As the end of the sixth week of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip approaches, its cultural repercussions are expanding globally, sparking protest responses from Western intellectuals who decided not to remain silent about the targeting of Palestinian civilians, the last of which came – yesterday, Thursday – in a collective stance by the nominees for the finals of the US National Book Awards for the year 2023.
20 nominees (out of 25 finalists) rose to the podium in New York in the five award categories: fiction, non-fiction writing, poetry, children’s literature, and translated literature, and writer Alia Bilal read a statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, amid a heated debate behind the scenes. Between those writers and writers on the one hand, and between the companies supporting the ceremony, some of which withdrew before the event on the other hand.
“On behalf of the finalists, we oppose the ongoing bombing of Gaza, and call for a humanitarian ceasefire to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of Palestinian civilians, especially children,” Alia said.
Nominated in the fiction category for her novel “The Temple People,” she continued: We oppose both anti-Semitism, anti-Palestinian sentiment, and Islamophobia (Islamophobia), and we seek human dignity for all parties, and we know that further bloodshed will do nothing to secure lasting peace in the region. .
Alia Bilal had said earlier, “I don’t want to look back this time and say that I was silent while people were suffering.”
The American literary ceremony focused on issues such as the role of literature in broadening horizons, the danger of censorship and the increasing threat of banning books, but the Israeli war on Gaza was the subject of continuous discussion during the evening, and the American poet Heide Erdrich emphasized, in her speech at the ceremony, that “the suffering of people in Gaza is at the forefront.” What we think about,” noting that “poetry is what we turn to in times of sadness.”
According to critics and observers of the American literary scene, the writers’ position reaffirmed an important paradox among many writers, intellectuals, academics andStudent unions Those demanding an end to the war, and between economic companies and media institutions threatening to take action Actions against defenders About the rights of the Palestinian people.
Shortly before the announcement of the winners of the US National Book Awards (established in 1936), news spread that several finalists intended to take a public stance, and as a result two of the sponsors decided not to attend the ceremony to avoid “political repercussions on their businesses,” as activists said. .
Zippy Media was one of the withdrawing sponsors, and its founder, Zibby Owens, wrote – in an article published on the open “Substack” platform – that her company cannot be “part of something that promotes against racism, and in this case discrimination is against Israel and the Jewish people.” According to her expression.
Owens had expressed – in a previous statement – her belief that the phrase “freedom for Palestine” had come to mean “antagonizing an entire religion, not just a place,” she said.
A second sponsor called Book of the Month, a book subscription service, told the New York Times that it would not attend the event, but would continue to sponsor the literary event.
Last Tuesday, the National Book Foundation sent a message to all sponsors and those who purchased tickets, alerting them to the possibility that the winners were planning to issue political statements from the platform, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
Intellectuals against war
The positions of intellectuals continue to distance themselves from the positions of politicians and governments in America and Europe. Last month, the New York Center 92, a venue where many literary events are held, was criticized for canceling a program by novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen after he signed an open letter criticizing the military campaign. Israeli forces attacked Gaza, and as a result, many writers withdrew from the activities of the Cultural Center, and employees working there resigned.
Hours before the launch of the largest international book event in mid-October, more than 600 writers protested the cancellation of an award event that was scheduled to be awarded to the Palestinian writer Adeniya Shibli for her novel “A Minor Detail.”
Among the protesters are three Nobel Prize winners in Literature, the Frenchwoman who won the award in 2022 Annie Ernoand the British-Tanzanian winner in 2021 Abdul Razzaq Gurnahand Polish winner in 2018 Olga TokarczukIn addition to a prestigious group of publishers and translators.
Shibli, who lives in Berlin, was scheduled to receive a literary award awarded by the German Literary Society “Litprom” at the Frankfurt exhibition for her novel “A Secondary Detail” (2017) on October 20.
The novel chronicles the Palestinian suffering, starting with displacement during the time of the Nakba and ending with the prevention of movement between areas of the Palestinian territories, according to a report Previously for Al Jazeera Net.
Although Americans have more positive feelings toward Israelis than Palestinians, most… Polls It indicates a significant increase in the rates of sympathy among American youth for the Palestinians in the recent conflict, especially the age group between 18 and 29 years, as 61% of them view the Palestinians positively, while the percentage towards the Israelis is 56%.
Source : Al Jazeera + American press + Guardian + The New York Times