A May 19 author event at the Highland Park Public Library in northern New Jersey with Golbarg Bashi, author of the 2017 self-published children’s book P Is for Palestine, was postponed, initially pending a May 20 public meeting of the library’s board of trustees. After significant public and media interest, the library announced via its website that the meeting would be further delayed. Sources told The Jewish Link that the delay is to allow Ramadan to conclude and to seek a larger location for the meeting.
“Due to the overwhelming public response to the children’s program “P is for Palestine,” the Library Board’s May 20 meeting is being rescheduled for June 5 at 7:30 p.m. [Ramadan is expected to conclude on or around June 4). The library is actively seeking a venue that can accommodate the expected turnout of the public. When the library secures a venue, proper notice will be provided including updating our website,” the message stated.
The Link first reported on the event’s postponement on May 9, and the news was since picked up nationally and internationally. Specifically, the coverage shared concern that the event was being held in a taxpayer-supported public library in a town with a large Jewish community, and that the alphabet book is considered offensive and unfriendly to those who support the Jewish right to a self-determined state. For example, the illustration for “I” stands for “Intifada.”
To members of the Jewish community, “Intifada” refers to two separate bouts of prolonged Palestinian violence and terror—from 1987 to 1991, and 2000 to 2005—during which some 1,300 Israelis were killed, in the Second Intifada mainly by suicide bombers, as well as many Palestinians.
Bashi, an instructor of Middle East studies at nearby Rutgers University, wrote on Facebook that her definition of “Intifada” connotes the Palestinian people’s “resistance movement, most of which is manifested in peaceful protest.” She added: “Intifada means resistance and resilience against the global and the U.N. condemnation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
However, Bashi and her book have been advocated for and defended by multiple BDS-affiliated organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. These organizations have known ties to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which, by and large, do not manifest themselves in “peaceful protest.” They manifest themselves with kite-bombings, rocket-launched bombs, butcher knives, suicide vests, guns and any other means available to “resist the occupation” by killing Jews and targeting civilians. Linda Sarsour, an activist who openly sympathizes with terrorists, provided advance praise for the book.
Josh Pruzansky, a longtime Highland Park resident and concerned community member, said he was gratified that the meeting would be delayed. “It gives everyone more time to reflect on this event. In a society that tore down statues and flags reminding everyone of a not-so-pleasant time long ago [referring to Confederate statues and flags in the Deep South], and rightfully so, how can our community not show similar sensitivity to its Jewish residents, many of who know people killed and injured during the Intifada[s]?”
Vice President of Religious Zionists of America Stephen M. Flatow, father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered during an “Intifada;” an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, told The Jewish Link, “I always thought that children’s books could be both entertaining and instructive. As a child, I read dozens of books that described war and fighting. I read about World War I and World War II battles; some not so pleasant to read. But none of them glorified the violence we found in them as a part of the story. I cannot recall reading anything that calls for violence such as in ‘I’ is for ‘Intifada,’ found in P is for Palestine. Like the word jihad, which Muslim apologists says means ‘striving,’ those in Israel and the West at large have come to know what it means [‘holy war’].
“As for intifada, it has clearly come to mean a violent war primarily waged against civilians through terror attacks,” continued Flatow. “To me, the picture of a little girl being held by her father, arms raised in ‘V for victory’ as they stand by a barbed wire fence, conjures up more than the text of ‘rising up for what is right.’ To me, the father of a murdered terror victim, it means that Palestinians will never let their children live peaceably side by side with Israelis because the re-establishment of the State of Israel will never be ‘right’ in their eyes.”
Eyewitness News and a number of other national media organizations were seen in Highland Park preparing to cover the May 20 library board of trustees event, according to multiple sources. Richard Abrams, Highland Park’s police chief, told The Jewish Link that he was taking the potential for a large turnout very seriously, whether it was to take place on Monday evening or another date.
By Elizabeth Kratz and Rochelle Kipnis
Editor's note: This article updates an earlier version appearing in the print edition of The Jewish Link of New Jersey, also dated May 16, 2019.