Activists urge boycott of Jerusalem literature festival

The first International Writers’ Festival is scheduled to take place 11-15 May 2008 in Jerusalem, just three days after Israel’s official celebrations of 60 years of independence. Substantially financed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, this festival must necessarily be seen in the context of the Israeli government’s wider public relations campaign to bring international artistic, cultural and political figures to brighten the state’s image on the international stage.

Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the international cultural center in West Jerusalem that is organizing and hosting the event, will publicize the official festival program here on 11 April. However, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz newspaper, the international authors who have confirmed their attendance include:

Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)
Jonathan Safran Foer (US)
Nathan Englander (US)
Russell Banks (US)
Anita Diamant (US)
Lidia Jorge (Portugal)
Erri De Luca (Italy)
Javaier Cercas (Spain)
Anna Enquist (Netherlands)
Andrei Makine (France)
Hans Ulrico (Germany)
Gila Lustiger (Germany)
Guillermo Martinez (Argentina)
Niall Williams (Ireland)

The Alternative Information Center (AIC) calls on those who are working for social justice, along with Palestine solidarity groups from around the world, to contact the participating authors, particularly those from their home countries, and encourage them to boycott this event in solidarity and support of a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

The AIC is particularly disturbed by the participation of Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer, who was an active opponent of apartheid in her native South Africa. Ms. Gordimer may be contacted via her publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing (Telephone: +44 (20) 7494 2111; Postal address: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 36 Soho Square, London W1D 3QY).

Most Israeli authors and other cultural figures have deep concern for the opinions of and working relationships with international authors, such that this boycott can make a substantial impact within Israeli society.

It is not possible that Israel continues to deny the human and national rights of the Palestinian people, to impose a deadly siege on the Gaza Strip and publicly flaunt its international political commitments by building additional settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, while its authors and cultural figures are honored with visits by distinguished international authors. Israeli society must be told loudly and clearly that it cannot act with complete impunity toward the Palestinian people and still enjoy privileges and honors of a law-abiding state.

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