Jewish groups have issued a legal threat against a public library in New Jersey if librarians proceed with a public reading of a book called “P is for Palestine,” the Bridgewater Courier News reported Monday.
The two groups - the Central Jersey Jewish Public Affairs Committee and the Zachor Legal Institute, a legal group that fights the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel - sent a letter to the Highland Park Library threatening to file formal complaints with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education should they hold the event on 2:00 p.m. on Sunday as scheduled. The groups claim sponsoring the book reading would be anti-Semitic and thus violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The book, which teaches children the alphabet while using concepts from Palestinian history and culture, attracted controversy soon after it was published in 2017 because its entry for the 9th letter was “I is for Intifada. Intifada is Arabic for rising up/For what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!”
“Intifada,” the Arabic word for “tremor” or “shaking off,” was used to refer to Palestinian uprisings in the 1980s and 2000s, which included violent terrorist attacks as well as nonviolent protests. More than 1,000 Israelis and 5,000 Palestinians combined were killed in the two intifadas.
“Based on First Amendment law, the library can and should prohibit the reading of a book to children that legitimizes violence,” Marc Greendorfer, an attorney who wrote the letter on behalf of the Zachor Institute, told the Courier News. “More importantly, however, as a separate matter, the library must independently recognize applicable provisions of federal law.”
A book reading at the library was previously scheduled for May before being postponed. Author Golbarg Bashi, a BDS supporter, said critics didn’t respect the Constitution.
“American librarians have allowed a group to break the First Amendment — a violent group,” Bashi told the Courier News. “Zionists based in that neighborhood. People who adhere to the ideology of Zionism. It is very important [to distinguish] between Judaism and Zionism. These are two different things.”
Bashi also compared the Intifada to Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March.
Jewish groups are also expected to protest outside the library should the reading commence, though attendance is expected to be depressed because that falls a few hours before the start of the holiday of Shemini Atzeret.
A New York bookstore that hosted a reading of “P is for Palestine” in 2017 was protested by the far-right Jewish Defense League.