International Writers Magazine: Politics
and the Arabs in the Parisian book world
were right to boycott the Paris book fair this time around for as
the British would say it would not be cricket to attend while the
French intellectual and political world honors the Israeli contingent
of 39 Israeli writers while their countrymen indulge in beating
the daylight out of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and the
world looks on as this is the normal state of affairs.
Quite rightly so,
the Paris Book Fair is a cultural gathering of knowledge where, in theory,
enlightenment should replace dogmatism and intellectual petty-mindedness
but we must not rail-road the event as if political and military objectives
do not matter and become secondary to a presence and an honoring that
is by its very nature political.
Politicians, men of letters and the international media should realize
the gravity of such an honoring in the light of the Israeli destructive
military machine and boycott is the least Arab countries and book publishers
can do in a world that has become too insensitive to the feelings of
a Palestinian nation that has been hard done bye.
The organizers of the Paris book fair needed to have thought twice when
they made the invitation or where willing to take on such a large literary
step in the light of the politics of the situation but this is an age
where the strong is respected and where the weak has no place.
Israeli authors are being honored for their contribution to literature,
disregarding the fact that they are the intellectual vanguards of a
state and society that does not only look down upon to the other race,
but has subjected and indeed embezzled them out of its existence as
if fighting for a state was a poker game.
Israeli politicians are very happy by the French honoring; for them
it an airline ticket, a carte blanche to do what it will to the Palestinians
as if they had been rehabilitated in the international system that may
have previously seen them as pariahs that would not take to heed. But
little did Israel or Israelis care. Now of course the Paris honoring
would certainly give Israel comfort that its bloody policies will at
least be tolerated in western capital and may even be accepted as fair
The Arab boycott of the book fair should not be seen as bloody-mindedness
or that Arabs cant enjoy international culture as critics have
been quick to point out but how can culture, literature, books, fables,
poetry, treatises not be tainted by Israeli occupation where their literature,
ideas, intellect have been twisted, turned around, cajoled to serve
a blinded colonial-settler project based on forced dispossession, expulsion,
subjugation and exclusion while we Arabs continue to be hounded from
Europeans as well, that Israel remains the democracy par excellence
in the region!
How can culture and politics not be enter-twined or how can they be
excluded from one another as representing two different things as Israeli
President Shimon Peres lamented when he said words to the effect that
"its culture for goodness sake when he came to open the Israeli
section of the book fair, seeking to ignore the fact that his struggle
for peace over the years have been half-baked and disingenuous.
This is not a region that can afford to exclude politics and culture
as they are intrinsically linked because of the commonalities of the
struggle, the heartaches of the Palestinians which has been replaced
by the heartache of the Jews which they seek to forget by their new
Yes, its hooray for Israeli democracy and hooray for its writers, novelist,
literary essayists, and those who hide under cover in their continuing
beliefs for Palestinian statehood while turning a blind eye to the monstrous
actions perpetrated by Israel! Sadly their intellectuals have become
forces for the political, military and economic establishments all in
favor of keeping the status quo.
No matter how enlightened they are or how much they accept the establishment
of a Palestinian state, they are as guilty as the political and military
vanguards choosing to live in a state that subjugates, occupies, humiliates
and deals just as harshly with Palestinian children as it does with
the women, and the old.
Israeli authors have unfortunately become the ideological apparatuses
that prop an entity, and a social and political formation whose diversity
only compounds the legitimacy of state action and occasionally polishes
its image internally and in the eyes of the world.
It is a great pity for a French state, highly regarded in the Arab and
Muslim worlds for its enlightened policies and its desire to be seen
as different from toeing the American line, to suddenly jump on an Israeli
literary bandwagon that is all too tainted with a political occupation
rummaged by Israeli politicians and their military generals and soldiers.
For any decent thinker the honoring must be seen as a grave step which
actually down-flushes the very humanities subjects associated
with literature, philosophy, philology, linguistics and even social
science and throw them out as if they are ok subjects as long as Israel
Finally, the honoring of their writers is a success story for Israel
likely to be used and manipulated by its politicians who throughout
its past decades sought to build a body of literary texts based on its
short-existent heroisms of beating down the original inhabitants of
the land, the Palestinians.
Adding justice to injury is the fact that this year is the 60th anniversary
of the creation of Israel, a creation marred by blood, sweat and tears
not for them but for the people they occupied.
Asmar March 20th 2008
The writer is a freelance commentator on Arab and Palestinian-Israel
affairs based in Amman. All communications on this subject with the
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