Writers, Editors Protest Israeli Sponsorship at Brooklyn Book Festival

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Writer Assaf Gavron, August 2013.Credit: Moti Kikion

Hundreds of people, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, signed a petition protesting Israeli sponsorship of a panel event on Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival in New York. The petition was distributed by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel.

At issue was one of the festival panels, entitled “A Sense of Place: Writing From Within and Without,” which featured Israeli author Assaf Gavron. According to the program, Gavron’s appearance was being sponsored by Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in New York.

“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 2,100 Palestinians – including 500 children – dead, displaced a fourth of the population, destroyed homes, schools and hospitals, and involved numerous potential war crimes,” the petition reads. “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.”

The letter called on festival management to “refuse the sponsorship of the Israeli embassy or any complicit Israeli institution in the future.”

Among the signatories is Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz; U.S. authors Eliot Weinberger and Elif Batuman; Amit Chaudhuri of India; Kamila Shamsie from Pakistan, and other editors and writers participating in the festival.

The U.S. debate about boycotting Israel refuses to die. Last December, the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions, the largest American academic organization to take such a step. Two months ago, in an article for The Nation, linguist and political activist Prof. Noam Chomsky argued that it would be a mistake to boycott Israel and the result was liable to be the opposite of what was intended. Chomsky was aiming his argument at the BDS Movement, which calls to boycott Israel until it changes its policy on the Palestinians.

The decision by renowned authors to sign the petition against the festival will presumably be perceived as an achievement for those who support boycotting Israel.

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