Members of the Jewish community in Highland Park, New Jersey, are trying to stop the local library from putting on its shelves a children’s alphabet book called “P is for Palestine.” The book’s author, Golbarg Bashi, is an Iranian-American whose past works also have stirred emotions, according to WABC TV.
The Highland Park Library temporarily removed the book and postponed a public reading of the book after receiving a steady stream of complaints claiming the book introduces violence and anti-semitism to youngsters.
“It’s being used to teach little children about how great the Palestinians are and we should murder the Jews, that’s the bottom line,” Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg said.
One page in particular in the book that some are threatened by is the I page, which says, “I is for Intifada.”
“It’s a symbol … it says that it’s OK to have books that teach little children to hate,” Rosenberg said. “It’s anti-Semitic and I’m telling you the Jewish community here is up in arms.”
Bashi said that stirring up anger and fear is not her intent for the book. “This is a children’s book about children who basically have no books written about them in English in this country,” she said. “Some people don’t understand what Intifada means. Intifada means resistance. The Women’s March is Intifada. It’s resistance.”
Residents of Highland Park describe the town as “very Jewish.” Some do support the issue of free speech with regard to Bashi’s book. Rachel Kleinman, who grew up in Highland Park and is Jewish, said she was surprised at the “blatant racism” against Palestinians because residents are usually very open-minded.
“The idea of this person visiting our community – and being accepted – makes me feel unsafe,” Lindsay Erin, a Highland Park resident, told NJ.com. “I is for Intifada … encouraging children to rise up any way they see fit to resist … far from peaceful and far from appropriate,” she said.
Bashi admits that her book, which quickly sells out with each reprinting, has been met with push-back before. In 2017, in New York City, a local book store was inundated with protests from members of an Upper West Side synagogue, according to the Daily News.
At the time, Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue said the children’s book glorifies violence. “The book states that ‘I is for Intifada, Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!’ The intifada was not ‘a rising up for what is right.’ It was a mass descent into immorality,” Hirsch said in a letter posted on the temple’s website.
NJ.com reports that Bashi claims she regularly receives threats and that “‘no bookstore in New York would dare to contact me,’ because store owners don’t want to be caught up in a similar controversy.”
The Highland Park Library’s board of trustees will conduct a public meeting June 5 to consider rescheduling the public reading by the controversial author, who is a professor of Middle East studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The meeting is expected to draw a huge crowd.
Video by WABC
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