Controversy has been swirling around over whether the book, P is for Palestine should be read out loud at public libraries. As a former early childhood educator and professor of children’s literature, I am urging public libraries not only to prevent public readings of this book, but also to remove it from their children’s sections. I make this recommendation not as an act of censorship, but because P is for Palestine contains political symbols with violent underpinnings that no public library in the United States should be promoting.
While the book is structured as an alphabet book with cheerful and colorful illustrations and simple sentence structures, the content is far from appropriate for young children. Across many of the pages, we see political symbols that represent the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel, a campaign that has led to an increase in anti-Semitism in schools and on college campuses across the United States. In particular, we see symbols that call for all Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to migrate into Israel and eliminate the Jewish majority, replacing them with yet another Arab nation. Without a doubt, the book represents an insidious attempt to indoctrinate young children against the State of Israel and to sow the seeds for hate and discrimination against Israelis and all people who support them.
H is for Handala
The first appearance of political propaganda appears on the page below:
While the children in the illustration seem to be making peace signs, they are, in fact showing a “V” for victory. As explained by the organization Honest Reporting: Defending Israel from Media Bias, “While the “V” sign became popular in the 1960s as a symbol of Western peace movements, in the Arab world the “V” sign has always meant “victory” over the enemy.” In this case, the enemy is Israel.
When we read the words, “H is for Handala, hear his hellos, he is our hero,” we see a little girl pointing to the image of a child on a wall. That image, known as Handala, is a familiar adult image, created years ago by a Palestinian cartoonist named Naji Al-Ali. From Ali’s description on the Handala website, it is clear that Handala represents a hope to see the destruction of Israel and to claim it as the Palestinian “homeland”:
Handala was born ten years old, and he will always be ten years old. At that age, I left my homeland, and when he returns, Handala will still be ten, and then he will start growing up…Things will become normal again when the homeland returns.
It is no wonder, then, that Handala is also the symbol of the BDS campaign.
In addition to Handala, another hateful symbol of the BDS campaign appears on the same page. The wall on which Handala is drawn represents a structure built by Israel as an act of self-defense and containment against Palestinian terrorism during the Second Intifada. Israel constructed the barrier after several years of suicide/mass murder bombings killed more than 1,000 Israelis in restaurants, hotels, teenage nightclubs, and synagogues. The structure has succeeded in reducing the number of mass murders of Israeli civilians by approximately 96%.
Despite these facts, the BDS campaign makes the false claim that the wall is an “apartheid wall,” aimed at separating Jews and Arabs. To promote this lie, the same wall has become the symbol of the annual international “Israeli apartheid week,” seen on campuses from Columbia to UCLA — typically with the inclusion of anti-Semitic images and the harassment of Jewish students. (See below)
I is for Intifada
Again, when we read, “I is for Intifada,” we see a man and a child showing the “V” for victory sign with their fingers.
The text reads, “Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grown up,” and refers to the aforementioned Second Intifada, a time in Israel’s history when civilians were murdered by terrorists on a regular basis. The word “Intifada” also appears in the context of the anti-Israel website, The Electronic Intifada. Ali Abunimah, who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany, created the site, which demonizes Israel with distorted and one-side portrayals of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
M is for Miftah, Key of Return
Within the BDS movement and other anti-Israel hate groups, the key is used as a symbol of claiming Israel as a Palestinian Arab nation by forcing Jews from their homes.
The key has also become a symbol of Nakba (catastrophe) Day, which is an attempt to revise history and blame Jews for expelling Palestinians in 1948. With no mention of the Israeli War of Independence, when five Arab armies attacked Israel and encouraged the Palestinians to flee, Nakba Day commemorates an imagined event designed to vilify Israel. Many members of BDS and other anti-Israel hate groups, including Nerdeen Kiswani, refer to 1948 in their rhetoric. (Kiswani was scheduled to speak at a church in Queens, New York, on May 14, in honor of “Nakba Day” until the community learned of her support for terrorism and canceled the event. See Kiswani‘s posts below)
Whether with historical revisionism, vicious words, or deceptive child-like illustrations, the BDS campaign and its supporters are engaged in a propaganda frenzy. They have created toxic atmospheres on American college campuses, where pro-Israel students are being harassed and ostracized and where academics are replacing education with political indoctrination.
Seeing BDS vitriol in a book being promoted as children’s literature in an attempt to indoctrinate young children is reprehensible and must be addressed by educators and librarians without delay.