Iranian-born author claims ‘intifada is part of Palestinian life’; resistance is ‘peaceful’

The problem with this nuanced understanding of “intifada” is that in Palestinian and Arab culture, the word denotes violence. It’s almost the exact same reasoning with “jihad”; people say “jihad” is a peaceful, inner struggle while imams in mosques in the Arab world and in the West say that the Zionists et al. must be defeated through jihad, etc.

Her insistence that resistance is peaceful goes against Mahmoud Abbas’ own statement that the Palestinians will have no choice but to “continue the struggle” against the so-called “Israeli occupation” if the two state solution is not brought about. And what is struggle in Arabic? It’s jihad.

The Times of Israel, December 5, 2017.

The saga of a newly published ABC children’s book that has had adults up in arms just may have a happy ending after a summit this week between New York rabbis and an independent bookstore chain’s owners.

Once upon a time in mid-November, the launch of “P is for Palestine” was immediately met with controversy. The picture book was written by Iranian-born, part-time Pace University professor Golbarg Bashi, the founder of a gender and race conscious educational materials company that focuses on Arabic and Persian.

No sooner had Bashi announced online a November 18 reading at a Manhattan book store than some New York Jewish parents accused her of promoting hatred, violence and anti-Semitism.

In particular, the book’s “I is for Intifada” page enraged Jewish and Zionist parents. “I is for Intifada, Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!” reads the page illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi with a child and father wearing keffiyahs standing near barbed wire and flashing V-for-victory signs.

Whatever Bashi may have intended, to Jews, “Intifada” connotes two separate bouts of prolonged Palestinian violence and terror from 1987-1991 and 2000-2005, during which some 1,300 Israelis were killed. Around 6,000 Palestinians were also killed during the Palestinian uprisings.

“That’s whitewashing violence,” said local parent Daniel Schwarz, whom The Times of Israel asked to locate and read a copy of “P is for Palestine.”

Schwarz said the book is arguably Palestinian propaganda in that it “advocates for the Palestinian right of return” while acknowledging neither Israel nor Jews.

Bashi refused this publication’s requests for a review copy of the book and an interview, but told JTA that she rejects the idea that the word “intifada” refers primarily to terror attacks, saying she sees intifada as referring to a broader cultural and nonviolent Palestinian resistance to Israel’s occupation. Western media, she said, tend to emphasize Palestinian violence while not covering peaceful protest.

“Of course, absolutely, violence is wrong,” the author told JTA, emphasizing her opposition to terrorism. “I think that when you’re talking about an occupied people and you have an alphabetical book about that people, intifada is part of Palestinian life, to resist occupation. That resistance is overwhelmingly peaceful.”

However, the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue announced it would bar Book Culture from participating in a book fair at the synagogue’s preschool scheduled for early December in light of its decision to carry the book.

“Of particular concern to me is the glorification of the Palestinian intifada — a cruel, murderous, and terroristic campaign that purposely targeted innocent Israelis, including children, in restaurants, buses, hospitals, schools and shopping malls… The intifada was not ‘a rising up for what is right.’ It was a mass descent into immorality,” Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch wrote in a letter to Book Culture co-owners Annie Hedrick, Chris Doeblin, and Rick MacArthur.

Chapter 1: What’s in a name?

Clashes in Ramallah during the first intifada (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Some readers suggested that if Bashi were really as progressive and interested in diversity as her company’s website claims, she should have used Israel for the letter I. Instead, in addition to “I is for intifada,” the book also employs miftach the Arabic word for “key,” to represent the letter M. “M is for Miftah… Key of Return, Mama’s Mama and My Jiddah’s Mama’s for which I yearn!”