Magazine article American Libraries

Why Doesn't ALA Act on Israeli Censorship?

Magazine article American Libraries

Why Doesn't ALA Act on Israeli Censorship?

Article excerpt

ALA has for many years successfully avoided the issue of Israeli censorship. Although ALA Council resolutions have criticized and castigated other countries, Israel has escaped being named in this sensitive area of censorship. Despite discussion by the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) and the International Relations Committee (IRC) during 1984-85, the issue of Israeli censorship seems curiously to have fallen through the cracks.

A resolution sponsored by IRC surfaced at the July 2, 1991, meeting of the ALA Council held during Annual Conference. The intent of the resolution was to identify and condermn the censorship practiced by Israel against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. By the time the resolution was presented to Council, Israel was no longer named, and only the use of the term "Occupied Territories" indicated that Israel was involved, since Israel was the occupier. This evisceration came about as a compromise after much discussion at the IRC meetings.

But even this week resolution was vehemently attacked as "Israel-bashing" (AL, Sept. 1991, p. 726). Strangely, resolutions decrying censorship in the Soviet Union or South Africa never drew analogous condemnations as "Soviet-bashing" or as "South Africa-bashing." Documentation from reasonable sources sufficed to justify acceptance of those resolutions. In the case of Israeli censorship, there is, and has been, more than adequate documentation. Nevertheless, Council members accepted the deletion of "Occupied Territories" and adopted the resolution, leaving it a puny, listless protest against "Middle East censorship."

Since the "Middle East" is not a political entity, but a convenient name for a geographical area, it can hardly be held accountable for censorship or anything else. The resolution had become nothing but a farce.

Censorship of all sorts

The documentation offered on the Council floor came from the highly reputable Information, Freedom and Censorship: World Report 1991, prepared by Article 19, the International Centre on Censorship, in London, England--and published in the United States by ALA.

A section of the book (p. 369-377) is devoted to Israeli censorship of all sorts:

* some 10,000 books have been banned;

* telecommunications have been interfered with by banning fax machines (since August 1989) and deliberately cutting telephone lines;

* universities, other educational establishments, and theaters have been closed;

* writers have been detained;

* journalists have been attacked, beaten, and arrested;

* Palestinian journalists have been deported;

* publication of anything with "political significance" in the West Bank is prohibited;

* and Arab publications have been halted. …

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