A pro-Palestinian campus organization rallied Friday outside Magrath Library at the University of Minnesota to protest removal in November of an exhibit called "The Beauty of Veils and Head Coverings in Palestine and Around the World," featuring books from the library's collection.

FLAGS JP, a group of 153 U faculty members, librarians, students and alumni calling for the university to divest from Israel, issued an open letter last week that termed the exhibit's removal an act of censorship. According to the letter, library supervisors took it down shortly after it was curated by undergraduate student worker Alyssa Gahr and then sent an email to all student workers indicating the word "Palestine" violated the library's policy of "maintaining neutrality" on political issues.

The exhibit was later put back on display under the title "The Beauty of Veils and Head Coverings Around the World." The Star Tribune reviewed emails from Magrath supervisors, who stated that the only issue with the exhibit "was the pointed mentioning of Palestine amidst global unrest related to Palestine."

Dean of Libraries Lisa German downplayed the school's concerns with referencing Palestine. According to her statement, staff members advised Gahr "to broaden the concept to include people from other countries and ethnicities in order to have a larger and more inclusive display."

Gahr said she filed a bias report following the incident, and that she was summoned to a meeting where library supervisors labeled the original exhibit as "antisemitic." She said she ultimately resigned rather than sign a performance evaluation.

"Digging through the collection with a specific region in mind is something that I and other student workers have done dozens of times," Gahr said. "The library's reaction to the mention of Palestine in the veiling and hijab display took me by surprise. Precedent led me to believe that all libraries celebrated representation of marginalized groups. I was confident that this type of representation was not only tolerated by higher ups, but encouraged. So why erase Palestine?"

About 40 students and staff joined Gahr in protest on Friday, including Imogen Page, a graduate student and member of Jewish Voice for Peace Twin Cities.

"Some people are going to tell you ... that it's antisemitic to criticize the mass murder and starvation of Palestinians, or even put up a display that includes the word 'Palestine' in our campus library," Page said. "Jewish communities know the danger of this type of censorship and political repression. We know better than to stand by while academic institutions purge voices in opposition to genocide."

Esther Liu, a graduate student and member of FLAGS JP, said the group believes the U's actions have eroded academic freedom.

"FLAGS JP is asking the university to explain why it does not see the erasure of Muslim and Palestinian visibility, and the experiences of students who identify as Muslim, Arab or Palestinian, as having a discriminatory effect," Liu said.

Star Tribune staff writer Liz Navratil contributed to this story.