FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why I Will Not Participate in the Turin Book Fair

 

When I agreed to participate in the Turin Book Fair, which I have done before, I had no idea that the ‘guest of honour’ was Israel and its 60th birthday. But this is also the 60th anniversary of what the Palestinian call the ‘nakba’the disaster that befell them that year, when they were expelled from their villages, some killed, women raped by the settlers. These facts are no longer disputed. So why did the Turin Book Fair not invite Palestinians in equal numbers? 30 Israeli writers and 30 Palestinian writers (and I promise you they exist and are very fine poets and novelists) might have been seen as a positive and peaceful gesture and a positive debate might have taken place. A literary version of Daniel Barenboim’s Diwan Orchestra, half-Israeli, half-Palestinian. Such a move would have brought people together, but no. The cultural commissars know best. I have argued vigorously with some of the Israeli writers visiting the fair on other occasions and would have happily done the same again if conditions had been different. What they decided to do is an ugly provocation.

It would appear that culture is increasingly bound to the political priorities of the US/EU nexus. The West is blind to Palestinian suffering. The Israeli war on Lebanon, the daily reports from the Gaza ghetto do not move official Europe. In France, we know, it is virtually impossible to criticise Israel. In Germany, too, for special reasons. It would be sad if Italy went the same way. How many times do we have to stress that criticism of Israel’s colonial policies is not anti-semitic. To accept this is to become willing victims of the blackmail the Israeli establishment uses to silence its critics. There are some courageous Israeli critics like Aharon Shabtai, Amira Hass, Yitzhak Laor and others who will not permit their voices to be muffled in this fashion. Shabtai refused to attend this fair. How could I do otherwise.

It is one thing to support Israel’s right to exist, which I do and always have done. But from that to extrapolate that this right to exists means that Israel is given a blank cheque to do what it wishes to those it expelled and whom it treats like untermensch is unacceptable. Personally I favour a single Israel/Palestine in which all citizens are equal. I am told this is utopian. It may be but it is the only long-term solution. Because of the subject matter of my novels I am often asked (most recently in Madison, Wisconsin) whether it might be possible to recreate the best times of al-Andalus and Sicily when three cultures co-existed for a long time. My reply is the same: the only place today where it could be recreated is Israel/Palestine.

We live in a world of double standards, but it is not necessary to accept them. It is sometimes the case that individuals and groups to whom evil is done, inflict evil in return. But the first does not justify the second. It was European anti-semitism that tolerated the judeocide of the second world war of which the Palestinians have now become the indirect victims. Many Israelis are aware of this fact but would rather not think about it. Many Europeans regard Palestinians and Muslims today as they once regarded the Jews. That is the irony visible in press comments and television coverage in virtually every European country. It’s a pity that the Turin Book Fair bureaucracy decided to pander to the new prejudices sweeping the continent. Let us hope their example is not followed elsewhere.

TARIQ ALI is the author of Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, is published by Verso. His new book, The Duel: Pakistan In the Flightpath of American Power, will be published by Scribner in July. He can be reached at: tariq.ali3@btinternet.com

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail