By Grant Slater
JERUSALEM — An Israeli bookstore chain pulled a book that criticizes Jewish settlers as “hypnotized zombies” plagued by “messianic madness” after customers complained about it, the company said Tuesday.
The decision set off protests from some academics and public figures, who accused the store of bowing to political pressure.
The book also criticizes the Israeli right for its strong ties to West Bank Jewish settlers. The chain, called Tzomet Hasfarim, or Books Junction, packaged the book with an Israeli flag magnet ahead of Israel’s independence day next week and sold it for one shekel, about 27 cents.
The store said customers objected to the packaging of the book with the flag magnet for a symbolic price, implying that the chain endorsed the message of the book. For that reason, the store said it pulled the book from its shelves.
The store issued a statement saying it “has no connection and does not support one side or the other.”
In response, some Israeli academics and public figures called for a boycott of the store. Their petition criticizes the chain for caving in to political pressure, saying its decision “constitutes a critical blow to freedom of expression.”
About 300,000 Israeli settlers live among some 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank. Many Israelis oppose the settlements and are in favor of removing them in exchange for peace with the Palestinians.
Dani Dayan, chairman of Settlers Council, blasted the book.
“This blasphemous publication attacks our communities with vulgar language,” Dayan said, adding that he did not object to the book being published.
The book was self-published by its authors, Shmuel Hasfari and Eldad Yaniv, and all of the bookstore’s copies have been returned to the authors, the chain said.
Yaniv told the Israeli Haaretz newspaper he intended to publish more copies of the book and distribute them for free on university campuses.
“I think that today (the settlers) proved what the book says about them is justified,” Yaniv told Haaretz. “It’s time to put them in their place and say that we are Zionist and Israeli and want to stop the occupation” of the West Bank.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and started building settlements there shortly afterward. The Palestinians claim the West Bank for part of their future state and want the settlements removed.
From the Associated Press
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