Banning books and what it means for IsraelMark Steyn has an important article this weekend in which he describes the disappearance of the book Alms for Jihad from the public marketplace. The book was pulled from the market by Cambridge University Press after they were threatened with a libel suit in England:
Unfortunately, if you then try to buy "Alms for Jihad," you discover that the book is "Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." Hang on, it was only published last year. At Amazon, items are either shipped within 24 hours or, if a little more specialized, within four to six weeks, but not many books from 2006 are entirely unavailable with no restock in sight.The result is that this book, which shows how a Saudi bank financed al-Qaeda terror, will get little future exposure in the public marketplace.
Well, let us cross the ocean, thousands of miles from the Amazon warehouse, to the High Court in London. Last week, the Cambridge University Press agreed to recall all unsold copies of "Alms for Jihad" and pulp them. In addition, it has asked hundreds of libraries around the world to remove the volume from their shelves. This highly unusual action was accompanied by a letter to Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, in care of his English lawyers, explaining their reasons:
"Throughout the book there are serious and defamatory allegations about yourself and your family, alleging support for terrorism through your businesses, family and charities, and directly.
"As a result of what we now know, we accept and acknowledge that all of those allegations about you and your family, businesses and charities are entirely and manifestly false."
Who is Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz? Well, he's a very wealthy and influential Saudi. Big deal, you say. Is there any other kind? Yes, but even by the standards of very wealthy and influential Saudis, this guy is plugged in: He was the personal banker to the Saudi royal family and head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, until he sold it to the Saudi government. He has a swanky pad in London and an Irish passport and multiple U.S. business connections, including to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission.
I'm not saying the 9/11 Commission is a Saudi shell operation, merely making the observation that, whenever you come across a big-shot Saudi, it's considerably less than six degrees of separation between him and the most respectable pillars of the American establishment.
At The Corner, Stanley Kurtz asks some important questions (Hat Tip: Power Line via Memeorandum):
The issues at stake include freedom of speech, national sovereignty, the legal and social effects of the Internet, and the war on terror. Several questions present themselves, including: 1) Is mainstream media coverage failing as a direct or indirect outcome of the earlier suits? 2) Did the earlier suits leveled at major newspapers and magazines include specific agreements forbidding future coverage? 3) Are American libraries complying with Cambridge University Press’s letter calling for the withdrawal of Alms for Jihad from their shelves? 4) What, if any, are their legal obligations to comply? 5) Are libraries that chose not to comply in any danger? 5) Why are we not hearing anything more from the American publishing industry about the threat they are under?And he has some answers:
That is only a very partial list of questions. But right now I think there is time pressure on the question of the status of Alms for Jihad at various libraries. Within a week it could be too late to save the remaining copies of the book. We need a publicly mounted list of all American libraries containing Alms for Jihad. We need to make public inquiries as to whether the book is being removed or not. We need to know if the books, once removed, are being destroyed. We need to know exactly what is in the letter that Cambridge University Press has sent to American libraries. Does it call for destruction of the book, or merely removal (if destruction, then a campaign to return the books to the shelves will fail). If American libraries have a clear legal right not to comply with the Cambridge letter, and if they can be shown that they are not under any serious threat, they need to be told as much, and quickly.Ehrenfeld would be Rachel Ehrenfeld, a prominent scholar whose field is exposing the funding of Islamic terror worldwide. As you might imagine, that has included the funding of 'Palestinian' terror.
Above all, we need mainstream media coverage. But that will only happen, if at all, after further discussion on the blogosphere. And as noted, we also need to know much more about what effect, if any, the suits and settlements of the past may be having on media coverage in the present. And we need to encourage financial support for Ehrenfeld.
Those of us who support and love Israel must be front and center on this issue. Imagine that next week, a prominent Saudi banker is named as funding Fatah terror in a book published in the US. The banker sues in a UK court for libel arguing that the publisher has sold copies of the book in England. The publisher caves. The banker quickly fades from the public view.
Tomorrow morning, call your public library and ask if they have copies of Alms for Jihad and what they plan to do with them. If they have them available for lending, ask to borrow them. If they plan to send them back to the publisher, ask if you can purchase them instead. Then let's see if we can get enough of the book online in one form or another to make sure that the ideas in the book remain in the public domain. Next week, it may be too late.