Hundreds of authors protest after Kamila Shamsie’s book award revoked – Newspaper

KARACHI: Arundhati Roy, J.M. Coetzee and Sally Rooney are among the more than 250 writers who have defended Kamila Shamsie after a German literary prize withdrew an award for her support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

As reported by The Guardian, in an open letter published in the London Review of Books, writers, who also include Noam Chomsky, Amit Chaudhuri, William Dalrymple, Yann Martel, Jeanette Winterson and Ben Okri, say that the Nelly Sachs award has chosen to "punish an author for his defense of human rights". Michael Ondaatje, a former prize winner, is one of the signatories of the letter.

The judges had initially chosen Shamsie to write that "build bridges between societies," but changed their minds when they learned that she supported the BDS movement, saying that her "political position to actively participate in the cultural boycott … contrasts with the affirmation of Nelly Sachs & # 39; prize to proclaim and exemplify the reconciliation between peoples and cultures ”.

Shamsie's supporters ask: "What is the meaning of a literary prize that undermines the right to advocate for human rights, the principles of freedom of conscience and expression and the freedom to criticize? … Without these, art and culture becomes meaningless luxuries. "

The letter had more than 100 signatories a day after writers Ahdaf Soueif and Omar Robert Hamilton, co-founders of the Palestine literature festival, began distributing it.

The revocation of the Shamsie prize follows a motion passed in May by the German parliament that called the BDS movement "anti-Semitic." But letter writers point to a decision earlier this month in the administrative court in Cologne that ruled that the decision of the Bonn city council to exclude the Association of Palestinian-German Women from a cultural festival due to its support for the BDS was not justified.

The writers highlight last year's statement by more than 40 progressive Jewish organizations that argue that combining anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel's policies and system of occupation and apartheid "undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality as the global fight against anti-Semitism. "

The letter also criticizes the German city of Dortmund, which administers the award, for refusing to make Shamsie's written response to the decision public.

Shamsie, winner of the UK female fiction award, called it "outrage because the BDS movement [modelled on the South African boycott] that campaigns against the government of Israel for their acts of discrimination and brutality against the Palestinians should be considered as shameful and unfair. "

When asked to comment, a spokeswoman for the city of Dortmund said the jury had decided not to give further statements. "The council has legitimized the jury of the Nelly Sachs award to choose a winner," he said. “The jury is autonomous in its decision and gave reasons in the press release. There has not been a council meeting after the jury's decision, so the withdrawal has not yet been an issue for the council. "

Posted on Dawn, September 24, 2019



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