News in Brief

Authors asked to boycott Jerusalem writers festival

Authors from abroad are being asked to boycott an Israeli writers festival in May so as not to "partake in celebrating apartheid Jerusalem." The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel appealed on Saturday to nine confirmed participants in the Third International Writers Festival, scheduled to take place May 13-17 in the Mishkenot Sha'ananim conference center in Jerusalem. Mishekenot Sha'ananim director general Uri Dromi yesterday called for separating literature from politics and confirmed that some participants have told him they are being pressured to back out. (Maya Sela )

'Big Brother' has his eye on social activists

About 20 social activists were removed from the audience of the Israeli version of "Big Brother" this week after interrupting a live broadcast. The protesters shouted "The people demand social justice" and other slogans, and waved signs reading "Social revolt." Many audience members joined in during the Sunday afternoon disturbance, but within a minute the protesters were hustled away by security guards and the broadcast went to a commercial break. Show producers said afterward that they were informed in advance of the protest plans and had set aside a place for them at a distance from the studio itself. They said the protesters were removed without violence. (Emilie Grunzweig )

Filmmaker to turn lens on her family

Local filmmaker Avigail Sperber ("The Hangman" ) will direct a new documentary series about the very varied worlds of her Orthodox parents and their 10 children, and her upbringing in the Old City of Jerusalem. Sperber is the founder of the religious lesbian organization Bat Kol, and her siblings include a settler, a sister who left Israel, a brother who left Orthodox Judaism and an adopted sister who is in prison. Their parents are Rabbi Daniel Sperber, a recipient of the Israel Prize in Talmud Studies, and Phyllis (Hannah ) Magnus, a couples therapist originally from Highland Park, Illinois. (Nirit Anderman )

Young artist to represent Israel at Venice Biennale

Artist Gilad Ratman has been selected to represent Israel in the 2012 Venice Biennale, Haaretz has learned, in advance of the official announcement by The Culture and Sports Ministry. Ratman, who was born in 1975, will be one of the youngest artists to represent Israel at the prestigious event. He creates site-specific installation and video pieces that address social issues and the need for community. He has participated in dozens of group shows at venues such as MoMA PS1 in New York and Moscow's Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, and has received several prestigious Israeli awards. (Daniel Rauchwerger )

First post-Mubarak envoy to Egypt takes office, securing ties

The first Israeli ambassador named to Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was toppled a year ago officially took office in Cairo yesterday, an Israeli official said, in a step suggesting continued normal ties between the two countries. The envoy, Yaacov Amitai, was named last year to replace Yitzhak Levanon, who left the Egyptian capital in September when rioters stormed the Israeli embassy in protest of a deadly border shooting incident. The Foreign Ministry said the Israeli national anthem was played at a Cairo ceremony at which Amitai met Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council ruling Egypt. (Reuters )

Thai police arrest third Iranian suspect in bombings

Thai police said yesterday they were questioning another Iranian in connection with explosions in Bangkok this month that have been linked to an attack on the wife of an Israeli diplomat in India. Iran has denied involvement but Israel has said the Quds Force, a covert arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, was behind the bombings. Thai immigration police told Reuters that Madani Seyed Mehrded, 33, had been arrested and was being questioned for links to the bombing. Police told Thai media they had discovered call logs showing Mehrded regularly communicating with two of the other suspects, both Iranian: Saeid Moradi, who lost his legs on February 14 when a bomb he was carrying exploded in Bangkok, and Mohammed Khazaei, who was arrested at Bangkok's main airport. Police also said Mehrded had been waiting in front of the building housing the Israeli embassy on the day of the blasts. (Reuters )