You can read the transcript of Amy Goodman’s interview with Joel Kovel on Democracy Now:
We turn now to an important victory in the battle for free speech here in the United States. Last week the University of Michigan Press voted unanimously to continue distributing books from the London-based independent publishing house Pluto Press. The controversy began earlier this summer when the university press decided to stop distributing a new book by author and activist Joel Kovel published by Pluto Press. It’s called “Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.”
The editorial board of the U. of Michigan student paper roundly condemned the university for their role in the threatened termination of their relationship with Pluto Press.
From the Daily- Start the presses:
“University Press’s wavering is inexplicable and inexcusable”
MICHIGAN DAILY (University of Michigan; Ann Arbor)
Published on October 30, 2007
The University of Michigan Press is supposed to be devoted to publishing books that “contribute to public understanding and dialogue about contemporary political, social, and cultural issues.”
Sometimes that means defending controversial books, and it doesn’t get much more controversial than the Israeli-Palestinian debate.
Unfortunately, in deciding whether to continue distributing Bard College Prof. Joel Kovel’s book, “Overcoming Zionism” and whether or not to renew its contract with the book’s publisher, Pluto Press, the University Press undermined all of its supposed values. Although the UniversityPress made the right decisions in the end, along the way it wavered on its commitment to protecting academic debate and cowered behind decisions that lacked any transparency.
Not everyone will or should agree with Kovel’s book. Printed by Pluto Press, a Leftist independent publisher based in Britain, “Overcoming Zionism” argues that the ideology of Zionism amounts to “state-sponsored racism,” which is incompatible with democracy. The book goes further to say that in order to achieve peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Zionism must be rejected in favor of a secular, single-state, democratic solution.
As criticisms of the book surfaced, the University Press balked at defending its reasoning for distributing the book. Instead, last August, the press’s director, Phil Pochoda, decided to halt distribution, simply citing “serious questions raised by several members of the Universitycommunity about the book.” In other words, some people objected to a controversial book, and the press, rather than defending the principles it exists to serve, simply backed down.
There is no doubt that some people will have objections to Kovel’s contentions, but is there any reason besides complacency and cowardice that those contentions should not be presented into the debate?