100+ writers urge PEN to drop Israeli sponsorship

Published April 6th, 2016 - 07:48 GMT
Writer Alice Walker was among the activists that joined the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.
Writer Alice Walker was among the activists that joined the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.

More than 100 writers have signed a letter to PEN American Centre urging it to reject support from the Israeli government.

The writers include Alice Walker, author of The Colour Purple, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Junot Diaz, and Native American writer Louise Erdrich. Poet Eileen Myles, writer Russell Banks and activist Angela Davis also signed the letter.

They’re concerned with PEN’s annual World Voices Festival, which takes place in New York later this month. The festival, held annually by the freedom of expression organisation PEN, focuses on promoting literary voices from around the world. The Israeli Embassy is a sponsor of one of the festival’s panels, and it’s listed as one of the “champions” of the festival.

“Given PEN American Center’s mission of supporting freedom of expression, it is deeply regrettable that the Festival has chosen to accept sponsorship from the Israeli government,even as it intensifies its decades-long denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people, including the frequent targeting of Palestinian writers and journalists," the letter says.

The letter was released yesterday by Adalah, a campaigning organisation, shortly after being sent to the PEN American Centre. Shortly after the email was sent PEN responded that it would not agree to the boycott request, citing a policy against cultural boycotts of any kind and a commitment to promoting dialogue.

Last year, more than 200 writers signed a letter to the PEN American Centre criticising its decision to give an award to Charlie Hebdo magazine, due to its racist content.

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