I’ve Just Been Canceled For Talking about America’s Israel/Palestine Policy!

This kind of penny-ante bullying reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of the pro-Israel cause.

The main branch of the Regina Public Library in Saskatchewan, Canada. (Masalai / Wikimedia Commons)

The last place I’d expect any drama is in a public library in Regina, Saskatchewan. Regina, despite a distant past as a hotbed of socialism during the 1930s, is a sleepy provincial capital, an oasis of calm amid the rolling wheatfields of the Canadian prairies. The libraries in the city, like the province itself, are models of the Canadian love of calm and order.

But the turmoil over Israel/Palestine is an earthquake whose tremors can be felt even in the hinterlands of Canada. I was scheduled to deliver a talk on June 25 by a group called Palestine Solidarity Regina, to be held in a room booked at the Regina Public Library.

I’ve been told that the booking has been canceled. The reason given by the library was it “has the likely effect of promoting discrimination.” As Palestine Solidarity Regina noted, “No evidence or explanation was provided to support that allegation.”

I was taken aback by this because this was a talk I had delivered before at the University of Regina in May without incident. In fact, CBC radio had me on to rehearse the main points of my argument for their program Blue Sky. Again, there was no incident over my radio talk, held on a popular show by a public broadcasting station with a large audience. I didn’t even hear any complaints.

The gravamen of my talk is about how Israel has served the interests of American imperialism since 1967. In the talk, I specifically dispute the popular but mistaken idea that the Israel lobby (rather than the interests of the national security elite) drives American policy.

My talk will go forward in another venue (as soon as one is secured).

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In the meantime, Palestine Solidarity Regina is asking people interested in the issue to e-mail the relevant government officials. In a statement, the group wrote:

We need you to contact the RPL Board and CEO today to let them know that the library should not be censoring free speech about the atrocities in Palestine. There is nothing discriminatory about discussing Israel’s role in imperialism and the root causes of the genocide.

We are hoping to resolve this and have the booking reinstated, but THE TALK WILL BE GOING AHEAD regardless. Stay tuned for confirmation of the venue!

Denying people the opportunity to discuss and learn about what is happening in Palestine contravenes the Canadian Federation of Library Associations’ Statement on Intellectual Freedom. It is also a clear violation of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code and our Charter Rights and Freedoms under the Canadian Constitution.

I will update information about my talk on my Twitter account. But in the meantime, I want to note that the type of penny-ante bullying of public institutions that pro-Israel groups engage in reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of their agenda. They have no real arguments—and thus work incessantly to suppress speech.

UPDATE: Subsequent to this article, Regina City Councillor Dan Leblanc intervened and sponsored the talk, so it will proceed as planned. Jeet Heer will be speaking at the Regina Central Library on June 25 at 7 PM. 

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Jeet Heer

Jeet Heer is a national affairs correspondent for The Nation and host of the weekly Nation podcast, The Time of Monsters. He also pens the monthly column “Morbid Symptoms.” The author of In Love with Art: Francoise Mouly’s Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman (2013) and Sweet Lechery: Reviews, Essays and Profiles (2014), Heer has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The American Prospect, The GuardianThe New Republic, and The Boston Globe.