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Shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, the Frankfurt Book Fair cancelled an award presentation for Palestinian novelist Adania Shibli. It would hold the ceremony at a different time, it said – in a “less politically charged atmosphere.”

It was a bad decision, and it was just the beginning. As the atmosphere has become only more politically charged, the cancellations – official or stealth – are piling up.

Popular Quebec children’s author Elise Gravel recently had her books moved to closed stacks at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library. This followed her posts about the devastation in Gaza, including one that seemed to echo the age-old blood libel aimed at Jews: “The fact that Israel has the largest skin bank in the world, harvested from Palestinians, should be enough evidence for anyone.”

Parents can choose not to buy her books or read them to their kids – or to check them out from the library. But they should not be taken out of the library. Or off the shelves. (The library, correctly, reversed its decision after an outcry.)

In the U.S., authors petitioned the literary free-expression organization PEN America over its co-sponsorship of an event featuring Israel supporter Mayim Bialik interviewing an author. Protesters inside disrupted the event, rattling some attendees to the point of tears, PEN said. The irony, right?

The New York-based Jewish Book Council has launched an initiative to track antisemitism in the literary world, including review-bombing, cancellations and threats of violence.

On social media, people are calling out celebrity artists who signed a letter calling for the release of the Oct. 7 hostages, vowing to stop consuming or reviewing their work.

What’s worse, artists are being deplatformed not just for open letters they’ve signed, or their comments, or their work – but for their allegiances, real or perceived.

The Jewish musician Matisyahu had shows cancelled in Santa Fe, N.M., and Tucson this month, with protests expected and staff refusing to work. “They do this because they are either antisemitic or have confused their empathy for the Palestinian people with hatred for someone like me who holds empathy for both Israelis and Palestinians,” he posted.

Here in Canada, Likht Ensemble – two Jewish artists based in Canada who perform music by Jewish composers from the Holocaust and present workshops on the music and antisemitism of Richard Wagner – lost engagements in the aftermath of Oct. 7. (At least one company hopes to reschedule their work for next season.)

Concerns about antisemitism are so pervasive that when two Jewish-Canadian arts festivals did not receive Canada Council grants this year – grants they have regularly received previously, and which were adjudicated in November and December – they wondered if there was a connection.

“I think that they just don’t see our community as fitting into any kind of priority group,” Chutzpah Festival artistic managing director Jessica Gutteridge said, noting she was told diversity, equity and inclusion would be a top priority in the decision-making process. “We’re trying to be really broad and diverse, as the Jewish community is, and it’s still not getting us anywhere. So what are they looking for?”

Audiences are also encountering these divisions, even at shows meant for laughs. In London, comedian Paul Currie allegedly hounded an attendee, who turned out to be Israeli, out of his show, after he wouldn’t applaud the Palestinian flag. “While we robustly support the right of artists to express a wide range of views in their shows, intimidation of audience members, acts of antisemitism or any other forms of racism will not be tolerated,” the Soho Theatre said afterward.

And two attendees of a recent show at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre told me that comedian Tony Hinchcliffe worked the Oct. 7 attacks into his routine with a joke about beheaded Jewish babies: that as the dying babies’ heads were falling to the ground, “The last thing they saw was: ‘Oh, is that a nickel?’ and everyone just laughed,” recalls Primo Allon, who was in the crowd. The Vogue did not respond to e-mails about this, nor did Mr. Hinchcliffe’s management.

Artists should be able to express their views, but that ends with hate speech. Free speech is important, but so is safety.

In Australia, hundreds of Jewish writers, artists, musician and academics recently found themselves on a list along with personal details leaked by pro-Palestinian activists. I’ve seen Canadians call for making such lists as well.

We need to hear from artists right now: to help us navigate through this terrible time, to offer hope and remind us of our shared humanity – and, let’s face it, for some distraction too.

There are festivals being programmed as I write this. It would be a shame if artists are tossed onto the curation cutting-room floor for a stance they’ve taken, so long as it does not incite hate or violence, or for simply being a member of a specific group.

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