Books -- but not on Mideast with Israelis
Books -- but not on Mideast with IsraelisIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A Palestinian Authority woman author has managed to get the Univ. of Texas not to publish a book on the Middle East - because it includes Israeli authors. She would have preferred that they be excluded, but the university would not do that., so she ruined the possibility of the book's publication.

“I am so proud of having the book cancelled,” Palestinian author Huzama Habayeb, who lives in Dubai, told Gulf News, “I am a Palestinian and to achieve this, to be able to resist the illegal Israeli occupation of my homeland, is something that I will cherish forever. It is my own victory in the struggle.”

She had contributed to a proposed book written by women on life in the Middle East, but was upset by the inclusion of two Israeli women writers.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Austin-based University of Texas, was planning to publish the anthology in honor of the late American scholar Elizabeth (B.J.) Fernai, who had lived and written on the Middle East.

After Huzama realized that two Israeli women also would be writing in the proposed book, she withdrew her manuscript, explaining that Israel is an “occupier: of “her land,” although she was born in Jordan and never has set foot in Israel.

Surprised by the university’s agreement to leave her writing out of the book, she took the next step to ban the book altogether by using the tactic of publicizing it in the Arab world.

“There are academic boycott movements around the world protesting the Israeli occupation – and the only two countries where they don’t exist are the United States and Israel.” Huzama told the Dubai-based website. “It doesn’t need a genius to figure out that the Texas center wanted to resolve the issue quickly and silently.”

She succeeded in her aim by enlisting other writers who had submitted manuscripts. An Egyptian novelist and critic and friend of hers, Radwa Ashour, threatened to withdraw her story if the university included the Israeli writers.

After five other writer threatened to withdraw  their manuscripts, the university said the book already was at the printers and would be published as is. Huzama then organized a petition, and the university had to cancel the printing.

“We have heard back from many of the contributors to the volume in honor of B.J. Fernea,” Kamran Scot Aghaie, the director of the center, wrote the contributors, according to Gulf News. “Some of you wish to proceed with the project, and others have withdrawn their contributions. On balance, the net result is that the book project is no longer viable. Therefore, we are discontinuing publication of this volume.

“A few contributors feel that we should have excluded Jewish Israeli authors as a matter of policy, or that we should have treated them differently from other authors. We, of course, will not do that, because it violates our policy against discriminating based on race, religion, or national origin.

"I have been asked by some to respond to the angry and hostile emails we’ve been receiving, or to address the bizarre conspiracy theory circulating that argues this volume was an attempt to “trap” Arab authors into participating in a volume in which Jewish Israeli authors also participated. I prefer not to dignify such things with a response.

"We are routinely subjected to pressure, and in some cases intimidation, by groups and individuals who wish to silence other perspectives from our programs, classes, events, publications, etc.... We are committed to the ideal that a university has to be a place in which ideas are uncensored and are freely exchanged, and more particularly, without regard for one’s religion, race, or national origin."

Huzama denies she is “anti-Jewish and differentiates that from being anti-Israel.

Her hatred of Israel goes back 1967, the year in which she was born and when Israel defended itself against seven Arab countries in the Six-Day War in 1967, resulting in the restoration of Judea and Samaria to Israel.

Huzama said had a chance to enter Israel  but refused. “When I was told that my papers would have to be stamped with an Israeli stamp, I refused to cross. To accept that stamp would be recognition of Israel,” she declared.  She may have missed the fact the the UN recognized Israel back in 1948.