Initiative: Tell PEN American Center not to partner with the Israeli government

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Israeli government is no “Champion” of freedom of expression

To PEN American Center:

We, the undersigned, including participants at PEN World Voices Festival, ask the Festival to reject support from the Embassy of Israel. The Embassy of Israel is listed among the “Champions” of the World Voices Festival, and as a sponsor of a panel.

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.

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Press Release

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

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.

Press Release

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

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.

Press Release


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.

Press Release

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.

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 23, New York, NY—Human rights advocates welcome the decision by PEN America to hold PEN’s annual World Voices literary festival without funding from the Israeli government.
The decision followed a campaign and a call supported by leading literary figures asking the organization to reject Israeli government sponsorship. PEN America accepted Israeli government support for the World Voices Festival four of the previous five years, and despite writers’ opposition in 2016. The leading US free expression and literary organization announced its program last week for the May 2017 World Voices Festival in New York.

PEN America did not, however, offer a reason for the absence of Israeli government support for World Voices in a February 2017 email exchange with Adalah-NY and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

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Document

From: Jakab Orsos
Subject: Message from PEN America
Date: 
March 29, 2016 at 3:21:23 PM EDT

We are writing because, along with some participants in this year's Festival, we have received an e-mail from Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. The email asks Festival participants to sign an open letter calling upon PEN to refuse sponsorship support from the Israeli government as a contribution to the PEN World Voices Festival (PWVF). As an activist organization dedicated to freedom of expression‎, we respect the right of any group to share and advocate for their views. We want to share our approach to the challenging issues raised by the e-mail.

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Press Coverage

The Forward

Abstract: 

An American writer’s group will keep the Israeli embassy as a sponsor of its literature festival, despite calls by writers to drop the endorsement.

Over 100 writers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Díaz, Richard Ford, and Alice Walker, were among those who signed the message, sent last week to PEN American Center by pro-BDS organization Adalah-NY.

Press Coverage

JTAThe Times of Israel

Abstract: 

The literary writers’ group PEN American Center is refusing to drop Israeli government sponsorship from its annual festival, despite calls by dozens of members to do so.

According to a news release issued Tuesday by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, more than 100 writers signed onto a letter demanding PEN “reject support from the Embassy of Israel” for its World Voices Festival to be held later this month in New York.

Press Coverage

New York Post

Abstract: 

Talk about perverse: The authors’ wing of the boycott-Israel movement has its panties in a knot over the Israeli Embassy’s support for this month’s PEN World Voices Festival here in the city.

PEN is an association of literary types; the protesters include Pulitzer-winning novelists Alice Walker, Richard Ford and Junot Díaz. But what’s truly bizarre is their gripe.

Walker complains that PEN is failing to stand up for “Palestinian writers, academics, and students who are suffering under a repressive Israeli regime that denies their right to freedom of expression.”

Press Coverage

Democracy Now!

Abstract: 

More than 100 writers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Díaz and Alice Walker, have called on the PEN American Center to reject sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy for PEN’s upcoming week-long World Voices Festival in New York City. The call is part of the cultural boycott campaign against Israel, part of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Press Coverage

The Guardian

Abstract: 

More than 100 writers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Richard Ford and Junot Díaz, have called on the PEN American Center “to reject support from the embassy of Israel” in a furious open letter.

Sent to PEN American Center and other festival participants in March but published online on Wednesday, the letter opposes the Israeli embassy’s sponsorship of PEN’s annual World Voices Festival (PWVF), a seven-day event in New York at the end of this month.

Press Coverage

RT

Abstract: 

Some 100 writers, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker, Richard Ford, and Junot Diaz, are urging the PEN American Center to deny any support from Israel as it denies “basic rights to the Palestinian people.”

The writers sent an impassioned letter to PEN America in March, but only now has it been published. PEN American Center, created in 1922, is a group aiming to promote literature and support literary fellowship.

Press Coverage

The Weekly Standard

Abstract: 

Israel has contributed money to PEN American Center’s World Voices Festival to help pay for expenses related to invited Israeli writers. Unsurprisingly, this has sent Alice Walker and 100 other writers into a tizzy: "As a PEN member, I want this organization that is supposed to be a champion of writers' rights to stand up for Palestinian writers, academics and students who are suffering under a repressive Israeli regime that denies their right to freedom of expression.

Press Coverage

i24news

Abstract: 

Over 100 writers have penned a letter calling on the PEN American Center to reject support from the embassy of Israel, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Writers including Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker and Junot Díaz wrote an angrily worded letter opposing the Israeli embassy’s sponsorship of PEN’s annual World Voices Festival (PWVF).

Press Coverage

The Alternative Information Center

Abstract: 

On Tuesday April 5, Adalah-NY made public a letter signed by 10 anti-racist organizations and over 100 writers calling on the PEN American Center “to reject support from the Embassy of Israel” for PEN’s annual World Voices Festival, which runs from April 25-May 1 2016 in New York City.

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PressTV

Abstract: 

More than 100 prominent writers and literary figures have written to PEN American Center, urging it to reject Israeli support for a festival in New York at the end of this month.

In a letter published online, they have denounced the Israeli embassy’s sponsorship of PEN’s seven-day annual World Voices Festival (PWVF).

Press Coverage

Der Spiegel

Abstract: 

Die Pulitzerpreis-Gewinner Alice Walker, Richard Ford und Junot Díaz zählen zu den Unterzeichnern eines offenen Briefes, der sich an die amerikanische Sektion der internationalen Schriftstellervereinigung PEN richtet.

Darin fordern die über 100 Unterzeichner, dass das US-PEN-Zentrum die Unterstützung der israelischen Botschaft ablehnen solle, die zu den Sponsoren des jährlich vom PEN-Zentrum ausgerichteten Festivals World Voices zählt.

Press Coverage

Flavorwire

Abstract: 

All is not well in the literary world.

That could be true at any moment of any day, sure, but this week has been especially tumultuous. Maybe that’s not accurate, either, because the letter that’s causing headlines (like this one!) was actually sent in March, though it’s only just now been made available to the public.

Press Coverage

The Electronic Intifada

Abstract: 

A letter signed by more than 100 writers, including Junot Díaz, Richard Ford, Eileen Myles and Rachel Kushner, calls on PEN American Center to reject support from the Israeli government for its annual World Voices Festival, scheduled for later this month in New York City.

The letter, which was first sent privately by the campaign group Adalah-NY to festival organizers, was published online on 5 April.

Since its publication, the list of signatories has grown. Organizers say they hope writers will continue to add their names.

Press Coverage

The Nation (Pakistan)

Abstract: 

Some 100 writers, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker, Richard Ford, and Junot Diaz, have urged the PEN American Centre to reject any support from Israel as it denies “basic rights to the Palestinian people.”

The writers sent an impassioned letter to PEN American Centre in March but it became public only on Wednesday. PEN American Center, created in 1922, is a group aiming to promote literature and support literary fellowship.

Press Coverage

Middle East Eye

Abstract: 

PEN American Center, which describes itself as “the US branch of the world’s leading international literary and human rights organisation,” has chosen to align, once again, with the government of Israel, one of the world’s most persistent abusers of human rights. It has accepted funding for the annual World Voices Festival from the Israeli embassy as part of the Brand Israel programme, a government pubic relations initiative launched in 2005 that uses cultural productions to distract from Israel’s well-documented and systematic destruction of Palestinian life.

Press Coverage

National Review

Abstract: 

Among the sponsors of the PEN American Center’s annual World Voices Festival, set for New York City at the end of the month, is the Israeli embassy. As you might expect, that has a number of literary types in a fit. Led by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, more than 100 writers have signed onto a letter calling for PEN to dump the embassy.

Press Coverage

Al Bawaba

Abstract: 

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.

Press Coverage

Publishers Weekly

Abstract: 

PEN American Center has been called upon to reject the Israeli Government's sponsorship of its upcoming World Voices Festival because of the country's alleged abuses of human rights. The letter was signed by more than 60 writers, including a number of PEN members and PEN Award winners and Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Diaz, Alice Walker, and Richard Ford. Nearly a dozen organizations have also signed the letter.

Press Coverage

The Guardian

Abstract: 

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.

Press Coverage

Electronic Intifada

Abstract: 

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.

Press Coverage

Mondoweiss

Abstract: 

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.”

Press Coverage

AlterNet

Abstract: 

Israeli government threats against the well-being and freedom of expression of Palestinian civil society leaders who organize for a boycott of Israel have pre-occupied human rights organizations and made headlines in recent weeks. Simultaneously, the Israeli government is escalating attacks on Palestinian writers. It is currently detaining 19 journalists and a poet.

Press Coverage

Publishers Weekly

Abstract: 

In 2016, Adalah-NY, a grassroots organization arguing for a boycott of Israel due to what it sees as an apartheid regime “founded as a Jewish state on land ethnically cleansed of its indigenous Palestinian population,” criticized PEN for accepting Israeli sponsorship for its World Voices Festival this past May. (Nossel said PEN has been receiving “minor”support from Israel since roughly 2006, before she took charge.)

Press Coverage

Electronic Intifada

Abstract: 

PEN America is no longer accepting funding from the Israeli government, after five years of accepting such sponsorship for the literary group’s annual World Voices festival in New York, the activist group Adalah-NY has learned.

PEN America came under heavy criticism last year for accepting funding from the Israeli government, which jails Palestinian journalists and writers in Israel and the occupied West Bank for their work.

Press Coverage

The Algemeiner

Abstract: 

An Israeli government representative slammed the BDS movement on Friday for falsely implying that a prominent US literary society had decided to boycott the Jewish state.

Shimon Mercer-Wood — spokesman and consul for media affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York — was referring to an Adalah-NY press release that heralded the lack of Israeli government funding for PEN America’s 2017 World Voices Festival — an annual New York event that Israel had been a sponsor of in recent years.

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