Yesterday we posted a letter from more than 70 Canadian writers calling on Israel and Canadian leaders to stop the eviction and relocation of several Palestinian communities in the West Bank and the Negev. The letter is gathering speed. Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale) and John Ralston Saul (Voltaire’s Bastards) have signed on too.
Montreal, July 16, 2013 — Margaret Atwood and John Ralston Saul have added their names to a list of 90 writers who have signed an open letter to Israeli and Canadian leaders. The letter asks Israeli leaders to halt the imminent “firing zone” evictions of 1000 Palestinians from the Southern Hebron Hills, and the Prawer Plan for the forced displacement of 20000-70000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from the Negev. Yann Martel (The Life of Pi), Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes), Guy Vanderhaeghe (The Englishman’s Boy), Nino Ricci, Rohinton Mistry and Jane Urquhart are also among the additions to an impressive list of well-known Canadian writers.
Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Vincent Lam, Lisa Moore, Lorna Crozier, Alberto Manguel, George Bowering, Edeet Ravel, Patrick Lane, Sheila Heti, Kyo Maclear, Dr. Gabor Maté, Michel Tremblay and Canada’s current Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah are among the best known of the original signatories. Dozens of nominees or winners of the Governor General’s literary awards, the Giller Prize, the Impac Dublin Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Man Booker Prize, and other honours, including the Order of Canada, figure in the list. (See text of letter and full list of signatories below.)
“It’s nothing but ethnic cleansing,” said one of the signatories, Gabor Mate, in an interview with Postmedia News last week. Mate is a Jewish Canadian and Holocaust survivor, and said that personal conviction compelled him to co-sign the letter. “One thing I’ve learned is you don’t be quiet when things happen that shouldn’t happen,” Maté added in his interview with Postmedia.
“These writers’ compassion and clear-mindedness are refreshing at a time in which Canadian politicians seem to have abandoned all principles, especially when determining Middle East policy,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. CJPME points out that Canadian politicians are almost always silent when Israel violates international law by confiscating Palestinians’ land and establishing Israeli-only “settlements” in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPT). CJPME is appalled that a spokesman for Foreign Minister John Baird last week dismissed the Prawer Plan as an “internal” Israeli matter.
“Given the sheer numbers of people slated for forced displacement—20,000 to 70,000 — it’s tragic that Canadian leaders are acquiescing to such cruelty,” adds Woodley. The Israeli arguments that they are dislocating the Bedouin “for their own good” are reminiscent of similar arguments once made for placing Canadian aboriginal children in residential schools.
The European Parliament and various Israeli human rights groups, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, have urged the Israeli Knesset to reject the Prawer Plan. B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence (a veterans’ group) and ACRI, as well as internationally prominent Israeli writers such as David Grossman (To the End of the Land) and Amoz Oz have energetically opposed the evictions of Palestinian villagers from the Southern Hebron Hills (oPt) to make way for an Israeli firing zone.
Professional journalists wishing to interview CJPME representatives and some of the signatories to the Canadian writers’ open letter may contact Patricia Jean at 438-380-5410 for further details.
About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East www.cjpme.org