Here’s an important story about the liberal establishment’s hypocrisy on Israeli human rights abuses.
This past week the writers’ organization PEN held its World Voices Festival in New York and one of its sponsors/”champions” was the Israeli government. More than 200 writers had urged PEN to give back that money, among them Marilyn Hacker, Junot Diaz, Alice Walker and Richard Ford, citing Israel’s “decades-long denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people, including the frequent targeting of Palestinian writers and journalistsrecord on Palestinian writers.”
Amidst a campaign aimed at convincing PEN American Center to reject Israeli government funding for its annual World Voices Festival that began this week, the literary group and its director Suzanne Nossel have displayed glaring double standards in their approach to cultural boycotts.
When challenged about why the group has accepted funding from Israel, Nossel reportedly told Palestine solidarity campaigners earlier this month that there was a strong reaction to the word “boycott” among her PEN colleagues.
April 26, 2016, New York, NY – The opening of PEN American Center’s annual World Voices Festival in New York City was met with a protest Monday evening focusing on the call for PEN American Center to reject Israeli government funding for the festival due to Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and freedom of expression. Also on Monday, PEN International expressed “concern” over the festival’s Israeli government funding, saying it would develop guidelines “regarding funding from countries with a poor record on freedom of expression.”
Over 16,500 individuals, including 200 literary figures, have signed a letter calling on PEN American Center to reject Israeli government funding. Letter signers include Pulitzer Prize-winners Junot Díaz, Richard Ford and Alice Walker, National Book Award-winner Louise Erdrich, Booker Prize-winner Michael Ondaatje, and writers and activists Angela Davis and Cornel West. In promotional materials for the World Voices Festival, PEN listed the Israeli Embassy among the festival’s “Champions,” and as a sponsor of at least one panel.
The evening was opened by PEN America president Andrew Solomon, who said that PEN and the festival’s role was “to ensure many voices from many places can be heard”. But in recent years PEN has had some trouble smoothing out conflicts among its membership, usually ones which reflect the fault lines of global politics.