British Writers in Support of Palestine

June 4th 2010

I’m proud to be a signatory to this letter published in shortened form in the Independent on Sunday.

Dear Editor

The murder of humanitarian aid workers aboard the Mavi Marmara in international waters is the latest tragic example of Israel’s relentless attacks on human rights. But while violently preventing the free passage of medical, building and school supplies to Gaza, Israel continues to pride itself as a highly cultured, highly educated state. In solidarity with Palestinian civil society and its call for a Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, we the undersigned therefore appeal to British writers and scholars to boycott all literary, cultural and academic visits to Israel that are sponsored by the Israeli government, including those organised by Israeli cultural foundations and universities. (This boycott does not include courageous independent Israeli organisations who openly oppose the occupation.) We also ask that writers, poets and British funding bodies actively support Palestinian literary events, such as the Palestinian Literary Festival and the Palestinian Writing Workshop.

Materially and ideologically, state-sponsored Israeli academic and cultural events both prop up and mask the on-going brutal occupation of Palestine. Israeli universities are key players in the creation and dissemination of government policy, and while some Israeli cultural foundations may promote ‘dialogue’ between the two peoples, there can be no true dialogue when one party is a military superpower and the other a nation of second-class citizens, refugees and virtual prisoners. Appearing as an international guest at all such Israeli cultural and academic events helps to divert attention from, and normalize, Israeli war crimes in Gaza; the annexation of East Jerusalem; and the on-going illegal settlement of the West Bank. Such appearances will also help to normalise Israel’s recent abhorrent military actions at sea.

More information on the cultural and academic boycott of Israel may be found at www.pacbi.org and www.bricup.org.uk. But in brief, we the undersigned do not wish to lend our presence or approval to cultural or academic events underwritten by the State of Israel, nor do we wish to help sustain the deliberately fostered illusion of moral and military parity between the two actors in this conflict. Rather as Britons and British residents, we believe that we have a historical and moral obligation to support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people in their struggle for long-denied peace, justice and self-determination.

Yours truly,

BWISP (British Writers In Support of Palestine)

bwisp.info[at]googlemail.com

Rowyda Amin (poet)

Prof Mona Baker (scholar)

John Berger (novelist, art critic, essayist, poet, Booker Prize winner)

Marilyn Booth (scholar)

Kevin Cadwallender (poet)

Jenny Diski (novelist, essayist, travel writer)

Alison Fell (novelist, poet)

Naomi Foyle (poet, editor, scholar and BWISP co-ordinator)

Prof Patrick Ffrench (scholar, writer)

Prof Ian Gregson (poet, literary critic)

Rumy Hasan (scholar)

Aamer Hussein (writer)

Judith Kazantzis (poet and BWISP co-ordinator)

Mimi Khalvati (poet)

Wendy Klein (poet)

Stephen Knight (poet and critic)

Diane Langford (novelist)

Catherine Lupton (writer)

Lauro Martines (writer, socio-political and historical scholar)

Alan Morrison (poet and editor)

Dr Dalia Mostafa (scholar)

Ali Nasralla (scholar)

Sybil Oldfield (academic, scholar, feminist historian/biographer)

Julia O’Faolain (novelist)

Jeremy Page (poet, editor, critic)

Thomas Pakenham (historian)

Dr Ian Patterson (poet and scholar)

Prof Jonathan Rosenhead (scholar)

Dr Duncan Salkeld (literary scholar)

John Siddique (poet and writer)

Mark Slater (scholar, critic and writer)

Dr Derek Summerfield (writer, scholar)

David Swann (poet and writer)

Kate Webb (writer, critic)

Irving Weinman (novelist and BWISP co-ordinator)

Eliza Wyatt (playwright)

Evie Wyld (novelist)

Robin Yassin-Kassab (novelist)

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