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Palestinian writers call for boycott of Jerusalem int’l writers’ fest

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As hunger striking Palestinian prisoners, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, mark their 75th day without food today in protest against detention without charge, solitary confinement and restrictions on family visits in Israeli jails, the 3rd International Writers’ Festival begins in Jerusalem.

According to a statement released on Thursday by the General Union of Palestinian Writers, the festival “sends a clear message to the world that the ‘Israeli cultural establishment’ is an integral part of the ‘Israeli colonial establishment’: the first wages war on Palestinian memory, while the latter continues its war against Palestinian existence.”

The statement in full below:

Boycott the boycott violators in the International Writer’s Festival in Jerusalem

[translation]

Despite the repeated boycott appeals to international writers participating in the International Writer’s Festival (Mishkenot Sha’ananim), to be held in Jerusalem between 13–18 May 2012, and despite the fact that a number of them have heeded these appeals, some continue to ignore the boycott calls and insist on participating in this festival. The festival is planned to coincide with the celebration of the settler-colonial state of Israel’s ‘independence day’, which coincides with the sixty-fourth commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe).

Not only are some of these writers – who crossed the Palestinian picket line – like the American writer Tracy Chevalier and the Bosnian writer Aleksandar Hemon, still participating in this shameful festival, they have also asked the director of the Festival, Uri Dromi, to arrange for them to meet with ‘local’ Palestinian writers in Ramallah, and to tour East Jerusalem to see the Palestinians. This Orientalist tendency to get acquainted with ‘the locals’ as objects of colonial voyeurism, and through colonial intermediaries, should be met on the Palestinian side with condemnation and boycott. The writers’ choice is between standing with the occupation or with freedom, as there is no middle ground between the two. Exactly as no middle ground exists between a people that ‘lives in the homes of peace’ in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, and another that has been expelled from it because it is not included in Isaiah’s Prophecies.

Holding the festival at this crucial time in one of the oldest settlement outposts in the heart of Jerusalem, which has been undergoing a process of Zionisation as part of an intensive plan to isolate it from the rest of Palestine, and as part of imposing an apartheid system on its Palestinian citizens, sends a clear message to the world that the ‘Israeli cultural establishment’ is an integral part of the ‘Israeli colonial establishment’: the first wages war on Palestinian memory, while the latter continues its war against Palestinian existence. In addition, holding the festival in Jerusalem under these circumstances sends a message that contradicts the propaganda promoted by the festival that claims its role is to ‘make Jerusalem a city of diversity, dialogue, and tolerance’.

Promoting Jerusalem as a legendary city that is quintessentially Jewish, extending from ‘The Tower of David’ to the ‘Judean Desert’, and the participation of top Zionist writers like Amos Oz, A. B. Yehushua, David Grossman, and Etgar Keret, along with Arab writers who don’t write in Arabic such as Sayed Kashua and Bouallam Sansal, turn this festival into a carnival of irony that should be boycotted for aesthetic, cultural, and political factors.

The General Union of Palestinian Writers, which is commemorating the Nakba with the rest of the Palestinian people, salutes international writers who are boycotting the Mishkenot Sha’ananim festival and condemns in the strongest terms the participation of writers whose names were announced by the festival organizers as participants. The Union calls on Palestinian intellectuals and cultural workers, writers, novelists, academics and journalists to boycott the festival and not to meet with its participants who are not welcome [among us] as they have shamed themselves.

The General Union of Palestinian Writers, as a member of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), takes this opportunity to call on free and conscientious writers of the world to respect the boycott criteria set by the BNC and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Taking a clear stand in support of the just Palestinian cause should be a top priority for engaged intellectuals all over the world. Anyone who does not know what freedom means to the Palestinians who lack it surely does not know yet the very meaning of freedom; and anyone whose conscience is not Palestinian, after today, it will never be.

Occupied Palestine, 10 May 2012.

The General Union of Palestinian Writers

This statement was originally published in Arabic. See:

http://www.pacbi.org/atemplate.php?id=338

Eleanor Kilroy

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