World’s Leading Children’s Book Authors Group Apologizes Over Condemnation of Antisemitism
The only worldwide professional organization for children’s book authors and illustrators issued a fervent apology on Sunday to Muslim and Palestinian members over a recent condemnation of antisemitism that did not discuss Islamophobia, and announced the resignation of the diversity officer who had posted the message.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has over 22,000 members in the US and around the world. Its members include such prominent writers as Judy Blume, who serves on its board of advisors.
The original SCBWI statement on antisemitism, published on June 10 acknowledged that Jews “have the right to life, safety, and freedom from scapegoating and fear.”
Noting the recent precipitous rise in antisemitism and antisemitic violence, the statement said, “Silence is often mistaken for acceptance and results in the perpetration of more hatred and violence against different types of people.”
“As proof, it saddens us that for the fourth time this year we are compelled to invite you to join us in not looking away and in speaking out against all forms of hate, including antisemitism,” it stated.
“As writers, illustrators, and translators of children’s literature, we are responsible for promoting equity and humanizing people in our work — all children and all families,” the group said.
On Sunday, SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver issued an apology, saying, “I would like to apologize to everyone in the Palestinian community who felt unrepresented, silenced, or marginalized. SCBWI acknowledges the pain our actions have caused to our Muslim and Palestinian members and hope that we can heal from this moment.”
Oliver also apologized to a Palestinian-American writer whose social media comments about the SCBWI statement had been removed, and said that the writer had been unblocked from the group’s feed.
Oliver said that Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer April Powers, who issued the statement, had resigned; that board seats and Equity and Inclusion Committee slots would be created for Muslim members; and the committee would review its “policies regarding freedom of expression for all underrepresented members to make sure no one is silenced or unsafe.”
The message included an apology from Powers herself, who said she had erred in removing “anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli posts.”
“I neglected to address the rise in Islamophobia, and deeply regret that omission,” she added. “As someone who is vehemently against Islamophobia and hate speech of any kind, I understand that intention is not impact and I am so sorry.”
“While this doesn’t fix the pain and disappointment that you feel by my mishandling of this moment, I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies and resignation from the SCBWI,” Powers said. “I wish all of you success in your work because the world’s children need your stories. All of them.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated to include more details of the SCBWI apology.