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The village of Grafton, Wisconsin, chose to honor the USS Liberty by
naming its new library after the ship. The complaints that followed
filled the local newspapers and airwaves for months. This is the story
of the USS Liberty Memorial Public Library and the controversy that
THE WISCONSIN LIBRARY WARS
By James M. Ennes, Jr.
After a long pause to stop the flow of blood, 1988 marked the tenth year
of the great Wisconsin library wars.
The first blows were struck in 1979 when supporters of Israel in
Milwaukee decided to flex their political muscle. In a test of power (some
would say to flaunt it), spokesmen for Israel renamed the library at the
University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee after an Israeli political leader.
"Let this place be known forever as the Golda Meir Library," they
To no surprise, a great hew and cry developed almost overnight as
students, faculty, and local citizens recorded their outrage.
Golda Meir, born Goldie Mabovitch in Poland in 1898, had lived in Milwaukee
between her 8th and 21st year. She studied at the Milwaukee Teachers Seminary
of Milwaukee, later taught school briefly in Milwaukee, and then moved to
Palestine in 1919 to join the growing Jewish community there.
Golda Meir was respected by her fans, not for charm, tact, or
diplomatic skill, but for her stubborn Israeli intransigence.
When she became prime minister in 1969, Time magazine said of her:
"The essence of the woman is conviction, without compromise, and expressed
with all the subtlety of a Centurion tank. She seldom loses an argument...."
Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, himself a Jew, described her as
"a tough, obstinate, unintelligent woman, without discernment, wisdom or
Yet, among Arabs and many Americans, Golda Meir is best remembered
and often despised for her hard line against the Palestinian population, and
for her insistence that Israel had no "Palestinian problem" because, she said,
"It was not as though there was a Palestinian people and we came and threw
them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."