Evanston Censorship Struggle Challenges Taboo on Palestinian Narrative and False Call for ‘Balance’

Library director Karen Danzig Lyons reverses cancellation of event in wake of
First Amendment outcry, as organizers brace for opposition to Palestinian author.

Forum/Reading: 7PM, Monday, August 11, 2014

Evanston Public Library Community Room, 1703 Orrington Ave, Evanston, IL 60201

Overflow room location: Lake Street Church, 607 Lake St, Evanston, IL 60201, (847) 864-2181

URL for web-cast – live stream: http://www.chicagoactivism.org/live

EVANSTON, IL: After a pitched struggle between peace activists and Evanston Public Library staff, a book reading and community forum with Palestinian author, Ali Abunimah, will go ahead as planned Monday evening at the suburban library. Organizers are bracing for opposition voices to mobilize to attend the event in the wake of their successful battle to push the library to reinstate Abunimah’s presentation.

The library had sought to cancel Abunimah’s discussion of his book, “The Struggle for Justice in Palestine,” because the library had not yet scheduled additional programs to offer a ‘balance’ to Mr Abunimah’s point of view, i.e. an event with a pro-Israeli frame. Peace activists decried the library’s viewpoint particularly when, to their knowledge, no similar request had ever been made in reference to an author event for a recently published book. They argue, when pro-Israel voices already dominate media and public policy discussion on the Israeli occupation and Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, there is a standard being imposed, that is not imposed for any other topic.

“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,” says Abunimah.

Online registration for Abunimah’s event filled to capacity within hours, with organizers expecting a lively debate with pro-Zionist activists who are expected to attend to challenge Abuhimah personally now that the library has relented in the face of concerns about censorship and First Amendment rights. 120 seats are reserved in the library, with an expected overflow crowd to be housed to watch the event remotely at nearby Lake Street Church.

The library had announced that it was cancelling Abunimah’s appearance barely a week before he was scheduled to speak, setting off a firestorm of criticism in social media – and the demand for Palestinians to be heard, not just seen and characterized by others. Peace activists have worked with the library to web-cast the event live as part of a larger effort to breach what they say is endemic pro-Israeli media bias.

Abunimah will read a section about Gaza from his book that provides context for the current struggle that the Palestinian people are waging in the beleaguered open-air prison, at an almost unbearable cost, to end Israel’s murderous siege and bombardment. He will discuss what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has termed Israel’s “genocidal slaughter” in Gaza, which since July 8 has killed over 2,000 people – over 80% percent of whom are civilians, including 450 children.

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