The Manchester launch for Leila Khaled initially suffered a setback when pro-Israel apologists managed to scare off the branch of Blackwell’s which was due to host it. As Sarah Irving reported on her blog:
I’m very sad to say that the Manchester launch of my Leila Khaled biography, which was due to take place a week on Thursday, has been cancelled. A very shaken staff member called me earlier to say that the shop had been subjected to a deluge of phone harassment since opening this morning, and that they simply could not cope. As a mainstream bookshop, Blackwell’s hasn’t experienced anything like this (or not for a very long time – I seem to remember tales of someone trying to firebomb it over another controversial title, but that was in the 1980s!) and they are simply not equipped to cope.
The Manchester Evening News commented on the affair:
A bookshop has cancelled an event launching the biography of a Palestinian woman who hijacked two planes. Blackwell’s on Oxford Road said they were swamped with phone calls and emails from people opposed to the event. Staff at the store, next to Manchester University, have now decided to postpone the May 24 event until further notice. Paul Thornton, store manager, said: “We had a large number of calls about the event yesterday. There were a number of concerns raised which we wanted to investigate and we have put the event on hold. “We did not receive any threats but the number of emails and calls we received meant we couldn’t really run the shop.”
But author Sarah Irving denied her book ‘glamourised’ the Palestinian activist and expressed disappointment at the cancellation. She said: “It is not trying to glamourise or glorify her actions. It is a biography of her life. I would be very surprised if any of the people who are complaining have read the book. It has only been out a few weeks. “I come from a position of being sympathetic of her political aims. I think her methods are something that a lot of people would question.”
Read more at: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1503680_manchester-bookshop-blackwells-cancels-launch-for-biography-of-palestinian-hijacker-leila-khaled-after-complaints
In the end the event was held at the MadLab venue in Manchester’s northern quarter on May 25th.
As the Pluto Press blog pointed out:
These attempts to shut down free discussion about the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict must be opposed. Without such discussion historical injustice will not be recognised and mutual understanding put even further out of reach.
It is worth noting the hypocrisy of such threats. Leila Khaled’s actions in the late 1960s should certainly be open to criticism and questioning, but they resulted in no deaths or physical injuries. By contrast sycophantic memoirs and autobiographies of Israeli leaders responsible for the deaths of thousands of Palestinians raise barely a murmur. We await the protests over Shimon Peres: The Biography (Peres authorised the 1996 attack on the UN compound in the Lebanese village of Qana, which killed 106 civilians) and Sharon: Portrait of a Leader (Israel’s Khan commission found that Sharon “bears personal responsibility” for the massacre of around 2500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982).