After a wave of protest over her decision to cancel a scheduled speech by a Palestinian-American author, the Evanston Public Library’s director has reinstated the event and the author has again agreed to appear.

Writer Ali Abunimah had been — and now is again — scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 11, about his book “The Battle for Justice in Palestine” that was published earlier this year.

In a blog post late Monday evening, Abunimah wrote: 

I have no doubt that this reversal owes much to the many people – including a number of professional librarians – who wrote to Evanston Public Library to express their concern at the cancelation.

I am truly grateful to everyone for their support. Gone are the days when institutions could quietly push aside the question of Palestine.

Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons did not address the controversy during a brief appearance at a City Council Human Services Committee meeting Monday evening.

But in a statement published on the library’s website Monday afternoon, she said the talk, which had been deleted from the library’s calendar, was back on — assuming Abunimah was still willing to appear.

In an email message Abunimah said he had received Saturday, the library official who had initially scheduled the appearance said Danczak Lyons told her to cancel the event because she hadn’t yet been able to schedule another speaker to present a pro-Israel point of view.

Related story

Library cancels speech by Palestinian author

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. When I initially read of the

    When I initially read of the cancellation of the speech, I was, quite honestly, stunned that our beloved public library would take this action..  It was ill-advised on multiple levels, including the fact that it smacked of censorship.  But thanks to a legitimate outcry of my fellow citiziens, a wrong has been righted.  I commend those who took the time to let their opinions be known to the decision-makers at the library, just as I commend the library for reversing its earlier decision.

    Things sometimes get messy here in Evanston, but that's how we learn, and it makes this resident proud.

    1. Speech Cancellation

      Agree with your assessment. Another question that should be addessed is whether the library director made the cancellation decision on her own or received pressure to cancel the program from city officials or outside sources.

  2. For Israel; For Free Speech

    I am grateful Mr.Abunimah has the opportunity to advocate his position at the Library. As a supporter of Israel and its right to exist, I admantly disagree with Mr. Abunimah's belief that Israel is at fault for protecting its citizens from the relentless missile attacks from Hamas since Israel handed over Gaza to on the Palestinians and his tacit support of the the terrorist group Hamas.

    The beauty of the First Amendment is not just providing the public with different views on an issue or controversy, but exposing that view's fatal flaws and /or moral relativism. In Evanston, over the years, the plight of the Palestinian's has been advocated by many of the "peace activist groups'. I have attended a few of them at various Christian churches in the area. Much to my chagrin the pro Israel view has been mostly silent..

    I regret that I will be unable to attend to Mr.Abunimah speech on Monday. I truly hope he takes questions and is asked few simple ones:

    In light of the Hamas rocket attacks aimed at killing innocent citizens and not soldiers, what would you have Israel do?

    Is Hamas a "legitimate political actor"  that should be recognized by the West and Israel.

    Does Israel have the right to exist in its current state?

    Again, I am grateful he is able to express his views and that I am able to do the same on this forum.

    1. Free speech or insulting our intelligience?

      Many of these peace activists do not hold meetings in churches. For example, the North Shore Anti-War Coalition has held meetings at Evanston's Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation. The Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago Chapter has held weekly vigils at Water Tower Park and meetings at EPL.

      You might be grateful that Abunimah can 'advocate his position" but I find it disturbing that you didn't condemn the library's initial action of cancelling his talk (you didn't post Monday when the news of the cancellation broke). The Evanston community and abroad need more answers as to why this happened. 

      Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons and library board member Ben Schapiro need to publicly explain the logic in cancelling Abunimah's talk in order to make the talk “part of a deeper and broader conversation," Otherwise, the Evanston community should demand punitive action.

      Since when does the Evanston Library schedule a talk and then decide to cancel it without the speaker or sponsor group's consent in order to "broaden the conversation?"

      It might be more than just Abunimah's book. Abunimah's sponsor group, Evanston's Neighbors for Peace, is advocating a boycott of Israel. 

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