Waterstones denies claims of anti-Israel bias in book display at flagship store

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Waterstones denies claims of anti-Israel bias in book display at flagship store

Of four recommended books on display for reading on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, three are written by anti-Zionist authors Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Waterstones Gower St
Waterstones Gower St

One of Waterstones’ flagship stores has been openly promoting books written by the controversial anti-Zionist authors Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky as being “nuanced” and “eloquently” written, while offering no recommended alternatives setting out Israel’s case.

The leading bookshop’s Gower Street branch in central London has an extensive display of books written on the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, in the “largest new and second hand bookshop” in Europe.

But those eager to purchase reading material on the conflict at the weekend from the store were left with a clear indication on which side of the debate Waterstone employees believed they should be on.

Of the four books given hand-written recommendations, Israel born historian Pappe’s name appeared on three, with of these written in collaboration with Chomsky, the US academic who has a lengthy record of suggesting antisemitism claims are falsely used to stifle criticism of Israel.

Waterstones Gower Street recommends shoppers purchase controversial anti-Zionist written Ilan Pappe’s books

The only other recommended book in the section on Israel/Palestine was Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore, a purely historical account of the city from pre-biblical times up until the present.

One shopper, who had arrived at the store to purchase what they hoped was “balanced” material on the conflict, told Jewish News they found the recommendations “a bit of a disgrace.”

He added: “One look at the shelves in the Gower Street Waterstones shop and the recommendations for reading on Israel and Palestine it’s clear that the implication is that Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky are the only voices worth reading.”

Waterstones Gower St recommended reading

Asked to comment on the apparent bias, a Watersones spokesperson said the recommendations “do not represent the views of the company” and they insisted books “with a Zionist stance” had previously been promoted.

In the aftermath of the 7 October Hamas terror attack, Pappe sparked widespread criticism as he called for a “de-zionised, liberated and democratic Palestine from the river to the sea”.

Ilan Pappe praised for ‘eloquently’ writing in the context of ‘Palestinian liberation ‘

He had earlier described Israel as committing an “incremental genocide” of the Palestinian people.

Promoting Pappe’s much criticised work The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Waterstones labelled the book as “eloquently presenting the case” through “vivid exploitation of historic archives.”

What the Gower Street store’s written promotion of the book did not note was the criticism by historian Adam Raz who said  Pappé was a historian whose work “suffers from negligence, manipulations and mistakes galore, and the result is not serious research”.

There was similarly high praise for Pappe’s Ten Myths About Israel book from Waterstones staff.

The author had succeeded in “eloquently discussing the truth about the contemporary state of Israel against the backdrop of Palestinian liberation” it was suggested.

Pappe himself begins the book writing: “This is not a balanced book; it is yet another attempt to redress the balance of power on behalf of the colonised, occupied and oppressed Palestinians in the land of Israel and Palestine.”

Waterstones Gower St recommended reading

The other recommendation at Waterstones is for the On Palestine book he wrote with Chmosky.

A long-time supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, Chomsky has Chomsky has faced claims of being supportive of terrorism, especially when perpetrated against Israel, claiming that it is justified by “various grievances.”

He has repeatedly questioned the use of the definition “terrorist” in the past and also faced claims he had referred to Palestinians as “indigenous people” and Jews as “immigrants in another book”.

In 2014 Chomsky claimed:” In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid”.

Asked to comment on the recommendations in the Gower Street store at Waterstones spokesperson said: “As booksellers, we aim to curate balanced and interesting sections and believe broadly that we achieve this in the books we carry on the history of Israel and Palestine.

“The recommendations by booksellers are personal to the individual booksellers, as demonstrated by their hand-written presentation, and do not – and are not intended to – represent the view of the company.

“As you note, the booksellers at Gower Street have made personal recommendations principally of Israeli historians whose books are the bestsellers to their local community, comprised as it is principally of students at the University of London.

“To reassure you, the shop also promotes books with a Zionist stance, for example having recent strong sales of The Genius of Israel by Dan Senor. “

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