Evanston Library cancels Palestinian-American author’s talk

Ali Abunimah, the Palestinian-American author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, was scheduled to speak at the Evanston Public Library on August 11. The library canceled the event on Twitter on Saturday:

Library director Karen Danczak Lyons is now elaborating on the decision to cancel the event. According to the Evanston Public Library website:

The Evanston Public Library welcomes all viewpoints and encourages thoughtful discourse and deep conversations on important and complex issues. We actively promote ongoing conversations by creating thoughtful, multi-part programs and discussions to engage citizens on a regular basis.

We uphold the standards of free speech, open access and all of the tenets of the American Library Bill of Rights.

The statement that the Evanston Public Library banned or censored the work of author Ali Abunimah is false. We are co-sponsors of this event and have been promoting this program through flyers, posters, social media and our electronic newsletters.

From the very first discussion about hosting Ali Abunimah, it was our intention that his talk be part of a deeper and broader conversation. This is an intentional approach that we have taken on a number of other topics, including our recent National Endowment for the Humanities funded “Muslim Journeys” series, our current “11 Months of African American History” programming, our current programs exploring “Youth Violence in Chicago”, this year’s upcoming, year long “Hecho in the USA” programming about the Latino experience in the U.S.A, and our current year-long exploration of World War I in honor of its centenary.

The request to reschedule this program was mishandled by the Library.  I have contacted the author to discuss with him personally whether he will consider rescheduling this program or is only available on August 11. I await a response from him.

Whether this book talk proceeds on August 11th or another date, the Evanston Public Library looks forward to sponsoring this discussion and continuing the conversation beyond one evening. The Evanston Public Library is the perfect place to discuss and illuminate issues that reflect deeply held personal feelings and points of view, along with important issues that reflect world events.

Karen Danczak Lyons

Director, Evanston Public Library

Abunimah posted on his blog:

Evanston Public Library in the north shore suburbs of Chicago has canceled a talk I was scheduled to give on 11 August about my book The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

I consider this to be a politically motivated and blatant act of censorship.

It fundamentally contravenes the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights which states, among other things, that libraries “should challenge censorship” and “should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.”

I learned about the cancelation like everyone else, from a Tweet from the library’s account that my talk would be “rescheduled,” and from the fact that the event has been removed from its calendar

[Read the full blog post here]

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