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US man charged with criticising Israel at library debate

Dennis Ross [L} has been described as 'Israel's lawyer' [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 October, 2016

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A man who criticised US and Israeli 'state sponsored terrorism' has been arrested after a debate at a Kansas library.

Kansas City library has gone public on the arrest of two men - one an employee - for making supposedly anti-Israel comments during a debate on the Middle East peace process.

The library system's executive director said he is "outraged" by the arrest of a man asking questions during a discussion about Israeli actions in the occupied territories and an employee who tried to intervene.

It followed a speech by American author and diplomat Dennis Ross - a man described as 'Israel's lawyer' at the library.

The Kansas library system only recently went public about its opposition to charges, the Kansas City Star reported.

"We're going to be living in a different kind of country" if people can be arrested for asking questions at a library, R. Crosby Kemper III, the head of the Kansas' library system said.

"If this kind of behavior is unacceptable to the police, then I guess we're going to have to shut the library down."

After Ross - the pro-Israel speaker - finished his talk, a member of the audience, Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, asked whether Jewish-Americans should speak out against US and Israeli "state-sponsored terrorism".

"When are we going to stand up and be ethical Jews and Americans?" Rothe-Kushel asked, who is also Jewish.

A security guard and off-duty police officer grabbed Rothe-Kushel's arm as he was about to ask another question. Both had been employed by the Jewish Community Foundation for the debate.

"Get your hands off of me right now." Rothe-Kushel shouted.

Steve Woolfolk, director of public programming for the library, tried to intervene but was also arrested by the off-duty officers.

"Every police officer who was on duty that evening was very communicative and respectful," Rothe-Kushel said. But he said he would have left if he had been asked to and given the chance to do so.

Kansas City police spokeswoman Capt. Stacey Graves said off-duty officers hired by the event sponsor acted properly in helping private security stop an audience member from asking follow-up questions.

Rothe-Kushel is charged with trespassing and resisting arrest, while Woolfolk is charged with interfering with an arrest. Woolfolk said he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee when a police officer kneed him in the leg.

Kemper said the private security guards had no right to remove a patron for asking a question.

Ross' speech was the inaugural Truman and Israel Lecture, established by the Truman Library Institute and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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