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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.


New York, NY, April 20, 2016 – A delegation from Adalah-NY, O/R Books and Verso Books held an impromptu meeting with PEN American Center Executive Director Suzanne Nossel on Tuesday regarding the call for PEN to reject Israeli government sponsorship of the World Voices Festival due to the Israeli government’s human rights abuses and suppression of Palestinians’ freedom of expression. The meeting took place in the PEN American Center office in Manhattan after the delegation delivered a letter signed by 12,500 people that called on PEN to reject Israeli government sponsorship for the annual festival, which begins April 25 in New York City. The letter was accompanied by statements from more than 20 literary figures explaining why they signed the letter to PEN.

Though the delegation had not asked for an appointment in advance, Ms. Nossel agreed to meet. While waiting in the reception area, the delegation picked up hard copies of the program for the 2016 World Voices Festival that lists the Israeli Embassy among the “Champions” of the festival supporting writing and free expression.

Ms. Nossel told the visitors that she had read the statements by writers explaining why they believe PEN should reject Israeli government sponsorship. She said the letter and statements raised “legitimate concerns” and that the points were “not lost on her,” and she said there are diverse views on the issue. Ms. Nossel added that being responsive “may take time and space.” When John Oakes from O/R Books suggested that PEN supporters might fundraise to cover the costs of Israeli writers/participants so that PEN could return the money to the Israeli government, Ms. Nossel said PEN cannot consider returning the money, and asserted that there is a strong reaction against the word “boycott.” She did not elaborate on that point.

140 Writers Have Signed the Letter, Including 70 PEN Members and World Voices Festival Participants

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April 12, 2016, New York, NY – Twenty-two literary figures who signed a letter calling on the PEN American Center to reject Israeli government sponsorship of its World Voices Festival due to Israel’s human rights abuses have elaborated on their decision in quotes below. The Festival is being held in New York City from April 25-May 1.

The letter, originally signed by 61 writers, was sent to PEN on March 29 by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign to Boycott Israel. PEN indicated in a reply that they would not drop Israeli government funding. The number of letter signers has since grown to 140 writers and 13 organizations. Among the newer signers is Dr. Cornel West, who joins a number of other prominent writers and public intellectuals, including Angela Davis, Pulitzer recipients Junot Díaz, Richard Ford and Alice Walker, and National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich.

PEN Refusing to Drop Sponsorship, According to a Letter to its Members

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New York, NY, April 5, 2016 - In a letter made public today over 100 writers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Díaz, Richard Ford, and Alice Walker, and award-winning author Louise Erdrich, have called on the PEN American Center “to reject support from the Embassy of Israel” for PEN’s annual World Voices Festival. The seven-day Festival takes place from April 25 to May 1 in New York City. In promotional materials, PEN lists the Israeli Embassy as among the “Champions” of the Festival, and as a sponsor of one of the Festival’s panels.

The letter asserts, “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 was sent to PEN privately on March 29 by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, with 62 individual and 11 organizational signatories. The list of signers has since grown to more than 100 individuals.

NYC store of settlement and diamond mogul Leviev closes for Valentine’s protest

New York, NY, February 9, 2016 – New York human rights advocates today released a parody video of a Taylor Swift song that called for the pop star to publicly distance herself from Israeli diamond and settlement mogul Lev Leviev. Swift wore Leviev diamonds in photos in the September 2015 edition of Vanity Fair. The video release followed a Saturday afternoon musical protest at the Leviev diamond store in Manhattan in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, with protesters arriving for the third time in a row to find the store closed on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Protesters called on Taylor Swift to renounce Leviev


 

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New York, NY, December 21, 2015 – On Saturday, for the second year running, 50 New York human rights advocates held a celebratory protest in front of a closed Leviev diamond store on Madison Avenue on one of the biggest holiday shopping days. Days before the protest, staff working for Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev had insisted his store would be open, per their publicized business hours. The Leviev store was also mysteriously closed the day of the December 2014 anti-apartheid caroling protest. This is the ninth consecutive year New Yorkers have gathered in front of Leviev’s store singing holiday anti-apartheid carols critical of Leviev’s construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land and human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Angola.

(Nov. 17, 2015 - New York, NY) – A video released today features eight leading artists stating, “I endorse the cultural boycott of Israel.” The artists include Tony-nominated stage and television actress Kathleen Chalfant; musician Roger Waters, a founding member of Pink Floyd; musicians Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio; musicians Kool A.D. and Tamar-kali; artist and author of Drawing BloodMolly Crabapple; and visual artist Swoon.

The movement for a global boycott of Israel -- launched by a coalition of over 170 Palestinian trade unions, political parties and human rights groups in order to advance their movement for freedom, justice and equality -- has steadily gained support worldwide over the last decade. The video was released by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel and is accompanied by an appeal for more cultural workers to pledge their support for the boycott of Israel.

New York, NY, November 16, 2015 – On Saturday, November 14th, nearly 400 New Yorkers packed the Verso Books Loft in DUMBO, Brooklyn, to capacity for “Palestine Calling: A Launch Party to Amplify the Cultural Boycott of Israel in NYC” (photos). The event featured rousing musical performances by eclectic artists including oud virtuoso Simon Shaheen, Suhel and Tamer Nafar of the Palestinian hip hop group DAM, Brooklyn vocalist and composer Tamar-kaliSonny Singh of Red Baraat, and Daro Behroozi of Lucky Chops. Eighty-eight artists and cultural workers at the event signed on to a New York City-focused pledge of support for the cultural boycott of Israel.

"It was really exciting to be collaborating with so many incredible musicians coming together around the common cause of justice in Palestine,” remarked Sonny Singh. “I hope this concert will inspire many other musicians and artists to join this movement for the cultural boycott of Israel."

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New York, NY, October 17, 2015 – On Friday evening, 60 New York human rights advocates protested on the sidewalk outside a solo concert by Israeli singer Idan Raichel at the City Winery in Manhattan (Photos). Idan Raichel calls himself a cultural ambassador for Israel and is an outspoken and uncritical promoter of the Israeli army. Raichel’s actions support the Israeli government’s Brand Israel public relations campaign, which uses art and music to distract from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

August 4, New York, NY—Executives at O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, refused yesterday to receive a small delegation of human rights advocates at O’s headquarters at the Hearst Corporation’s office in Manhattan. The delegation was bearing a letter signed by over 5600 people calling on Ms. Winfrey to publicly distance herself from the companies of Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev. A worker in the Hearst Corporation mailroom told delegates he was ordered to refuse to even accept the letter detailing Leviev’s companies’ involvement in serious human rights abuses in Angola and Palestine. As a result, the visitors held a small protest, holding signs and distributing flyers to passersby in front of the Hearst Corporation’s Manhattan office.

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