Zionist pressure puts Pluto Press in jeopardy

uruknet.info, Oct. 18, 2007

Zionist pressure puts press in jeopardy

ANN ARBOR —For four years, the University of Michigan’s publishing house has distributed books from the catalog of Pluto Press. Pluto’s books are critical, often challenging the ideas of those in power. Their catalog examines issues of Israel-Palestine, globalization, foreign policy, and many other topics.

The new book, “Overcoming Zionism,” questions the logic of Zionism, which established a Jewish state on a religiously-diverse Palestine. This largely European Jewish movement established the state by force against the will of the native inhabitants. This led to decades of conflict, created millions of refugees and caused a string of wars.

The author Joel Kovel, a respected academic who teaches at Bard College, sees Israel as an apartheid state reminiscent of South Africa. The natural result of Zionism’s success was a state for one people, at the expense of the other.

How can the region move past this conflict? According to the book’s description, “he argues that only a path toward single-state secular democracy can provide the justice essential to healing the wounds of the Middle East.”

Kovel challenges the reigning vision among the political elite in Israel, Palestine and the United States. They urge a peace process based on the establishment of two states. He says the two-state solution stands no chance because it is rooted in the same forces of thinking that caused the conflict in the first place.

Pro-Israel activists pressured the publisher to re-consider carrying the book. They referred to the book as hateful propaganda that was devoid of academic merit.

Michigan’s Press briefly stopped distribution of the book last month while the matter was reviewed. A UofM spokeswoman said that the faculty committee charged with managing the press reviewed the book.

After examining the book, the committee decided to go ahead and distribute the book because of both contractual obligations and to not block academic freedom. However, it stated this controversy caused it to reconsider whether they should continue to have a relationship with the independent British publisher. The Press will decide its future with Pluto on October 19.

The director of the University of Michigan Press allegedly sent an e-mail to Kovel saying that “Though I had no trouble with the one-state solution your book proposes nor with a Zionist critique, per se … I (and faculty members I asked to read the book, as well) were apalled [sic] by your reckless, viscious [sic], and unmodulated attack on Zionism and all Zionists.”

He went on to call the book “hate speech.”

The director lamented that “Even worse for me, as a result of your book, the university is in the process of reassessing our relation as a whole to Pluto (and that has been a four year relationship that I have cherished, both personally and professionally).”

The university publisher’s mission is to “contribute to public understanding and dialogue about contemporary political, social, and cultural issues.” The head of the Press argued that the book offered no positive contribution.

Many have rushed to defend Kovel and Pluto Press against political pressure they say is designed to shield Israel from criticism.

Howard Zinn, the prominent professor and author of “A People’s History of the United States,” wrote a statement expressing alarm at the possibility of the University ending its relationship with Pluto Press. (See statement below.)

Pluto Press, he writes, offers an important “alternative viewpoint essential to discussion and debate of important social issues, such as those concerning Israel/Palestine and the Middle East.” If University stopped distributing Pluto Press, it “would be a serious blow to the principles of pluralism, academic freedom and free speech.”

Supporters of Israel are increasingly targeting universities and professors who are critical of Israel’s policies and practices. They appear intimidated by growing criticism of Israel, especially since Israel’s invasion of Lebanon last year. Books from ex-President Jimmy Carter and two conservative, prestigious political science professors have questioned U.S. support for Israel.

Last summer, pro-Israel groups successfully lobbied DePaul University to deny Norman Finkelstein tenure. Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropologist at Barnard College, is facing a campaign against her in her bid for tenure. They briefly cancelled a talk by Nobel Prize-winning South African, Desmond Tutu (he was re-invited after a public outcry).

Another pressure campaign spurred the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to cancel a forum which was to feature the two political science professors, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt.

A Message from Howard Zinn on behalf of the Committee for an Open  Discussion of Zionism:

Dear Friend: As you may have heard, in late August of this year, The University of  Michigan Press, after receiving a series of complaining and threatening  emails and letters from an ultra-Zionist group called StandWithUs, an  offshoot of Campus Watch, withdrew from distribution Prof. Joel Kovel’s  book Overcoming Zionism, published by Pluto Press in London, United  Kingdom. Since then, following numerous protests by fellow academics  and scholars, The U. of M. Press Executive Board has restored the book  to its distribution listings.

But, ominously, the Board has indicated its intention to reconsider its  contract with Pluto Press in mid October.

Overcoming Zionism is a serious, well researched work espousing a  humanistic resolution. It is a valuable addition to the growing debate,  in and out of American academia, that is re-examining long held  assumptions about the sources of conflict in the Middle East. It should  be discussed – supported or refuted ¬ but not suppressed.But even more  serious is the University’s threat to cancel its distribution contract  with Pluto Press.

Pluto is a valuable and unique intellectual resource, publishing  progressive books of a consistently high quality. It provides an  alternative viewpoint essential to discussion and debate of important  social issues, such as those concerning Israel/Palestine and the Middle  East. The cancellation of Pluto’s contract with the University would be  a serious blow to the principles of pluralism, academic freedom and  free speech.

We urge you to add your voice to those of the many professors and  authors that have vigorously protested these actions.We ask that you  send a letter or, better yet, an email to U. of M. Press Executive  Board Chair Peggy McCracken with copies to University of Michigan  President Mary Sue Coleman, Dean Janet A Weiss; and Provost Teresa  demanding that the University of Michigan Press continue its contract  with Pluto Press. Further, we ask that you forward this request for  support and suggested support letter to those on any list that you may  maintain or have access to.We attach a sample letter, below, along with  email and postal addressees, for your convenience. Please send this  immediately, or feel free to compose your own. Time is of the essence  so please act quickly.

Thank you for your kind support.

Howard Zinn

For the Committee for an Open Discussion of Zionism

Please send your letters and emails to:

Professor Peggy McCracken
Executive Board Chair
University of Michigan Press
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

President Susan Coleman
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Janet A. Weiss
Dean of the Rackham Graduate School and Vice Provost
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI

Teresa A. Sullivan
Provost and Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs
3074 Fleming Building
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI

2 Responses to “Zionist pressure puts Pluto Press in jeopardy”

  1. 1 Carol Rae Bradford October 23, 2007 at 4:06 am

    Pluto Press should stay. Alternative Views should not be shut up.

    Do please keep these alternative presses. They represent freedom.

    Have Americans forgotten how our ancestors came to America to fight for their freedoms?

    10th Generation descendant
    of Governor William Bradford

  2. 2 Tom October 31, 2007 at 5:24 am

    Zionist Pressure Fails to Stop Overcoming Zionism Book

    Joel Kovel, author of Overcoming Zionism, talks with Amy Goodman about Zionist pressure which caused University of Michigan Press to drop his book from distribution. Only after fellow academics and civil libertarians led a campaign to get the book published did University of Michigan Press overturn their decision and agree to continue the distribution of Kovel’s book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s



RSS Gray Panthers in the News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 590 other followers

%d bloggers like this: