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Letter to Penguin about Aya Ghanameh


August 29, 2022


Via Email: vikingpublicity@us.penguingroup.com; socialimpact@penguinrandomhouse.com;


Re: Alleged Violations of Company Policy by Penguin-affiliated Author Aya Ghanameh


Dear Esteemed Members of Viking and Penguin Random House,


We write on behalf of StandWithUs, an international, non-profit organization dedicated to fighting antisemitism and educating the public about Israel. It has come to our attention that Aya Ghanameh, a children’s author soon-to-be-published under your subsidiary, Viking Books, has an extensive record of public online activity that appears to us as virulent antisemitic hate speech. Most notably, through her public Twitter account, Ghanameh has posted statements unabashedly promoting or whitewashing violence in the U.S., terrorism abroad, and bigotry against Jews (see Appendix below).


The unrepentant hatred Ghanameh appears to display for Jews and Israelis (archived on a Canary Mission page) is incongruent with the stated values of Penguin Random House. In your statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Penguin Random House commits to “ensuring an equitable and inclusive home where all are welcome and where every person is empowered to be themselves and to share their perspectives.” Ghanameh’s record of promoting antisemitism and violence is in direct opposition to these values.


While Ghanameh has a free speech right to post incendiary and hateful rhetoric online, you also have a right to make clear that your company strongly opposes this hate. Absent any condemnation or distancing of Penguin Random House from Aya Ghanameh’s statements, readers and staff may see your silence as tacit acceptance, and possibly even approval and normalization of antisemitism.


As such, we respectfully urge your company to issue a clear statement of condemnation. Additionally, to the extent that your company vets potential authors before publishing their work and/or encourages staff and affiliated writers to participate in DEI trainings, we urge you to include antisemitism awareness as part of that process. We are happy to partner with you to provide resources and training instruction on identifying and responding to antisemitism.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical matter. We would appreciate hearing back from you by September 15, 2022.


Sincerely,


Sincerely,


Roz Rothstein

CEO & Co Founder, StandWithUs


Yael Lerman

Director StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department


Carly Gammill

Director Center For Combating Antisemitism



Appendix


The following is publicly available information for Ms. Ghanameh:1

1. Calling for “Death to Israel”


Ms. Ghanameh uses the refrain “death to Israel” calling for the explicitly violent destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. Recent polls show that the vast majority of American Jews consider denying Israel’s right to exist to be a form of antisemitism.





2. Threatening/Posturing Antisemitic Violence


Ms. Ghanameh promotes virulently antisemitic views by threatening violence against “zionists.” Zionists are people who support Israel’s right to exist and the basic rights of Jews to self-determination in their ancestral home. While there are non-Jews who identify as Zionists, these threats of violence disproportionately target the Jewish community because the vast majority of Jews support Israel’s existence. For many, their connection to Israel is a central part of their Jewish identity.





3. Defending and Glorifying Terrorism


Ms. Ghanameh appears to defend and glorify U.S.-designated terrorist groups and terrorists affiliated with them:



The six prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel were members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) or the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, both recognized as terrorist groups as of 10/8/1997 and 3/27/2002, respectively (see here).Five of them were convicted of planning and/or carrying out attacks against Israelis.



Leila Khaled is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), another recognized terrorist group as of 10/8/1997 (see here)She was personally responsible for a plane hijacking that nearly ended in the mass murder of 148 civilians.


Hamas has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States since 10/8/1997(see here.) Itsfounding charter explicitly advocates religious supremacy, Nazi-style antisemitic conspiracy theories, the murder of Jews, and the destruction of Israel.



4. Promoting an antisemitic conspiracy theory

The Tweet below promotes an antisemitic conspiracy theory called “Deadly Exchange,” which scapegoats Israel and Jewish groups for police brutality against people of color in the United States:




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