Tuesday, June 30, 2015

  • Tuesday, June 30, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon



Back in the day, the American Library Association (ALA) concerned itself exclusively with such issues as librarians’ pay and conditions, actual and attempted censorship of materials held by or recommended for acquisition by individual libraries, and – it seemed almost to the point of obsession – the comparatively low status of librarianship.  The heavyweights of the American library world (I speak from experience) tended to be men – out of all proportion to male numbers within the profession – and they were acutely conscious that the prevalence of women in their field ensured that librarianship, like teaching and nursing, was considered a “female occupation,” with all that portended for pay scales and for status.

Not uncommon were articles in the professional literature bemoaning the fact that librarians were not accorded the status of doctors, lawyers, and tenured university teachers.  Indeed, while women were the mainstays of the public library system, men dominated the most prestigious bastions of the profession – academic and research libraries – holding most of the administrative positions and what was considered the ne plus ultra of rank and file library jobs: employment at the reference desk.  But for all that, their egos chafed at the realisation that they were categorised as campus “general staff,” not as “academic staff”.  Starting about 1970 – the incipient women’s movement notwithstanding – there was a vigorous campaign to attract more males to university librarianship, in order to boost the profession’s standing vis-à-vis the academic staff: if the male recruit had a “subject” MA (that is, a master’s degree additional to the Master of Library Science or MLS), he was virtually guaranteed a quick and steady rise, the more so if he had a “subject” PhD.

 I would not be surprised to learn that this inferiority complex, this quest for recognition, on the part of sections of the library profession has propelled some members of the professional body – the ALA – to ape such academic and quasi-academic bodies as the American Studies Association and Modern Languages Association in their support for or initiatives favouring BDS, more specifically the “Academic Boycott of Israel”.  Such an affirmation of solidarity with other proponents of the “Academic Boycott” sends a signal that the ALA represents professionals who are equal partners in academia with professors and scholars.  Flirtation with BDS on the part of librarians is an odious development that in my view militates against the role and spirit of the profession: as information providers librarians and their representative body should stand for liberalism in that word’s traditional and best sense, and discriminate against nobody.

And then, regardless of such a motivation or possible motivation on the part of certain BDSers in the ALA, there are the hard-line radicals within the profession whose anti-Israel antics two years ago were described by Lee Kaplan.  As he notes (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/13691#.VY6LAPlEDIU), inter alia:

‘These recent “delegates” were, in part, from the American Library Association in the US, but in particular they represented a roundtable of radical communists and anti-Semites in the Association who hate Israel. Still others are librarians in Canada and EU countries. All were due to return to their respective countries on July 5th. They vaunted themselves as great humanitarians, but their goal was to give support to and conduct propaganda for the terrorist groups that would end the Jewish state. Their purpose was to found yet another way to delegitimize Israel, by gathering “evidence” that Israel destroys Palestinian books and has stolen Palestinian “literature” and should be shunned by the world’s library systems.’

One of the associated groups in the Israel-demonisation process is an organisation calling itself Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP).  Apparently it consists of people who self-describe as practitioners of those occupations, so presumably one need not be a professionally qualified librarian or archivist in order to belong: this does not seem to bother the ALA, which once upon a time would have distanced itself from any persons claiming to be librarians but who lacked the MLS from an accredited “library school”.  Anyway, LAP has its own Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/events/390037541182068/), from which we learn that on June 27 this year members attended the ALA conference in San Francisco:

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP) members will be at the 2015 American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco this weekend, and we want to see you! We'll be holding a reportback on our recent trip back to Palestine, followed by a screening of "The Great Book Robbery," followed by a casual meetup. Come to any or all of these events….
Now Showing @ ALA: The Great Book Robbery
http://alaac15.ala.org/node/30941
Saturday, June 27, 4-5:30pm
Moscone Convention Center, 123 (N)
This documentary is about the systematic "collection" of 70,000 Palestinian books by Israeli forces (including librarians) before, during, and after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The film tells the story of the books and what has become of them -- many are now labeled "Abandoned Property" at Israel's National Library -- and explores issues of library ethics and cultural heritage. The film will be followed by a Q&A with LAP members
Runtime: 57 Minutes
Preview: https://vimeo.com/6303260

No doubt these librarians, archivists, and other anti-Israel propagandists (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3841252,00.html) spreading this canard about stolen books are unaware – and, if aware, unconcerned – that in Hebron in 1929 Jewish manuscripts, including notable ancient documents, were looted from Jewish homes and synagogues. I’m told by a specialist in Israeli history that it's possible that some of this loot surfaced among Jewish manuscripts shown by Arab dealers to the Rockefeller Museum.  Furthermore, says my informant, Jewish homes and synagogues/yeshivot were looted in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1929 and 1936-38; during the latter period, there was a pogrom in the south Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiyot, and at least one important Hebrew writer residing there had his books vandalised and plundered.  (Hat tip: E.G.)

Norman Bentwich, Professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, noted in 1948, with regard to the work of the Ministry of Minorities, set up to safeguard the welfare of Arabs (and other non-Jews) in the newly-proclaimed Jewish State:

'Perhaps the most striking work in the Ministry is its effort to develop cultural life, in the midst of the uneasy truce, for the Arab population. It has already established some fifty primary schools in the towns and villages, with free education. A former Jewish Inspector of the Mandatory Education Department is in charge of the schools; another, an Oriental Jew, with a thorough knowledge of Arabic, assists him. The Ministry has also established one or two Arab clubs for reading and recreation, and has promoted a daily Arabic newspaper, El Yom (The Day). This is the first Arabic daily to appear in Israel. Several of the staff are Arabs, who have full freedom of expression; and some educated Arabs write to the Palestine Post, the English[-language] daily, voicing grievances about rent and employment, and the like.

A remarkable cultural enterprise is the establishment in Jaffa of an Arab library, which includes close on 100,000 books and periodicals salvaged from private houses that were deserted and broken into during the fighting. It includes, too, some Arab manuscripts from the ninth and tenth centuries, which may have value for scholars. The books and manuscripts are being catalogued by a Jewish scholar of Baghdad. The library is housed in a private mansion of one of the richer Arabs of Jaffa, and there is a project of making it a cultural centre. The whole cost to the Government so far has been only a few hundred pounds.

In Jerusalem 30,000 books were similarly salvaged and handed over for safe-keeping to the [Hebrew] University of Jerusalem. It is likely that the owners of the books will come to identify their property and collect it back; but the action of the Ministry will have prevented looting and destruction, and it has received the appreciation of the Arab population.'

Hardly a case of deliberate plunder!  I recommend the whole of Bentwich’s article to the librarians.  They of all people should be able to find it easily enough.  It’s in the Jewish Chronicle (31 December 1948) and is entitled "Arabs in Israel".  I’ll have more to say about it in a future article.


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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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