Montreal’s Jewish Public Library reversed its decision to move books by local children’s author Elise Gravel to closed stacks in response to her series of illustrated messages criticizing Israel

Elise Gravel's post to Facebook on Feb. 7, 2024.

UPDATE 2/15/24: The JPL announced its reversal of the decision with a statement about how it “recognizes that everyone has a fundamental right to access the full range of knowledge, creativity, ideas and opinions, and to formulate and express their thoughts in public.

“This includes those deemed unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable, whether in the content of the works themselves or in the words the authors express. The JPL supports, defends and promotes access to the widest range of information, and resists calls for censorship and the adoption of systems that deny or restrict access to the written word.

“The JPL, like any library, upholds every individual’s right to express their particular point of view in accordance with universal regulations of intellectual freedom, without endorsing that point of view.”


Montreal’s Jewish Public Library has relocated renowned Montreal children’s author Elise Gravel’s books to the closed stacks after Jewish advocacy groups singled out some of her social media posts as antisemitic.

Gravel is “one of Quebec’s most beloved children’s book authors. Her work is vibrant, thoughtful, funny, and educational,” said a statement from the Jewish Public Library. The library declined to comment on the situation and referred The CJN to its statement.

Moving these titles to the closed stacks “ensures that the books remain accessible through our catalogue, while also acknowledging the sensitivities surrounding the author’s social media posts. This decision reflects our commitment to addressing community concerns while still providing access to a diversity of perspectives,” the library stated.

“The JPL is committed to fostering critical thought and combating antisemitism and discrimination of any kind,” read the statement.

“As Freedom to Read Week approaches, we invite everyone interested in intellectual freedom to explore our banned book displays and to participate in our upcoming program, Ignite Minds, Not Books, on Feb. 20, where participants will delve into the nuances and history of book censorship, furthering our commitment to providing a platform for diverse perspectives and promoting informed discourse within our community.”

The controversy concerns illustrations Gravel has published since the start of the Israel-Hamas war and shared on various social media platforms. The cartoons accuse Israel of genocide against Palestinians and, according to some Jewish organizations, feature antisemitic tropes like the blood libel.

One post, which was deleted by Gravel after public backlash, accused Israel of harvesting skin from Palestinians.

The post read, “the fact that Israel has the largest skin bank in the world, harvested from Palestinians, should be enough evidence for anyone.”

She later removed it claiming it was never her intention to promote disinformation of any kind.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs shared a post from Gravel that said, “’They are convinced that we are okay with their idea to exterminate the Palestinians, like vermin. Even children, even newborns.”

CIJA characterized the post as a ‘antisemitic trope of ritual murder” and asked “Who is the ‘they’ Gravel refers to?” Gravel has since updated the post and replaced “they” with “Netanyahu and his allies.”

“We have seen an escalation of antisemitism and conspiracy content from Montreal children’s author Elise Gravel,” CIJA posted. The Jewish organization offered to meet with Gravel to help her understand how her comments contribute to the rise in antisemitism since the start of the war.

“Criticizing Israel is not necessarily antisemitic. But doing so by invoking antisemitic myths is,” CIJA said.

Gravel is well known with over 30 books published in 12 languages. She won a Governor General’s Award for Children’s Illustration for her book ‘La clé à molette in 2012 and her books are widely accessible in public libraries and taught at elementary schools.

For her part, Gravel argues that her posts are opposing Netanyahu’s government and not Israel.

“I am denouncing a government and its actions, not a population. If I ever do or say anything that sounds otherwise, please point it out. I stand firmly against antisemitism in any form, and I understand that unproven claims like the one I have shared can contribute to it,” she said in a post on Facebook.

“To those who are aggressively trying to bully me into shutting up, it won’t work. I know why you’re doing it and I take it as a sign that my voice matters. I don’t mind being cancelled; I’ve had a good career, I’m ready to retire if need be. The tragedy that’s unfolding is much bigger and more important than my books.”