7 thoughts on “D.C. Independent Bookstore Bans Palestinian-American Author – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. As the name suggests, I presume, this is a book store where people buy books on Politics and Prose and authors are invited to discuss these subjects with their readers. An independent store, I thought, encourages diversity of political thought whether the owner of the store agrees with it or not. If ‘A GROUP’ does not like a particular book because of what it says and the owner also does not agree with the main idea contained in the book and that results in cancellation of an invitation to the author to discuss the book, the book store can not claim to be “AN INDEPENDENT BOOK STORE” any more and the owner is perceived as ” NOT OPENMINDED” to different points of view from his/hers. Only when an owner of a book store will allow an author to discuss his/her book with whom he/she disagrees, will the store have the legitimacy to call itself “INDEPENDENT”. I hope, Ms Cohen will re-invite Prof Saree Makdisi. I have read quite a few of his Op-Eds and his is a voice of reason and Ms Cohen should not deprive the memebership of her store to hear what this wise professor has to say.

  2. Prof. Makdisi is pretty clear in his newspaper columns, reprinted on his blog, that he is in favor of a one-state solution. _Palestine Inside and Out_ is a descriptive book for the most part, different from Abunimah’s and Tilley’s prescriptive works on a one-state solution, or Abu-Sitta’s work on Right of Return, all of which envision or sketch a complete scenario for the resolution of the conflict on a one-state basis. “Independent bookstore” is often code for “owned by ISM or ANSWER supporters”, and I suspect that this is an attempt to shame P&P for not being anti-Zionist, or not anti-Zionist enough. An honest “We do not agree with you and are not obliged to offer you a forum when the vast majority small of independent booksellers are taking an explicitly anti-Zionist stand” would have sufficed, but since booksellers are going to be boycotted by someone no matter what they do, a little CYA is called for. Since Makdisi is well within the mainstream of academic debate, it certainly couldn’t hurt to invite him and get the anti-Israel crowd to drop some green at P&P, but I am generally a bit more sanguine about where mainstream debate is in academe right now.

  3. @Eurosabra: Since yr name indicates you are European or at least living in Europe I’m not sure how/why you believe you understand terms of art in the U.S. bookselling business. You are wrong in yr impression of the meaning of the term. “Independent” bookseller refers to any store independent of the mega-chains like Barnes & Noble. THere is even a national independent booksellers professional association & I assure you there are no political connotations to either the term or being a member.

    Since Makdisi’s book, as you say, doesn’t focus specifically on solutions or prescriptions for resolving the conflict, it’s safe to say that any presentation he makes at this bookstore would be tertiary at best to what he would say. So the owner’s fears are unfounded. And again as you say, Makdisi is well within the academic mainstream in this. By denying him a venue, P&P is rendering itself irrelevant to those for whom this debate is important, which is an awful lot of people & potential customers.

  4. A copy of a letter I sent the censoress, Ms. Carla Cohen:

    Dear Ms. Cohen:

    As a resident of the DC area and a lover of stimulating books, I have had high regard for your store, Politics and Prose, and for the exciting events that you have often organized there. But that has changed, after reading Richard Silverstein’s account of your decision to cancel Professor Saree Makdisi’s planned book reading event at your store in honor of his new book Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.

    First, I noticed that Mr. Silverstein gave you the privileges and benefits that, ironically, you denied Professor Makdisi. In discussing your decision to ban Makdisi, Mr. Silverstein had the integrity to bring forth your point of view. He published his piece only after hearing your side of the story.In the article, he quoted in full your letter attempting to justify the ban, thereby allowing your voice to be heard. He gave you the opportunity to explain, and indeed you did elaborate on how Saree Makdisi’s new book is “beyond the pale” and therefore should be banned from Politics and Prose.

    You, however, did not give Professor Makdisi the opportunity to make his case; you did not allow his voice to come through. You did not have the honesty, integrity and openness to allow Professor Makdisi to present his side, namely why the book is certainly not “beyond the pale” and why he thinks we, the people who are interested in solving the conflict, should consider his ideas and opinions. Instead, you assumed the role of the liberal intelligentsia’s censor and gatekeeper, issuing a decree: the public cannot be allowed to hear Professor Makdisi discuss his book. What a shame!

    While I am aware of your concerns, I am hugely disappointed in your self-imposed blatant censorship. I highly doubt your quite imaginative fear that angry hordes of right-wing Zionists are lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on you if you dare invite Professor Makdisi to give a talk. And even if some threatening voices do exist, do you not have a backbone? Aren’t the principles of freedom of speech, thought and expression worth fighting for? By banning Professor Makdisi from your store, you acted no differently than AIPAC and other Jewish right-wing organizations that habitually ban and harass speakers whom they deem “beyond the pale,” even though those speakers advocate for peace and strongly denounce violence, as does Professor Makdisi.

    I would like to suggest you heed the warning expressed so eloquently by Supreme Court Justice William Douglas:
    “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”

    Douglas was talking about the government, of course. I bet he never imagined that one day those same words will aptly describe self-censorship imposed by private individuals, self-defined liberals (!!) no less, who abuse their standing in the community to engage in restriction of free speech and free thought.

    I ask that you reconsider your decision. Until you do so, I am forced to express my deep disappointment in your censorship by resolving that none of the members of my family will visit your store. Please do take a stand for freedom of thought and expression. There is no time to waste. Thank you.

    Silver Spring, MD

  5. @s: Cohen has written me a very sharp, aggrieved e mail in which she appears to acknowledge that she has had a change of heart. She seems to have taken offense at being called a “wimp.” I confirmed that Makdisi has been reinvited with bookstore staff. They are waiting for his reply.

  6. Richard
    I eagely await your comments on the mistrial of the shooter at the Seattle JCC. This is certainly worth your attention since it has received virtually no press coverage in the US

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