Erik Jonsson Central Library of Dallas Public Library, 2006. Credit: Drumguy8800 via Wikimedia Commons.
by David Swindle and Menachem Wecker
(JNS) — The head of the Dallas public library system is denying that a library green-lit an upcoming exhibition about the nakba, the term Palestinians use to refer to the “catastrophe” of modern-day Israel’s establishment as a state in 1948. But links on the website of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, the system’s main library branch, show that it hosted a nakba event last year by the same group.
“The exhibit was not approved, and the organization posted the announcement without our knowledge. It will not take place,” Jo Giudice, director of the Dallas Public Library, told JNS of the 2023 iteration.
Asked about a similar event last year at the library, Giudice told JNS: “In researching it, we found that our policies already in place were not followed last year, and staff have been retrained.”
The library tries to “provide a platform for diverse voices and opinions, particularly those of disenfranchised communities,” Giudice added. “In our eagerness to be inclusive, we did not give the exhibit the scrutiny we should have. We have already begun the process of retraining staff on our policy and how to evaluate potential partnerships.”
From May 20 until Aug. 30, the Palestinian Youth Movement still claims on Facebook that it will host the exhibit, “75 Years of Resistance. 75 Years of Glory” at the central library branch.
Israel celebrated Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut) on April 26, the date on the Jewish calendar, and Americans are planning celebrations on and around May 14 — 75 years after the declaration of the nation.
“This exhibit honors the courage and steadfastness of the Palestinian people in their resistance to Zionist oppression and colonization dating back to the 1948 catastrophe known as the ‘Nakba’,” it noted.
“We will feature work from Palestinian artists in the North Texas region that explore themes of resistance and struggle, while also paying homage to our martyrs and political prisoners,” the group added.
Last year, the same youth group held a May 28 Palestinian art exhibit titled “The Ongoing Nakba,” which is still listed on the central library’s website. “Join us for a day of art, history and food as we showcase Palestinian history, literature and art while commemorating 74 years of the Nakba,” per the listing.
A Facebook announcement for the 2022 event remains on the Palestinian Youth Movement Facebook page.
David Patterson, distinguished chair in Holocaust studies at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies and a distinguished professor of history and literature, told JNS that the term “Nakba” is necessarily antisemitic, insofar as it is “used exclusively in the context of a larger Palestinian agenda — which includes the PLO, Palestine Islamic Jihad and Hamas.”
“The PLO and its military wing Fatah exist for the sole purpose of destroying the Jewish state, as stated in Article 15 of the PLO Charter. The PIJ’s Internal Charter declares, ‘To relinquish any part of it is to abandon Islam.’ Their ultimate aim is the liberation not merely of Palestine but of the entire world from the ‘Jewish cancer’ that plagues humanity, and, in the words of the PIJ Charter, the cancer is ’embodied in the Zionist presence in Palestine’,” Patterson told JNS.
“The preamble of the Hamas Charter of Allah declares, ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it’,” he added. “The ‘catastrophe’ of the ‘Nakba’ is the catastrophe of the Palestinian leadership enlisting the Palestinian people in an exterminationist design against the Jews of Israel and, by extension, everywhere.”
By hosting a “Nakba” event, the Dallas Public Library “undermines its own mission statement,” according to Patterson, who notes the library claims to strengthen “communities by connecting people, inspiring curiosity, advancing lives and working for racial equity.”
“The invocation of the ‘Nakba’ is about radically separating people and their communities from one another. If it is about ‘inspiring curiosity,’ it should lead to an investigation of the PLO, the PIJ and Hamas movements that exploit the term,” he said. “If it is about ‘racial equity,’ then it should expose the campaign of the demonization of Israel and the Jews that lies at the core of these Palestinian movements.”
It seems that library leadership was unaware of the violent and hateful implications of the term “Nakba,” according to Patterson.
“Surely being inclusive does not mean the inclusion of a discourse calculated to incite hatred. Surely the pursuit of diversity should not include the promotion of hatred. Indeed, the use of term ‘Nakba’ is calculated to disenfranchise Jewish communities everywhere,” he said. “There is, to be sure, a need for public and private entities to think differently about the Jews. If they are to do so, then they must ask: ‘What is the antisemite anti-? What is the anti-Zionist anti-?’”
Last year, seven members of the Palestinian Youth Movement were arrested for blocking the entrance to the Israeli embassy in Washington.