The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is charging the Cleveland-Heights-University Heights Public Library with censorship for canceling a film on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for Wednesday night.
Some critics of the film said it was biased against the Jewish state and recommended a more balanced program in the library’s three-part series on the Middle East conflict.
“The cancellation of this event is blatant and shameful censorship of particular views,” ACLU legal director Jeffrey Gamso said in a letter to the library. “Libraries should be a place where members of the public congregate and exchange ideas with one another.”
Library director Stephen Wood disputed censorship allegations.
“My commitment to the community is not to have censorship and is to be a bastion of free speech,” Wood said. “It is incumbent upon us that presentations that the library makes are balanced and that we show all points of view.”
However, Wood said it was called to the staff’s attention that the 30-minute film was a “controversial and biased work.”
The film, “Searching for Peace in the Middle East,” was to be followed by a panel discussion by members of the Arab, Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities at the library’s Lee Road branch.
Julia Shearson, executive director of the Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the film could have sparked dialogue among both sides here.
“I did watch the film, and I could see certain things that would make the Jewish community concerned,” said Shearson, who was to moderate the event. “But the most moving part about the film was Israeli bereaved parents talking about their dead teenage daughter, and I thought that would help the Palestinian community see the wounds on the other side.”