October 17, 2012
Marin bookstore, UCLA cancel talks by Free Gaza activist
Greta Berlin, the co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement —who has come under fire for tweeting that Zionists created and ran the Nazi concentration camps — has had her upcoming book talks canceled by at least two California venues.
Book Passage cancelled Berlin’s Sunday, Oct. 21 talk at its flagship location in Corte Madera, and UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies canceled her Oct. 9 talk. Both appearances were part of Berlin’s national book tour to promote “Freedom Sailors,” her newly published account of the FGM’s boat campaigns to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.
As of press time, Book Passage’s owners did not respond to inquiries from j., although a staffer confirmed that the bookstore canceled the event.
Kal Raustiala, associate vice provost for international studies at UCLA, wrote in an email to j., “My understanding is that the [interim] co-directors of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies thought the most appropriate action, in light of recent events involving Ms. Berlin, was to cancel the talk.”
On Sept. 30, Berlin tweeted that “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.” Her tweet appeared on the FGM Twitter account with a link to a video claiming an alliance between Hitler and the Zionist movement. The tweet has since been deleted, but Avi Mayer, head of social media for the Jewish Agency, preserved a screenshot that has been widely distributed.
Although Berlin later said her tweets were taken out of context, pro-Palestinian groups have rushed to disassociate themselves from her. Jewish Voice for Peace canceled its sponsorship of her book tour, and in an Oct. 8 statement, former FGM board members said Berlin’s excuse was inadequate.
However, a letter signed by more than 100 Palestinian activists disavowing anti-Semitism within their ranks said that the Palestinian struggle is “opposed to all forms of racism and bigotry, including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia [and] Zionism.”
That latter comment put Jewish groups on guard. Steven Bayme, director of the Contemporary Jewish life department at the American Jewish Committee, was quoted in a Daily Beast article Oct. 16 as saying that whatever its intent, the letter “remained a statement aimed at the delegitimization of Israel, equating Israel with policies of racism and apartheid.”
Not every venue has canceled Berlin’s book talk. She appeared Oct. 11 at the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where a staffer said the event was sponsored by Code Pink and L.A. Jews for Peace.
The Free Gaza Movement is aimed at breaking Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
— j., the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California.