Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Israel / Palestine

Suppressing Book Bolsters Settlers
By Seth Freedman
The Guardian, April 14, 2010
"Targeting Israeli businesses via the threat of boycotts is usually the preserve of radical forces from abroad, but the latest sanctions storm to hit the country is very much an internal affair. Tzomet Sefarim, one of the nation's largest booksellers, this week bowed to intense pressure from rightwing critics to stop selling The National Left, a political pamphlet which heavily criticises the settler movement. According to a Tzomet Sefarim spokesman, the extraordinary decision to withdraw the book was taken despite the company being 'a chain for all of the people of Israel [and having] no political affiliation.' Instead, the company acted 'because we received many complaints that the book hurts the feelings of some of our customers, [so] we decided to stop selling it.' That the authors are bitterly opposed to the settlement enterprise is indisputable: settlers are referred to as 'messianic madmen' and their children branded 'brainwashed zombies'; elsewhere, the settler movement is accused of being 'an industry that produces nothing but apartheid and destroys the Israel that we knew and loved.' However, such language is far from unusual in the political cauldron that is modern-day Israel, and given the scathing abuse routinely levelled at the Israeli left by settler leaders, the campaign to ban the pamphlet appears a hugely hypocritical endeavour.
In response to the chain's decision, a raft of Israeli academics have called for a boycott of the company, describing Tzomet Sefarim's behaviour as 'a serious threat to the foundations of Israeli democracy.' The protesters 'urge anyone who holds democracy dear to go out and condemn the Tzomet Sfarim chain, and to apply pressure on it to return the book to its shelves. In addition, the chain's management should be demanded to apologise and commit that it will not remove books from its shelves due to ideological political pressure in the future.' Shulamit Aloni, the former chairman of the leftwing Meretz party, says the incident proves that Israel has become an anti-democratic state where settlers wield undue influence at every level of society and government: 'Tzomet Sfarim succumbed to the pressure because everyone is afraid of the settlers. They are savages, racists and hate all those who do not support them.' [...]"

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