(JTA) — The public library in Highland Park, N.J. cancelled a public hearing about the children’s book “P is for Palestine,” citing safety and crowd control, but said it would reschedule a reading of the book by its author.
An author event scheduled for mid-May had previously been postponed by the library after Jewish critics of the book said it promoted violence and that its author shouldn’t be given a platform at the public library.
The meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Highland Park Public Library had been scheduled for Wednesday. The decision to cancel the meeting was made in consultation with the city’s mayor and police chief, the library said in a cancellation notice on its website.
The statement described the next steps that the library plans to take since “there is no time in the foreseeable future when those (safety) conditions are likely to change.”
The library announced that it would reschedule the talk and reading by “P is for Palestine” author Golbarg Bashi, and schedule a similar program around the book “I is for Israel,” by Gili Bar-Hillel and Prodeepta Das.
In 2017, the alphabet book by Bashi, an Iranian-born instructor of Middle Eastern history at nearby Rutgers University, sparked controversy when it was offered for sale at a popular book store on New York’s Upper West Side. A nearby Reform synagogue objected especially to a two-page spread featuring the letter I, which states “I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!”
Critics said the page glorified the violent resistance that characterized the two separate Palestinian “uprisings” of the late 1980s and early 2000s. Bashi, however, said “intifada” encompasses a broader and largely nonviolent Palestinian cultural resistance.