A public hearing that was to have been held on Wednesday by the public library in Highland Park, New Jersey, about whether to reschedule a controversial planned reading of an anti-Israel children’s book, was cancelled amid “citizen safety and crowd control concerns,” but the library said the reading would be rescheduled in any event.
The author of the children’s book “P is for Palestine” was scheduled to have held a reading of her book at the library in May before outrage from the local Jewish community forced the library to postpone. According to JNS, the event was sponsored by the group Jewish Voice for Peace.
The book, written by Golbarg Bashi, an Iranian-born instructor of Middle Eastern history at nearby Rutgers University, is subtitled “A Palestine alphabet book,” and contains an entry which states “I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!” despite common usage of the term by Palestinian Arabs to specifically refer to periods of high-frequency terror attacks against Israelis.
Jewish community members cited by JNS also noted that the book makes no mention of Israel and the Jewish people at all, despite referring to locations in Israel even mentioned in the Bible.
Amid the public outcry, the reading was postponed, and a public hearing of the library’s board of trustees that was to have dealt with the question of whether to reschedule the event was set for June 5.
However, the library ultimately cancelled the hearing, announcing that it would anyway reschedule the “P is for Palestine” talk, while also scheduling a program for a book called “I is for Israel.”
“After Library Director Jane Stanley’s consultation with Highland Park Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler and Highland Park Chief of Police Rick Abrams about citizen safety and crowd control concerns posed by the meeting of the Highland Park Public Library Board of Trustees scheduled for June 5, Library Board of Trustees President Bruce Tucker has concluded that the Library cannot in good conscience proceed with the meeting. While the Highland Park Public Library has the utmost confidence in the Borough Police Department, it has been decided that the June 5, 2019 meeting of the Library Board of Trustees is hereby cancelled,” the library stated on its website.
“Because there is no time in the foreseeable future when those conditions are likely to change,” the statement added, “the Library Director, on the advice of counsel, is taking the following actions:
-The Library will reschedule the 'P' is for Palestine author talk at a time that is mutually acceptable to the author and the Library.
-The Library will schedule a program around the book 'I' is for Israel' by Gili Bar-Hillel and Prodeepta Das as soon as possible.”
Former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind slammed the public library’s decision, asserting that it had “sold its constituents out, and for real cheap.”
“Instead of rescheduling the hearing so the voices of the community could be heard, they simply decided to schedule the book’s reading, completely disregarding the concerns of the local community. Oh, they threw us a bone: they will, ‘on the advice of counsel’ attempt to ‘balance’ the scales by also having a reading for a book titled ‘I’ is for Israel. So the message they’re sending is simple: it’s OK to have a book that teaches children about the violent intifada so long as we also have one about Jews,” Hikind said.
“In short, the Highland Park Public Library sold its constituents out, and for real cheap. Shame on all of them for cancelling the hearing and stifling the voices of democracy!” he added, "starting with" the mayor of Highland Park and the "board of 'trustees' that came up with this arrangement."