Calling the film biased against Israel and one-sided, a number of Jewish residents attending a library board meeting this week applauded The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library Board of Trustees’ decision to cancel the March 12 screening of the documentary “Searching for Peace in the Middle East” and two related spring programs.
However, many at the meeting disagreed with the trustees’ intent to present a balanced program on the same topic at a future date.
The library’s newsletter had advertised the series as featuring representatives from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Arabic communities. Library Director Steven Wood previously told the CJN that the film program was scrapped after recognizing there were no pro-Israel promoters.
Cleveland Peace Action (CPA), which originally co-sponsored the program with the library, instead screened the 29-minute film produced by the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Middle East Peace film on March 12 for about 35 people at Disciples of Christ Church on Mayfield Road. The group has reserved space at the library for its April 6 program on balance in the media’s reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its May 15 program on the next steps to finding peace, says CPA board member David Berenson of University Heights.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, CPA is allowed to reserve a room a month at the library without charge, Berenson said. “If the library has a problem with that, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) will have a problem with them. Right now we are not pursuing any legal action.”
Asked if there would be a pro-Israel perspective presented at the April and May events, Berenson replied, “I’m pro-Israel, and I’ll be there.”
A number of residents speaking at the library board meeting Monday night said they objected to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) participating in a library program. They claimed CAIR was linked to Hamas, which the U.S. government has designated a foreign terrorist organization. Julia Shearson, director of CAIR’s Cleveland chapter, was scheduled to moderate the discussion following the film, along with CPA’s Berenson. . .
Shearson notes that CAIR was never a co-sponsor of the program; she was moderating the discussion. “I thought the film humanized the struggle on both sides. If others thought the film was biased, all the more reason for the Jewish community to explain why it’s slanted, so we can discuss it. This was a perfect chance for people to come together to air grievances.”