Yesterday, I posted about a D.C. independent bookstore owner, Carla Cohen, who disinvited Palestinian-American author, Saree Makdisi from an author appearance. She claimed she could never be “taken seriously” if she allowed an advocate of a one-state solution to speak at her store. Besides my blog post objecting to her rejection, I wrote her an e mail in which among other things I called her a “wimp” (and believe me that was the strongest language I used). Unfortunately, the information I was provided and on which I based my post was out of date.
Ms. Cohen wrote back today that she had reconsidered her decision. Since she wrote vaguely I called the store to confirm that Makdisi has been reinvited and they are waiting for his confirmation. This is all to the good and Cohen deserves credit for recognizing her mistake and correcting it.
But I was troubled by her reply to me:
Your letter is so rude that it makes me wish that I had not reconsidered my position. If you are the kind of “enlightened liberal” I am supposed to emulate, spare me. I was wrong, but your email is beyond insulting.
I want to tell you that the letters from Palestinians were polite and well thought out (unlike your ephitets and name calling). I have made an effort to answer them as they deserve.
How sincere is a person in acknowledging a mistake when they express a wish they hadn’t done so? And all because I took her to task for her error? And for her to feel specially aggrieved because she was treated better by Palestinians than by a fellow Jew seems, well, silly.
Cohen seems to think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that must be discussed over cups of demitasse. She doesn’t realize how deep the emotions are over this. She doesn’t realize that injustices like the one she thought to perpetrate generate real hurt among the victims. She doesn’t realize that we are called upon to be witnesses to this conflict and to help end it to the best of our abilities. Her commitment clearly flags. She did the right thing though I fear possibly for the wrong reasons (fear of being ostracized for her intolerant decision).