Labyrinth Books is an asset to the Princeton community

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To the editor:

As president of the Princeton Middle East Society, co-sponsor of the event featuring Dr. Norman Finkelstein at Labyrinth Books on May 17, I must response to the misleading and inflammatory letter from Nelson Obus printed on May 25.

To set the record straight, Dr. Finkelstein’s appearance was not “masquerading” as a book talk – it was a discussion of his latest book, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom (University of California Press 2018). In addition to Labyrinth Books, there were three other co-sponsoring organizations: Jewish Voice for Peace – Central NJ, the Religion & Society Committee of the Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Princeton Middle East Society, exemplifying the diversity of the greater Princeton community.

The attendance of 240 people (full capacity for Labyrinth) evidences the widespread concern here about the perilous situation of the people of Gaza. More than 60 attendees purchased a copy of the book and waited in a long line for Dr. Finkelstein to sign it.

I acknowledge that Dr. Finkelstein, although an excellent speaker, is not always easy to listen to. During his remarks, he quoted Confucius to the effect that “the beginning of wisdom is calling things by their proper names.” This he does, without the circumlocutions and euphemisms often employed to avoid upsetting listeners. Dr. Finkelstein’s powerful and passionate description of the open-air concentration camp that is Gaza, where people are trapped in an unlivable environment of polluted air, dirty water, insufficient food, inadequate medical care, poverty and general despair, was disturbing to everyone in the room. To read his meticulously researched and documented (and minutely footnoted) book is equally disturbing. The response of most of the attendees was shock, horror and revulsion at this man-made disaster – I discerned none of the “reeking hatred or prejudice” described by Mr. Obus.

Labyrinth Books is a tremendous asset to the greater Princeton community. Along with many others, I have over the years attended numerous events there, heard a wide variety of points of view, and been introduced to new books I would otherwise have missed. I hope that Labyrinth will continue to enrich our community with timely and thought-provoking events. I hope, too, that Princeton will continue to be one of the places where citizens can disagree, even about controversial issues, without the civil discord Mr. Obus predicts.

Marilyn Jerry

Princeton