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by N. Leonard Tolkan


Libraries have changed. Your local public library has probably changed as much as mine. It's no longer jam packed with books, most to take out, some restricted as reference material and doomed to stay indoors. There's more and more computer terminals and jostling for access and the video and DVD sections are enormously expanded. But some things seem the same. Librarians still appear to be impartially above contentious points of views - dedicated to providing the public with accurate and readable information, they don't play politics.

Thanks to the American Library Association, this image is changing. Librarians have taken themselves down a peg, and not for the better.

The American Library Association (ALA) - with some sixty-six thousand members - advertises itself as the oldest and biggest society of librarians in the world. If you visit the ALA website (, it seems an ordinary trade throwaway. The front page is excited about a freebie Oprah is going to send the librarians. There are the expected concerns - Professional Tools, Education and Careers, Awards and Scholarships. Among them is a click box for Issues and Advocacy.

Unsurprisingly, ALA is against surveillance of library patrons made legal by the Patriot Act. They are for free unrestricted, unsuppressed book reading. Who can quarrel with these noble words: "We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe." or "We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture."

What is surprising is their intrusion into the Arab-Israeli conflict by one-sided advocacy of the Palestinians.

Anti-Israel Resolutions

In 2002 - and not for the first time - ALA passed an anti-Israel resolution. As described on the ALA website, "The Palestine resolution, introduced by Thomas Twiss of the University of Pittsburgh, was challenged by several members who claimed it was inappropriate and included unverified information. Twiss maintained that information included in the resolution was based on reports by Western news sources."

The Council resolution claimed that Israel destroyed "Palestinian libraries, archives and other cultural institutions." [This destruction] "...represents a significant loss for the Palestinian people and the world."

Can it be that the ALA people were unaware of the vile and blatant anti-Semitism - including Holocaust denial and calls for genocide against Jews and sometimes Christians, ethnic cleansing and jihad against Jews - that prevails in Palestinian "libraries, archives and cultural institutions?" Doctors Against Child Sacrifice (DOCS), an organization composed of about three hundred pediatricians, has cogently described the literature directed at young people in areas ruled by Arafat's criminals as a "form of societal child abuse."

The next January, just before the ALA annual meeting scheduled to start on January 24, 2003, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on ALA delegates to rescind the resolution. ADL pointed out the obvious: "As guardians of information and guarantors of free speech, librarians bear a responsibility for providing unbiased, factual information to the public. This biased, inaccurate resolution undermines that role and is a stain on the profession... in taking sides with such highly politicized and biased statements, the organization undermines the very purpose of their profession, which is to ensure that the public has free and unfettered access to all points of view."

ADL reminded the ALA that "[i]n the early 1990's, the ALA passed a number of highly politicized and biased resolutions accusing Israel of censorship in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the alleged deportation of a reputed West Bank librarian. A 1992 anti-Israel resolution was revoked in 1993. Other such resolutions remain on the ALA record books. Then, as now, the resolutions were one-sided in their criticism of Israel alone and in failing to offer any context for Israeli actions in the territories."

ADL might have asked why ALA didn't have a word to say about Arab terrorists bombing the Hebrew University Mt. Scopus campus in July 2002. Well, ALA did say something. Sort of. With no blame assigned, "The IRC also presented to Council a resolution (CD#18.1) honoring librarian Dina Carter, the 37-year-old U.S. and Israeli citizen who was killed in the bombing at the Mt. Scopus campus of Hebrew University last July 31."

At the January 2003 meeting, the ALA councilors "refused to rescind a resolution passed last year on the destruction of Palestinian libraries, despite pressure to do so from the Anti-Defamation League. Council drew the line, however, at passing a resolution calling for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Iraq." The ALA website article describes the scene this way:

"Pleading that Council was 'misguided' when it passed a resolution last summer in support of Palestinian libraries, councilor Joe Edelen argued that it should be rescinded (CD#55). He said that ALA policy, in language that is rightfully nonspecific, already deplored the destruction of libraries anywhere. Edelen argued that the resolution should never have passed because it 'singled out by name one nation.' Other councilors rushed to the microphones to defend their earlier action. Peter McDonald observed that revoking the resolution would impinge the motives of those who drafted and voted for the resolution to begin with. 'I can say categorically that at every meeting . . . there was never a word of anti-Semitism spoken by anybody, no Israel-bashing by anybody.' "


Activities of the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT)

ALA does more than sponsor resolutions. The ALA's Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) generated the (misnamed) International Responsibilities Task Force that lists, among its 'alternative' literature choices, a smorgasbord of articles calling for the annihilation of Israel. (I haven't been able to discover a single pro-Israel article.)

I don't believe the overwhelming majority of the ALA's membership seeks the Jewish state's obliteration. But a hardcore group of haters, especially within the ALA-SRRT, work with obsessive determination to bring that about. And these Israel-bashers have been pushing their agenda since the mid-1980s.

Sometimes resisting, but more often caving in to the will of the haters, the ALA Council has passed a horrendous series of edicts that are then distributed to the PLO, the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, foreign governments, and other national and international entities. And those on the ALA Council who have voted for the anti-Israel resolutions have done so knowing full well that for the haters egging them on with such fervor, the issue is really not what Israel does or does not do. It is Israel's very existence itself that they object to.

The American Library Association has condemned no other nation with anywhere near the frequency and vitriol it has reserved for Israel. Indeed, there would have been even more condemnations of Israel were it not for the fact that for several years now the ALA Council has had a problem obtaining voting quorums. But the bigots may have overcome that obstacle to their mischief. In June 2001, they succeeded in getting the Council to establish as quorum half the number of members previously needed to pass resolutions.

A pro-Israel librarian, whose name it is safer to keep anonymous, characterized the ALA's foray into anti-Israel, pro-P.A. advocacy as "hogwash," but then added that because of the move to lower quorums, "I am personally more pessimistic about our chances of overturning this mess, though we need to keep our voices heard..."

Interestingly, the text of one of anti-Israel resolutions passed in 1992 is conspicuously absent from the ALA website. Apparently that one - which never was rescinded - has proven a bit too embarrassing, even for seasoned Israel bashers.

The malicious document said, in part: "Resolved, the American Library Association protests the deportation of Omar al-Safi...a librarian at Bir Zeit University in the Israeli-Occupied West Bank." It also referred to al-Safi as "our colleague." The ALA now hopes the public, particularly after the tragedy of 9-11, will remain ignorant of this astonishing blunder.

But the al-Safi resolution should be neither obscured nor forgotten by the American people, because its passage exposes so much that is wrong and vicious about the American Library Association.

First, Omar al Safi was a terrorist nom de guerre for a convicted felon, with a long and violent criminal record, who was never deported by Israel.

Second, there is nothing to indicate that he was ever a professional librarian, although he seems to have occasionally worked in the library of Bir Zeit, a university that owes its existence to Israel's administration of the territories. (The Jordanians never allowed it to be founded; after June 1967, Israel did. Israel spent millions of shekels to develop it, in the vain hope that by educating the Arabs, she would be appreciated. All Israel got for its time and money was hate and a radicalized student body.)

Finally and most importantly, al-Safi was a member of and recruiter for the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a ruthless terror gang that calls for the murder of all Jewish Israelis. One of the many atrocities carried out by that group of sadistic thugs that most readers will surely remember was the 1974 massacre in Maalot of twenty-two Israeli schoolchildren plus several adults. Thus, the American Library Association - a major organization of professionals who, to a very large extent, work with schoolchildren, and whose conventions are, in part, funded by U.S. taxpayer money - passed a resolution in support of a terrorist from a group with a long history of targeting children for murder.

Al-Safi is not the only terrorist murderer linked to the ALA's anti-Israel campaigns. Khader Hamide, an invited guest at a 1992 ALA convention, is a member of and fundraiser for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP, which is the parent group of the DFLP, gained notoriety in the 1970's thanks to its penchant for gunning down civilians in airports and hijacking commercial passenger planes around the world. Among its many crimes against humanity, the PFLP planned the 1972 Japanese Red Army machine-gun rampage at Ben-Gurion (formerly Lod) Airport. The butchered innocents included sixteen Puerto Rican Christian pilgrims. More recently, the PFLP assassinated Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavim Ze'evi. In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Khader Hamide - the PFLP killer and honored ALA guest speaker - be deported from the United States.

While these revelations are undoubtedly disgusting, what is especially alarming is the fact that the SRRT tried to get the ALA Council to pass a resolution that urged librarians to focus on the acquisition of politically correct - i.e., radical, anti-Israel, anti-U.S. and anti-democracy - materials for their collections. (Fidel Castro's dictatorship has been lauded by this bunch.)

And while the resolution has not been formalized as official ALA policy, evidence is emerging that far-left librarians have been implementing it in their own unofficial fashion. As one egregious example: Ghada Elturk, a librarian at the Boulder Public Library in Colorado, organized a presentation for the June, 2003 ALA Convention on library services to "refugee populations" that was thinly-veiled Israel-bashing. What is worse, the acquisitions of the Boulder Public Library are very, very heavily skewed against Israel - take a look at their online catalogue and see for yourself.

Especially troubling is what appears to be an unspoken policy of de facto censorship that hinders the public's access to centrist, conservative and pro-American books and material. If these librarian have their way, the victims of the terrorists will be regarded as the cause of terrorism.

Attorney J. Edward Pawlick did democracy a great service by reporting the results of searches in 35 Massachusetts libraries for eleven important conservative books. Their paucity or absence in library collections led Pawlick to assert, "The professional librarians appear to be the leaders of the censorship effort." He further stated, "If they wish to censor, they don't have to burn anything. They just refuse buy the book. It's very tidy and very clean."

The problem isn't limited to Massachusetts. Conservative patrons of public libraries throughout the country have long complained that books by liberal authors - particularly new releases - are promptly ordered and never in short supply, while books by conservatives or on conservative themes only seem to make it onto the shelves months after publication, if then.

Some Prominent Personalities in the ALA

I raised these issues in an article in the Jewish Press, December 2002. I was attacked by the then ALA president, Maurice J. "Mitch" Freedman, himself a member of the anti-Israel SRRT, who asserted I'd confused the separate June 2002 ALA-SRRT and ALA-Council anti-Israel resolutions. Rory Litwin - the SRRT coordinator and himself a leftist - in an open letter to Freedman published in the SRRT Library Juice of Jan. 2, 2003, has this to say about my accuracy: "You stated that the author of the article in The Jewish Press confused the SRRT resolution and the ALA resolution...I could find nothing in the article that I could identify as indicating an actual confusion..."

Litwin also, with surprising candor, admitted that people within the ALA-SRRT were simply motivated by "...their opposition to Zionism." In other words, the problem they have is not with what Israel purportedly does or does not do. The problem they have is with the very existence of the Jewish state.

In an apparent attempt to defend that which cannot be ethically defended, the ALA president also attempted to cast doubt on the truthfulness of what I wrote by simply dismissing my points as "a rash of allegations." But they are not mere allegations. They remain the truth. Indeed, one ALA official, thoroughly sickened by the organization's long anti-Israel obsession, relayed thanks to me and described my article as "factual." (For the sake of that individual's safety and job security, his or her name will not be revealed.)

In his role as ALA president, Freedman got to select films for free viewing as part of the Video Nightcap "entertainment" at the 2003 ALA Convention: "The Trials of Henry Kissinger" and "Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times." Both films attack U.S. foreign policy, blaming it for much of the world's ills, including terrorism, and the Chomsky travesty has the expected verbal barrage against Israel. No film supported the American and Israeli struggles against terrorism, even though the meeting is partially paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

And he chose, as major speaker, Amy Goodman, a writer with a markedly pro-Palestinian viewpoint, who hosts a leftist radio program on the Pacifica Network, which the media watchdog group CAMERA has described as "repeatedly provid[ing] a forum for racists, anti-Semites and virulent critics of Israel."

Other revelations are coming to light. For example, did you know that Israel is the only nation on earth to have had the dubious distinction of being included in the name of a condemning ALA subgroup? It's true. The Committee on Israeli Censorship was indirectly underwritten by unwitting U.S. taxpayers. For a time it was coordinated by former ALA-SRRT member David L. Williams, a rabidly anti-Israel Chicago-based public librarian who managed to get his purportedly objective bibliography, "The Palestinian/Israeli Conflict," published by and housed in the Chicago Public Library's Social Sciences and History Division.

In a 1993 Jewish Press article, Andrea Levin, director of the CAMERA, described the Williams compilation as follows: "An appallingly one-sided inventory of pro-Arab, pro-Palestinian books and periodicals, the bibliography mocks the responsibility of librarians to offer wide-ranging and complete information."

Moreover, the ALA gave Williams plenty of space to rant against the Jewish state in the Fall 1990, Winter 1991, Spring 1991, and Summer 1991 issues of International Leads, one of its official publications. To add to the diatribes against Israel, the Israel-bashing venom of yet another librarian, Zoia Horn, was published in a prominently headlined and indexed article written for the January 1992 issue of American Libraries, the main ALA journal.

And I have confirmed that several Jewish attendees at the June 2002 ALA Convention, held in Atlanta, were forcibly ejected by security guards under the pretext that they were "outsiders" - despite the fact that past ALA conventions had welcomed interested non-members as guests, including, as I reported in my first article, a PFLP terrorist. The actual "crime" of the expelled Jewish observers was that they were peacefully distributing literature with the objective of heading off yet another ALA Council condemnation of the Jewish State. A plethora of anti-Israel propaganda is considered fine for ALA publications and for distribution at American Library Association conventions. Pro-Israel material, on the other hand, is apparently verboten.

As if all this were not troubling enough, there is every indication that the ALA has even more anti-Israel mischief in mind.

On June 25, 2002, just days after both the ALA-SRRT and ALA Council passed their most recent vitriolic, anti-Israel resolutions, SRRT member Al Kagan, a longtime supporter of the ALA's anti-Israel campaigns, wrote about the Council's condemnation in Library Juice. Concerned that the condemnation was "weak," he asserted that "...we may need to come back with a further resolution for the next meeting."

Kagan, a professor of library administration at the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois, has been active in the movement to get that institution to divest from investing funds in the Israel, as well as with firms that do business with the Jewish state. He has also promoted the anti-Israel propaganda campaign of University of Illinois graduate Ahmed Bensouda, who had been studying there on a student visa. Last spring, Federal authorities arrested Bensouda as a possible threat to the security of the United States. Bensouda was released on bail several weeks later, pending further government investigation.

Like a spreading virus, SRRTs are being organized in local library groups. Library associations in Oregon, New York, and the State of Washington now have them. Anyone concerned about the survival of Israel has real cause for concern. Evolving from the Israel-bashing of the 1980s, ALA has become single-minded in its advocacy of the Arab side, suppressing context, history, accuracy and alternative points of view.

Questions That Need Answering

I am not a professional investigator, but simply someone who has worked as a librarian. The worrisome information presented here is the full extent of my knowledge of this problem, and I have no answers or solutions. But surely these revelations lead to questions that need answering:

1. What is the full extent of the relationship between elements within the American Library Association and terrorist organizations, and exactly which terror groups are involved?

2. Considering the fact that U.S. taxpayers, to a large extent, pay for the transportation, accommodation, and compensation time of library personnel attending the semi-annual ALA conventions, has the American Library Association been violating the law by engaging in activities championed by those of its members animated by an anti-Israel agenda - activities that include sending their anti-Israel resolutions to the U.S. State Department, the U.N., and Arafat?

3. How many more biased condemnations of the only democracy in the Middle East will the ALA's Israel bashers and group masochists (sadly, there are some Adam Shapiro/Noam Chomsky types involved) manage to push through?

4. Will the American people be complacent while members of the ALA vocally campaign against tighter security measures in the war against terrorism (the ALA was a fierce opponent of the U.S. Patriot Act that Congress passed by an overwhelming majority), while encouraging the censorship of books, periodicals, and audio-visuals which do not conform to a leftist agenda?

5. A 2002 ALA Council's implicit condemnation of Israel (more often than not, the condemnations have been explicit) called for an "investigative" group to be sent to the Palestinian-controlled territories. Some of the ALA's Israel-bashers later did meet with librarians from Norway at an IFLA meeting and the Norwegians volunteered to send "investigator-librarians." I have not heard whether they actually went - or are still to go - to Israel and/or the territories. Who will be footing the bill for that and what will be the composition of the group? Will the "librarian-investigators" endanger the lives of Israelis? Do the terms of ALA's tax-exempt status allow ALA to participate actively in international politics?

6. Thomas Twiss, who introduced the 2002 anti-Israel resolution, compiled a list of so-called Palestinian charities, which he urged people to donate to. It was published in the December 2002 SRRT Newsletter. At least one of these "charities," the A. M. Qattan Foundation, has a history of having steered money to Arafat's underlings when they occupied Orient House, in Jerusalem. So what are the chances that funds the ALA transfers to Arafat's people, purportedly for "rebuilding Palestinian libraries and cultural institutions," end up in one of Arafat's private Swiss bank accounts? And how much of that money will be used to purchase bullets and bombs for the murder of innocents?

The time is long past due for Americans to view both the American Library Association and their local public libraries with greater scrutiny.

N. Leonard Tolkan, the author of this article, is a veteran librarian who, for obvious reasons, chooses to remain anonymous.

Some of the material in this article appeared in Mr. Tolkan's articles in the Jewish Press, December 27, 2002 and January 15, 2003.

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