Leading writers and editors protest Israeli sponsorship of Brooklyn book festival

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The Brooklyn Book Festival has quickly become one of the nation's top events of its kind since starting in 2006, September 18, 2011. (Photo: AP/Newsday )
The Brooklyn Book Festival has quickly become one of the nation’s top events of its kind since starting in 2006, September 18, 2011. (Photo: AP/Newsday )

To the Brooklyn Book Festival Inc. and the Brooklyn Book Festival Literary Council:

We, the undersigned, including participants and exhibitors at the Brooklyn Book Festival, recently noticed that the festival has chosen to accept support from Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in New York for one of its panels.

It is deeply regrettable that the Festival has chosen to accept funding from the Israeli government just weeks after Israel’s bloody 50-day assault on the Gaza Strip, which left over 2100 Palestinians – including 500 children – dead, displaced a fourth of the population, destroyed homes, schools, and hospitals, and involved numerous potential war crimes. Sustaining a partnership with the Israeli Consulate at this time amounts to a tacit endorsement of Israel’s many violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
Israel has systematically attempted to suppress, expropriate and suffocate the art, culture, and literature of Palestinian writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and poets. We hope that you agree that partnering with a state that practices occupation, colonialism, and apartheid is paradoxical for a festival that celebrates a “lively literary marketplace.”

Since 2005, Palestinian civil society has called on people of conscience around the world to engage in a peaceful campaign of boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel in order to force it to comply with international law. The BDS movement has grown exponentially since then, attracting support from a range of cultural and literary figures around the globe.

We appeal to the organizers of the Brooklyn Book Festival to refuse the sponsorship of the Israeli embassy or any complicit Israeli institution in the future. This is not, we emphasize, a call to isolate or boycott individual Israelis, but an effort to renounce business as usual with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights with impunity. We urge the Brooklyn Book Festival to decline future offers to partner with complicit Israeli institutions on conversations about literature, because to continue to do so is to participate in whitewashing Israel’s crimes.

As was the case in South Africa, where international solidarity played a crucial role in bringing down apartheid by boycotting the economic, sports and cultural institutions of the apartheid regime, we sincerely hope you will not partner in any capacity with the Israeli government and other complicit institutions, until the Israeli government fulfills it obligations under international law and fully recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to live in full equality and freedom in their homeland.

Initial Signatories   

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel
*Andrew Hsiao, editor, Verso Books
*Anthony Arnove, editor, Haymarket Books
*Astra Taylor, author, The People’s Platform
Aurora Levins Morales, poet
*Bhakti Sringarpure, editor, Warscapes
*Craig O’Hara, publisher, PM Press
Daniel Lang-Levitsky, co-editor, Dreaming In Public: Building the Occupy Movement
*Eleanor Davis, cartoonist, How to Be Happy
Ethan Heitner, cartoonist
*Greg Grandin, author, Empire of Necessity
Jonathan House, publisher, Unconscious in Translation
*Ken Chen
Kevin Caplicky, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative
Librarians and Archivists with Palestine
MJ Kaufman, playwright
*Ramsey Kanaan, publisher, PM Press
*Seth Tobocman, cartoonist/editor, World War 3 Illustrated
*Peter Kuper, cartoonist/editor, World War 3 Illustrated
*Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, author, Harlem is Nowhere
*Jacob Stevens, editor, Verso Books
*Phan Nguyen, editor, Verso Books
**Sarah Schulman, author, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International

Other Featured Signatories

Palestine Festival of Literature
Remi Kanazi, poet
**Chase Madar, author, The Passion of Bradley Manning
*Revolution Books
Anand Gopal, author, No Good Men Among the Living
Sasha Frere-Jones, critic
**Ricardo Cortés, author/Illustrator
Ahdaf Soueif, author, Cairo: My City, Our Revolution
Kamila Shamsie, author, A God in Every Stone
Junot Díaz, author, This is How You Lose Her
Eliot Weinberger, writer and essayist
*Molly Crabapple, artist and writer
Conner Habib, author, The Sex Book
*Amit Chaudhuri, author, Calcutta: Two Years in the City
*Elif Batuman, author, The Possessed 

* indicates panelist or exhibitor at Brooklyn Book Festival 2014

** indicates past participant in the Brooklyn Book Festival

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This is how to do it, everywhere and anywhere they try to stick their big, bloodsplattered combat boots be there to expose them. Keep the waters troubled.

No self respecting writer or publicist should really be involved in this, but then like the Hollywood crowd, they want their contracts and lucrative deals. I have come to realize that Israel hardly does something for nothing. So a protest is warranted.

Wonderful news!!!

So glad to see Molly Crabapple on this list. She’s an amazing artist and a really great person. I had the opportunity to attend several of her Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School events over the years.

Great to see Junot Diaz on this list. He’s a truly great writer, and principled and courageous as well. Also, Chase Madar, who wrote a great biography of Bradley/Chelsea Manning, and is an occasional commenter on MW as chespirito.