The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library has postponed a three-part series on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict amid concerns from Jewish residents that the program would be biased against Israel.
The program was to open March 12 with the showing of “Searching for Peace in the Middle East,” a 30-minute documentary sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Middle East Peace. The organization’s website describes the film as a “vivid, compassionate portrayal” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The event was to be presented locally by Cleveland Peace Action and co-facilitated by CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
According to the library bulletin, the film was to be followed by a “structured pubic discussion” facilitated by representatives of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Arab communities. The library’s board postponed the program after recognizing the paucity of pro-Israel representatives among the facilitators, says library director Steve Wood.
“The decision (the board) made was the right one,” he adds.
Cleveland Heights resident Fred Taub calls the “Searching for Peace” documentary “blatantly biased” against the Jewish state. For example, it harshly criticizes Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and suggests a “moral equivalency” between Palestinian and Israeli violence.
David Berenson, a Jewish board member of Cleveland Peace Action, is “disappointed” that the program has been postponed. He feels the documentary is balanced compared with more provocative films that are weighted toward either side of this conflict. Berenson notes his organization was not only working on adding a pro-Israeli member of the Jewish community to the discussion before March 12, it was also willing to replace the event’s CAIR representative; that group’s involvement was a particular sore point to Taub and other Jewish protestors, who claim CAIR has an anti-Israeli bias. (MORE)
Meanwhile, Cleveland Peace Action officials have requested that the library go ahead with the final two events of the Israel-Palestinian discussion series in April and May. The group has invited CH-UH city, school and library officials to review the remaining program points, notes Berenson.
Discussing serious issues “is the responsibility of the public library,” contends Wood. “The library is not the place for censorship.”