Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Education: American Library Association to Debate Israeli Censorship

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Education: American Library Association to Debate Israeli Censorship

Article excerpt

Education: American Library Association To Debate Israeli Censorship

A storm is brewing at the American Library Association over a resolution passed at the organization's 1992 annual convention in San Francisco condemning Israeli censorship and human rights violations in the occupied territories. The debate at the 1993 conference in New Orleans this June will be over an attempt by partisans of Israel to rescind the ALA resolution.

As adopted last year, the resolution begins, "Threats to the freedom of expression of any person become threats to the freedom of all." It then cites the Article 19 International Center on Censorship's 1991 World Report on Information, Freedom and Censorship, co-published by the ALA, which documents Israel's banning of publications and books, imprisonment and deportation of journalists, and closure of universities, libraries, and research institutions. The resolution points to the U.S. special relationship with Israel as the "recipient of the largest amounts of annual U.S. aid per capita." That special relationship, continues the resolution, and the resulting U.S. annual aid, help offset the costs of the 25-year Israeli military occupation, thus making the U.S. a party to Israel's censorship practices and human rights violations.

Stifling the Preconditions for Peace

The resolution also reproaches Israel for stifling dialogue and nonviolent expression "which are preconditions for a just and peaceful solution of the Palestine-Israel conflict." The resolution's final article calls upon the Israeli government "to end all censorship and human rights violations in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, and in Israel itself."

With 54,735 members, the ALA, which was established in 1876, is the largest librarians' association in the world. Librarians in the U.S. and other countries look to the organization for guidance when disseminating information. The upcoming conference is likely to draw as many as 20,000 ALA members.

The anti-censorship resolution has worried pro-Israel activists who know that librarians nationwide look to the ALA's resolutions for guidance when referring readers to information about the Middle East.

"Threats to the freedom of expression of any person become threats to the freedom of all."

The debate on the topic "Israeli Censorship: There and Here" is scheduled for 8 to 11 p.m. on Sunday, June 27. It has been organized by the American Library Association's Task Force on Israeli Censorship and Palestinian Libraries. Chair of the task force is Chicago Public Library Reference Librarian David L. Williams. Speakers will include Jeffrey Blankfort, editor of the San Francisco-based Middle East Labor Bulletin, and Jay Murphy, editor of a New York literary magazine called Red Bass. Murphy was the target of a B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League (ADL) censorship campaign when his magazine published an issue featuring Palestinian writers and poets.

Task force members will present documentation and examples of censorship by the Israeli government as well as by pro-Israel groups in the U.S. Their sources include the Article 19 Center for Documentation in London, the Fund for Free Expression, Human Rights Watch, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and the U. …

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