Last week, while the US continued to protest Trump’s immigration ban, a completely different ban was taking place. Abbad Yahya, a known Palestinian author who has published numerous books, is now facing a ban of his most recent book, Crime in Ramallah. Though not comparable to the Muslim Ban in terms of scale or effect, this ban from the Palestinian Authority directly against a Palestinian, one of their own, troubles me. Yahya himself explained that it was more than just a book ban: this is an act of censorship and directly preventing him from returning to his home and family in Ramallah.
This is a tough one.
On the one hand, the PA seems to be trying to maintain a certain sense of unity and protection of Palestinians, while remaining optimistic in the public eye. This is a notion distorted by the media at every opportunity. We are always seeing the harsh negatives of the PA, rather than trying to look at situations in a more positive light. Though only some of the articles mention it, the Palestinian culture minister, Ehab Bseiso, posted on Facebook his interest in reading the book and his opposition to the ban.
On the other hand, this looks like a blatant attempt to strictly control language and perceptions of everyday Palestinians. The book, which was quickly removed from shelves across Palestine, describes some of the hardships Palestinians face – even within their own communities and with the government. The biggest concerns that Ahmed Barak, Palestine’s attorney general, brought up in opposition to the book included the book’s “indecent texts and terms that threaten morality and public decency, which could affect the population, in particular, minors”. While this book, perhaps, is not appropriate for children, this is an absurd cover-up for censorship. As a writer and a Palestinian, this hits close to home. Rather than a positive portrayal of Palestinian society, this seems like a significant step in the opposite direction. Freedom of expression is a right that I not only value greatly, but also hold very dear. For years, my people have been living under Israeli oppression and occupation – sometimes using our speech is the only way to feel free. Why not rise up to provide additional encouragement to the Palestinian people? Freedom is becoming increasingly more difficult to come by these days – why add further limitations?
End this ban. Send Yahya home safely to his family, to his life, and allow the world to see a perhaps new perspective of Palestinian society in his book. I, for one, will be researching how to get myself a copy. Join me!