our public libraries. Please understand that one is not advocating censorship when one asks whether communities are entitled to fairness, balance, discretion and sensitivity from their public libraries. Are those not the very values that are supposed to underlie the library profession? And are they not especially importantwhen ethnic and international political disputes of long duration are involved?
But balance and sensitivity have long gone missing in the precincts of the Israel-hating Left. In the meantime, all too many of your friendly neighborhood librarians are busily spreading their anti-Israel animus. Some more examples:
A pro-Palestinian film series was held at the Flint [Michigan] Public Library this past November. The "good" news is that it was a trifle more restrained than the filmfest in Boulder -- "only" three pro- Palestinian films were shown (naturally, though, there was not a single pro-Israeli presentation).
There was something of a multi-media aspect to two Israel-bashing programs at the New Brunswick [New Jersey] Public Library in 2002. On June 29 of that year an anti-Israel film was shown. Four months later, the public was treated to an anti-Israel lecture, complete with accompanying slide show. The notorious International Solidarity Movement`s New Jersey offshoot, led by outspoken terrorism apologist Charlotte Kates, was heavily involved in those affairs. I know of no recent pro-Israel programs at that library.
Neither has there been any public rebuttal to the anti-Israel films shown in the auditorium of the Berkeley Public Library on October 30 and November 6 of last year. Not that those incidents are unique to Berkeley or its library system, which has a history of engaging in grandstanding for the Palestinian side. One memorable example: back in 1998, a display
window at its main entrance was graced with an exhibition of drawings by Palestinian children. The works of art carried such inflammatory titles as: "Three Israelis Deport a Palestinian Woman From the Homeland" and "Tear Gas in My Eyes."
On January 30, 1998, the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California quoted Jack Kessler of the Israel Action Network in Berkeley as follows: "It`s an attempt to smear the Israelis...It`s doubly intolerable by being on public property and being sponsored by the library.
There have been, of late, increasing acts of anti-Semitic violence and vandalism in Berkeley. To what extent have the library`s programs encouraged these outrages?
The pro-Palestinian propaganda barrage extends deep into the American heartland. In Iowa, at the Ames Public Library, what may well be the granddaddy of "let`s gang up on Israel" motion-picture festivals has perhaps fomented more bitterness and division than any other library-sponsored Israel- bashing event.
Because of it, some members of Ames`s small Jewish community report feeling vulnerable and isolated. Friendships of long standing have ended, and at least one library volunteer has resigned in protest.
Beginning on September 11, 2003, and continuing into December, the Ames Public Library presented an astonishing thirteen films under the title "Palestine Unabridged." Not a single one of the movies was even remotely balanced, let alone sympathetic to Israel.
Some Ames residents, disgusted by this massive propaganda fest, requested that a five minute statement be read prior to the showing of one of the movies, "Jenin, Jenin." That particular film goes beyond mere championing of the Palestinian cause, portraying Israelis as hateful, cold-blooded murderers. Replete with all manner of canard, enhanced by dishonest editing -- including the insertion of footage taken from other times and places -- "Jenin, Jenin" amounts to a cinematic blood libel against the Jewish people.
Among those who have refuted the lies of Jenin, Jenin" are an official UN investigative unit; Dr. David Sangan, an IDF physician who personally witnessed what actually transpired; a French-led team that produced the fair-minded documentary "The Road To Jenin"; and even Thabet Mardawi, a Palestinian who fought in Jenin and was later interviewed on CNN.
Needless to say, the UN, CNN, and Mardawi cannot exactly be accused of partiality to Israel. Why, then, hasn`t "The Road To Jenin," the much more objective documentary, been shown at the Ames Public Library? Why were those concerned Ames citizens -- the ones who in the interest of fairness wanted their comment read -- turned down flat?
Indeed, although adult services librarian Lynne Carey acknowledged the anger generated by the "Palestine Unabridged" filmfest, she was quoted in the November 13 Iowa State Daily as saying, "We haven`t considered pulling the program despite the concerns."
Why wasn`t pulling the program even considered? Is not such close-minded determination indicative of a lack of responsiveness from public employees mandated to serve everyone, without prejudice? Why was "Palestine Unabridged" dedicated to the memory of Rachel Corrie, the American pro-Palestinian activist whose death has been used by the anti-Israel Left as another stick with which to beat Israel? And who decided to bring Corrie`s aunt and cousin, who do not even live in Iowa, to the library for a ceremony marking the inception of the series?
Rachel Corrie was the U.S. flag-burning member of the aforementioned terror-enabling International Solidarity Movement. She was accidentally killed when she entered a closed military zone, during an IDF operation aimed at destroying tunnels used by terrorists to smuggle weapons from Egypt into Gaza.
Has the Ames Public Library or, for that matter, Duke University's Perkins Library done anything to honor the memory of another young American woman, a Duke University graduate -- a librarian, in fact -- who was killed in the Middle East? I speak of Dina Carter, murdered along with eight others when a Palestinian thug blew up the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria
on the Hebrew University campus.
Ms. Carter had been a librarian-archivist at the Jewish National Library on Mount Scopus, and on the day of her death she was registering for courses to improve her professional skills. Unlike Rachel Corrie, she never mutilated a U.S. flag.
Sorry, but I feel no sympathy for Gina Millsap, the head librarian at the Ames Public Library, who is now unhappy that her library is being called anti- Semitic. Quite ironically, she is active in the laughably- named Intellectual Freedom Round Table of the American Library Association. Tell us, Ms. Millsap, exactly how did "Palestine Unabridged" -- a publicly funded, three-month-long program promoting only one viewpoint -- contribute in any imaginable way to
freedom of inquiry?
I doubt that many will be fooled by condescending gestures. Belatedly, those who organized this travesty requested that The Ames Tribune list and review a number of pro-Israel books, and the newspaper did so. But has that made things right and equitable? Do the reviews really pack the visual and emotional wallop of week after week of pro-Palestinian films?
There have been other recent Israel-bashing fiestas that limitations of space prevent me from mentioning, at least at this point. By the time this article appears in print, a public library in the Midwest probably will have hosted an especially big and nasty one.
More articles about the bias so shockingly prevalent among librarians will be forthcoming, in this and other venues, by people both inside and outside the system who are fed up with the anti-U.S., anti- Israel slant that has become part of the very culture of the nation's libraries.
And some class-action taxpayer lawsuits may be in order to hold municipalities, state governments, administrators, boards and trustees accountable when those who work in our public, academic and school libraries decide that partisanship is more important than the professional obligation to be fair.
The author worked for many years as a library administrator.