10:32 GMT17 January 2021
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    The author of the book denies accusations of perpetuating anti-Islamic views and says that "being afraid of militant Islam is hardly a neurosis".

    Dzanc Books, a Michigan-based independent press book publisher, has withdrawn a novel about an Iranian attack on Israel from sale.

    The book, titled The Siege of Tel Aviv, tells the story of an Iran-led invasion of five Muslim armies into Israel, destroying the Jewish state and turning Tel Aviv, which remains under Israeli control, into a ghetto with failing water and food supplies.

    The Siege of Tel Aviv received blurbs from several authors, with master of horror Stephen King calling it "scarier than anything Stephen King ever wrote".

    The release of the novel by prize-winning author Hesh Kestin, a former Forbes journalist and IDF veteran, was announced on 16 April.

    However, days later, the publisher said it was nixing the book in the wake of backlash on social media and complaints from authors affiliated with Dzanc, who labelled the book Islamophobic.

    A host of social media users and authors erupted in anger after Dzanc Books and Kestin promoted the release on Twitter.

    "This is obviously racist," tweeted Nathan Goldman of the secular left Jewish Currents magazine.

    Author Cornet Lamar Charleston referred to the book as being "blatantly Islamophobic [and] racist", while other commenters took aim at the word "Moslem" from the book description, which referred to the Muslim armies.

    The novel "perpetuates harmful narratives regarding Muslims that we cannot support, as a house," Dzanc Books' publisher and editor in chief, Michelle Dotter, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).

    Co-founder Steve Gillis denied allegations that the book promulgated Islamophobia, saying that it represented a mixture of absurdism with satire and social commentary.

    "It is not in any way meant to be read literally as an Islamophobic text. That the material presents itself as problematic in this regard troubles me deeply," he said in a statement on Dzanc's website. 

    "I hoped readers would understand the intent of the novel, the over-the-top absurdist narrative, drawing attention to − not championing − the ridiculous ways in which we, as a universal community, see one another and fail in our interactions. That the novel has been viewed as otherwise is our failing."

    READ MORE: Coca-Cola's Islam-Themed 'Ramadan Soda' Sparks Outrage in Norway

    75-year-old Kestin denied allegations of perpetuating Islamophobia and stated that his book is based on the signs of "growing anti-Semitism" and the Islamic world's "hostility to the very existence of the Jewish state".

    "That a publishing house pledged to independence has allowed itself to be bullied by a mob that could fit into my kitchen says entirely too much of the state of publishing in America and not enough about backbone," he said in a press release.

    Kestin has received a $2,500 advance from Dzanc, which he will keep, according to the JTA, and is currently in talks with the publisher to buy remaining copies of the book. He announced that the first half of the book is available free on his website, while the full copy can be bought on Amazon.


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