Palestinian Libraries

Discussion Group, 2020

Articles and Television Reports About the Edward Said Public Library

Programs, 2015-2018

Previous Programs

Articles Related to Palestinian Libraries

Contribute to Palestinian Libraries

SRRT Resolutions and Statements Related to Palestine

 

IRTF Discussion Group, January 2020

“Libraries in Gaza: Between Despair and Hope,”
with Mosab Abu Toha

Mosab Abu Toha at ALA Midwinter 2020
Mosab Abu Toha at ALA Midwinter Meeting
Photo by Mark Hudson

At the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia on January 25, 2020, IRTF sponsored a discussion group, “Libraries in Gaza: Between Despair and Hope,” with Mosab Abu Toha as speaker. Mosab Abu Toha spoke about the situation of libraries in Gaza –including limitations due to the occupation, the destruction of libraries by bombing, and efforts to rebuild. He also described his work in creating the Edward Said Public Library.

Mosab is the founder and director of the famed Edward Said Public Library in Gaza. In 2019-2020 he was also a Visiting Poet in the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University; a Visiting Librarian at Harvard’s Houghton Library; a Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative Fellow in the Harvard Divinity School; and a columnist for Arrowsmith Press.

Regarding the Edward Said Public Library, the linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky has written, “The project merits strong support from everyone concerned with justice and basic human rights.” Additionally, the library has been endorsed and promoted by the poet and essayist Katha Pollitt, as well as by the filmmaker, Michael Moore.

 

Mosab Abu Toha in the English Department at the Islamic University of Gaza, August 2014.

Mosab Abu Toha in the English Department at the Islamic University of Gaza, August 2014.
Photo by Adham Al-Ashqar.

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Reading list on the Edward Said Public Library
April 2020

Titles suggested by Mosab Abu Toha for the SRRT website.

 

Articles

Alghoul, Diana. “Gaza's First English Library to Open Window to World,” The New Arab, Feb. 28, 2017.

Chen, Joanna. “When Daffodils Grow in Gaza,” Cultural Weekly, Aug. 16, 2017.

Dreiblatt, Ian. “Gaza Needs Books,” Melville House, Apr. 14, 2017.

Elia, Nada. “Gaza’s ‘Edward Said Public Library’ Needs Your Support to do Even More,” Mondoweiss, Jan. 28, 2019.

Mackenzie, Laura. “Gaza’s First English Library One Step Closer to Reality,” N World, May 18, 2017.

Gadzo, Mersiha. “Meet the Man Crowd-funding Gaza's First English Library,” Al Jazeera, Feb. 10, 2017.

Khader, Majed. “Palestinian Territory Occupied: Challenges and Obstacles in Palestinian Libraries,” Libraries in the Early 21st Century, volume 2; An International Perspective, edited by Ravindra N. Sharma, IFLA Headquarters, 2012, pp. 425-444.

Nabbout, Mariam. “Gaza is Getting Its First-ever English Library ... and It Needs Your Help,” Step Feed, Mar. 13, 2017.

Pollitt, Katha. “Most of Gaza’s Libraries Have Been Closed or Destroyed—and You Can Help a New One Get Off the Ground,” The Nation, Apr. 11, 2017.

Redazione, “GAZA. A Public Library One Thousand Books Sent from Abroad,” NENA - Near East News Agency, Aug. 8, 2017.

Zimet, Abby. “A Library For Gaza, Because Freedom Is Sometimes A State of Mind,” Common Dreams, Apr. 18, 2017.

 

Television Reports in English

Besieged Gaza to Get First English-language Library,” AFP News Agency (France), Feb 26, 2017.

Israel-Palestine Tensions: Gaza to Get First English-language library,” TRT World (Turkey), Sept. 8, 2017.

Al-Safadi, Halla. “Palestinian Establishes English Language Library at Gaza Home,” Press TV (Iran), Mar. 8, 2017.

 

Television Reports in Arabic

Gaza: The Opening of the First Library Specialized in Western Literature in the Southern Governorates,” Palestine TV (Ramallah, Palestine), Sept. 5, 2017.

A University Student in the Gaza Strip, Accompanied by a Group of His Volunteer Colleagues, Inaugurated the First Free Public Library for English Books and Literature,” Al Jazeera (Qatar), Mar. 22, 2017.

A Young Man from the Gaza Strip Creates a Library in English,” Roya News (Jordan) in Arabic, Mar. 22, 2017.

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Programs 2015-2018

Discussion Group, June 24, 2018
"Assisting Palestinian Libraries"

Seraj Library Project
Seraj Library Project

Matloub books at the Tamer Institute offices, Ramallah, October 2019.
Matloub books at the Tamer Institute offices,
Ramallah, October 2019.    

Students visit the Edward Said Public Library on a field trip.
Students visit the Edward Said Public Library on a field trip.

This discussion group was devoted to various efforts to help Palestinian libraries. Speakers for "Assisting Palestinian Libraries" were:

  • John Cassel, Co-chair & Treasurer of the Seraj Library Project, speaking about Seraj;
  • Melissa Morrone from Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP), speaking about LAP and Matloub;
  • Tom Twiss from SRRT and Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP), speaking about the Edward Said Public Library and the Progressive Publishers with Palestine project.

See the report in the SRRT Newsletter for a description of the program and PowerPoint presentation.

 

Program, June 26, 2016
“Palestinian Libraries under Occupation”
with Randa Kamal and Diana Sayej-Naser

Cosponsored by Libraries and Archivists with Palestine (LAP) and SRRT, June 26, 2016

During ALA’s 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, the Social Responsibilities Round Table sponsored a program featuring two prominent Palestinian librarians: Randa Kamal, Director of libraries at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem and President of the Palestinian Library Association, and Diana Sayej-Naser, Director of the Main Library at Birzeit University in Birzeit, Palestine and General Coordinator of the Palestinian Library and Information Consortium (PALICO), who spoke about the special problems and issues encountered by Palestinian libraries and librarians, about what they are doing to address those problems, and about what the international library community can do to help.

Randa Kamal (left) and Diana Sayej-Naser
Randa Kamal (L) and Diana Sayej-Naser.
Photo by George M. Eberhart, American Libraries

Resources for the program

SRRT: Palestinian Libraries: Resources.” Audio recording with PowerPoint slides of presentations by Palestinian librarians Randa Kamal and Diana Sayej Naser at the ALA annual conference in 2016.

 

Articles on the program

Eberhart, George M. “Academic Libraries in Palestine: Challenges and Frustrations of Information Access in the Palestinian Territories,” American Libraries, June 27, 2016. Article about Randa Kamal and Diana Sayej Naser with YouTube recording of their interview at the ALA annual conference in 2016.

Tom Twiss, “Bringing Palestinian Librarians to the 2016 ALA Annual Conference,” Intersections Blog, ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, & Outreach Services, 2016.

 

Program, June 27, 2015
"Librarians and Archivists with Palestine: Delegation Reportback"

Cosponsored by Libraries and Archivists with Palestine (LAP) and SRRT

Report by participants in the delegation sponsored by Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP) which visited Palestinian libraries in April 2015. (See Librarians and Archivists with Palestine 2015 Delegation, “2015 Delegation Report and Solidarity Statement,” May 2015.)

Libraries and Archivists with Palestine (LAP)

 

Film showing, June 27, 2015
The Great Book Robbery: Chronicles of a Cultural Destruction

The Great Book Robbery

The Great Book Robbery, a film by Israeli-Dutch filmmaker Benny Brunner, tells of the systematic expropriation of 70,000 Palestinian books by Israeli forces in 1948, and of the subsequent incorporation of many of those books in the collections of Israel's National Library. Hannah Mermelstein, who has done extensive research on this topic, introduced the film and moderated discussion.

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Previous Programs

1994

“The Current Situation in the Occupied Territories and in Palestinian Libraries.” The program was chaired by Stephen Stillwell. Speakers were Professor Cheryl A. Rubenberg at Florida International University and Dr. Majed Khader of the Marshall University Library. Organized by the SRRT Task Force on Israeli Censorship.

1993

“Israeli Censorship There and Here.” Speakers were Jeffrey Blankfort, editor of Middle East Labor Bulletin, and Jay Murphy, editor of the literary magazine Red Bass. Presented by the SRRT Task Force on Israeli Censorship.

1992

“Intellectual Freedom Violations Arising Out of the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict.” Speakers were Israeli newspaper editor Ms. Michal Schwartz, Director of the Galilee Institute for Social Research Dr. Ghazi Falah, and Khader Hamide who has been fighting deportation. Presented by the SRRT International Human Rights Task Force.

1991

“Israeli Censorship, Library Closings and the Occupation.” Speakers were Palestinian-American librarian Noha Ismail from Minnesota; Nubar Hovsepian, adjunct professor at Hunter College, Israeli librarian and peace activist; Josepha Pick, law librarian at Tel Aviv University, and Israeli publisher Dror Greenfield. Presented by the SRRT International Human Rights Task Force. 

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Articles Related to Palestinian Libraries

Titles suggested by Tom Twiss

Amit, Gish. “Salvage or Plunder? Israel’s “Collection” of Private Palestinian Libraries in West Jerusalem,” Journal of Palestine Studies, 40(4), Jul. 2011, pp. 6–23.

Bergan, Erling. “Libraries in the West Bank and Gaza: Obstacles and Possibilities,” 66th IFLA Council and General Conference, Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August, 2000.

Eberhart, George M. “Academic Libraries in Palestine: Challenges and Frustrations of Information Access in the Palestinian Territories,” American Libraries, June 27, 2016. Article about Randa Kamal and Diana Sayej Naser with Youtube recording of their interview at the ALA annual conference in 2016.

Elturk, Ghada “Palestinian Libraries: Little Pieces of Heaven in Hell,” Progressive Librarian, Issue #21, Winter 2002.

Hamad, Abla. “Testimony of al Ataa Librarian: Is it my fault that I am a Palestinian? Days of Horror,” IBBY Palestine, Oct. 2014.

Hamilton, Stuart and Frode Bakken, “Preliminary Report and Recommendations from an IFLA/FAIFE-Mission to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories 13th – 21st April 2007,” International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), 2007.

IBBY Palestine, “Passionate Drawings 2015: Drawings by the Children of PBBY Libraries in Gaza,” 2015.

Kagan, Al. “ALA, IFLA, and Israel/Palestine,” Progressive Librarian, Issue #44, Spring 2016.

Khader, Majed J. “Challenges and Obstacles in Palestinian Libraries,” Marshall University, Marshall Digital Scholar, 2012.

Kuntz, Blair. “Stolen Memories: Israeli State Repression and Appropriation of Palestinian Cultural Resources,” CAPAL 16 Conference Proceedings, Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians, 2016.

Librarians and Archivists to Palestine 2013 Delegation, “2013 Delegation Solidarity Statement,” Aug. 2013.

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine, Report Back Handout, Jul. 4, 2013.

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine 2015 Delegation, “2015 Delegation Report and Solidarity Statement,” May 2015.

Mattson, Rachel and Tom Twiss, “Libraries Under Occupation: A Conversation with Palestinian Librarians Randa Kamal and Diana Sayej Naser,” Progressive Librarian, Issue#45, Winter 2016/2017.

Mermelstein, Hannah. “Overdue Books: Returning Palestine's "Abandoned Property" of 1948,” Progressive Librarian, Issue #45, Winter 2016/2017.

Naamnih, Haneen. “Prohibiting Contact with Enemy Aliens: The Case of the Palestinians in Israel,” Adalah’s Newsletter, Volume 66, Nov. 2009.

Natarajan, Vani and Hannah Mermelstein, “Knowledge, Access, and Resistance: A Conversation on Librarians and Archivists to Palestine,” Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond (Library Juice Press, 2014).

Palestine Emergency Committee, “Destruction of Palestinian Public Institutions,” April 14, 2002. Includes information on damage to libraries and other cultural resources.

Palestine Human Rights Information Center, “Suppression of Information Under Israeli Rule: A Bibliography,” Progressive Librarian, Issue #2, Winter 1990/1991, p. 52.

Passionate Drawings 2015: Drawings by the Children of PBBY Libraries in Gaza,” IBBY Palestine, 2015.

SRRT: Palestinian Libraries: Resources.” Audio recording with PowerPoint slides of presentations by Palestinian librarians Randa Kamal and Diana Sayej Naser at the ALA annual conference in 2016.

Twiss, Tom. “Damage to Palestinian Libraries & Archives during the Spring of 2002,” Progressive Librarian, Issue #21, Winter 2002.

 

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Contribute to Palestinian Libraries

Matloub [Wanted: Library Books for Palestine], Sponsored by Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP) and the Tamer Institute for Community Education. “Matloub (Wanted) seeks to raise awareness about issues facing libraries in Palestine and the political context in which they operate, while at the same time offering material support for the libraries' collections.”

The Palestinian Section of IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People)–PBBY, “PBBY's different activities address the children's right to books and education. Thus PBBY supports literacy and children culture, and encourages reading and the promotion of quality of books in Palestine.” For more information about this organization, see the IBBY Palestine website.

Seraj Library Project: “Our vision: Access to a community library for every Palestinian child and family. Our Mission.  In partnership with Seraj Palestine, Seraj US exists to establish and enrich community libraries for Palestinian children and their families.”

Support the Edward Said Public Library in Palestine,” Middle East Children’s Alliance. “Your tax-deductible donation to MECA will ensure the Edward Said Public Libraries continue to grow their collections of books and offer literary activities for Palestinians in Gaza.”

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SRRT Resolutions and Statements Related to Palestine

(in reverse chronological order)

Year

SRRT Resolutions and Statements

Outcome

2020

Response to the Report of the Resolution Review Task Force. Statement by SRRT Action Council, pp. 1-9.

This SRRT statement was not submitted as a resolution to Council.

2020

Resolution Opposing the Free Speech and Intellectual Freedom Restrictions in the Combating BDS Act, Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, and Related Legislation and proposed amendment, pp. 14-16. Resolution was the revised version of the 2019 Resolution in Defense of the Free Speech Rights of Palestinian Rights Activists. The revised resolution was endorsed by SRRT Action Council.

Without endorsement by any of the committees represented on task force, the resolution died. The original version—see below—was then defeated in ALA Council.*

2019

Resolution in Defense of the Free Speech Rights of Palestinian Rights Activists

Approved by the ALA Membership meeting, then referred to task force by ALA Council 2019. Without endorsement by any of the committees represented on task force, the resolution died. The original version was then defeated in ALA Council.”*

2015

Resolution on the Destruction of Libraries and Schools in Gaza

Defeated in ALA Council.

2015

Resolution on ALA Divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions

Withdrawn by SRRT for technical reasons.

2009

Resolution on the Connection Between the Recent Gaza Conflict and Libraries

Adopted by ALA Council.

2009

Understanding Gaza - One Conference, One Book - ALA Reads

Defeated in ALA Council.

2002

Statement of Condolences by Rory Litwin, SRRT Coordinator, SRRT Newsletter, Issue #140, Sept. 2002, p. 14. (p. 15).

This SRRT statement was not sent to Council.

2002

Resolution on the Destruction of Palestinian Libraries, Archives, and Other Cultural Resources

A significantly revised version of this resolution was adopted by ALA Council.

1993

Resolution on Israeli Censorship

This was a SRRT resolution not sent to ALA Council.**

1992

On Israeli Censorship

Passed by ALA Membership Meeting, then by ALA Council. Subsequently, it was rescinded by ALA Council.**

1990

Resolution on Israeli Censorship

A significantly weaker version was presented by IRC to Council. After further weakening, including deletion of reference to the Occupied Territories, ALA Council adopted a general resolution on censorship and library closures in the Middle East in 1991.**

*For the history of the 2019-2020 resolutions defending the free speech rights of the movement for Palestinian rights, see Tara Brady’s “Councilor's Report from ALA Annual Conference 2019,” SRRT Newsletter, Issue #208, Oct. 2019; SRRT Action Council, “Response to the Report of the Resolution Review Task Force,” Jan. 17, 2020; and the IRTF report, “Successes and Disappointment at ALA Midwinter,” April 2020.

**For discussion of the complex history of the 1990-1993 SRRT resolutions on Israeli censorship, see Al Kagan’s article, “ALA, IFLA, and Israel/Palestine,” Progressive Librarian, Issue #44, Spring 2016, pp. 72-75.

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