Library Rethinks Decision to Disinvite Noted Palestinian Scholar

World Can't Wait — Chicago | August 6, 2014

Ali Abunimah's reading of "The Battle for Justice in Palestine" will occur as planned on Monday, August 11 at 7 pm.


To Neighbors for Peace, for standing up to the Evanston (IL) Public Library (EPL) when their scheduled event featuring author Ali Abunimah was suddenly canceled.

Ali Abunimah is the Chicago-based author of a new book, “The Struggle for Justice in Palestine,” and his website, Electronic Intifada, is a widely read and respected source of news and analysis, diaries from Palestine, and reports on arts and activism on behalf of the people of Palestine around the world.

For all those reasons, it was a shock when the library simply removed the event from its online calendar last Friday (Aug. 1) and sent a tweet announcing it would be “rescheduled,” not bothering to inform the speaker or the sponsoring organizations. Neighbors sounded the alarm and mobilized broadly for people to call the library’s director, Karen-Danczak Lyons, and the American Library Association (whose headquarters are in Chicago) to demand that the event be reinstated - and it was!

In the midst of the U.S.-backed Israeli slaughter in Gaza, the cancelation of such a prominent voice for justice for Palestine was unacceptable, especially coming from a library. On top of that, Evanston is a suburb on Chicago’s northern border that is the home of Northwestern University and prides itself on a liberal, open-minded tradition. The EPL’s own mission statement says that it “promote[s] the development of independent, self-confident, and literate citizens through the provision of open access to cultural, intellectual, and informational resources.”

Dale Lehmann, Neighbors for Peace, at their press conference Aug. 5, 2014What reason did EPL give for this cancelation? In an email to Ali Abunimah, a library employee said that his reading had to be canceled because the library had failed to confirm the booking of a pro Israel speaker in order to ensure “balance.”  Lyons herself denied ever canceling the event, saying they were only trying to reschedule but cited as her reason for that the library wanted to arrange “other credible speakers” on the topic.

In its statement opposing the cancelation, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (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?” As Ali Abunimah wrote in his response to the reinstatement of his reading, “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.”

We need more such refusal to accept the unacceptable and more uncompromising mobilizations to demand a platform for critical thinking and the truth if we are ever going to stop these crimes committed by or at the behest of our government!

Maha Jarad, Palestinian-American and former head of the Arab American Action Network, speaking at the N4P press conference