“Turin, 29 Jan.(AKI) – The Union of Arab Writers has written a letter of protest at the designation of Israel as a guest of honour for the next edition of the Turin International Book Fair, Italian daily Corriere della Sera reports….
“‘In any case, this is a book fair, this is not the United Nations, it is not a political office. The Israeli writers that we invited are usually critical toward their government,’ said the director of Turin’s book fair, Ernesto Ferrero in a response.” — from this news article
Everybody should get into this, starting with writers in Corriere della Sera and Il Foglio.
As a free, advanced, Western country, heir to a history much longer than the 60 years of its modern existence, and peopled by the People of the Book, Israel is a perfect guest to be honored in that sixtieth year of the State’s existence. Those putting on the Festival should be proud to have done the right thing, and to have given a schiaffo to the U.N., to the E.U., and to all those who have allowed their minds to be poisoned by the mendacious reporting, drip-by-drip-by-drip, that has done such damage to Israel while Israel is only trying, believe it or not, to stay alive, to withstand the Lesser Jihad that has been waged, is being waged, will forever be waged, against it, though Israel’s own leaders seem determined not to recognize or name that Jihad. Ferrero seems to understand that he should be unapologetic about the Turin Book Festival’s choice. He titles one reply to critics “La Fiera e fiera di Israele.” (The Festival is proud of Israel.)
But it is wrong to defend the choice in a way that concedes what should not be conceded. Israel, and Israel’s best writers, should be invited because they deserve to be, and not because some or perhaps most, or even all, of those writers are critical of their own government. Indeed, it is unfortunate that the choice appears to have been limited to those who are full-time critics of Israel, all on the left, and all of them political naifs, who enjoy their moral preening, and certainly find it makes things much easier for them when abroad to join in attacking their country (why, it’s the easiest thing in the world), not that they don’t also thoroughly enjoy doing the same thing when they are home.
Ferrero should not have drawn attention to these writers being critics of Israeli policies. He had only to say that Israel is a civilized nation, with freedom of thought and speech, and an impressive literary tradition. He might have mentioned Agnon, or Appelfeld, or any number of poets who do not share the political stance of Yehoshua-Oz-Grossman, just to make clear that the Festival was not about to “honor” Israel by inviting only Israeli critics of Israel, even if they happen, by dint some suspect (I suspect) that not literary merit but political acceptability accounts for their relative fame abroad.
And he might not have indicated, as apparently he has, that soon enough brave little non-existent “Palestine” would be similarly honored, in a time-honored tocca-a-te-tocca-a-te approach to what should be untouchable matters of literary taste and historical judgment. The celebrated Arab poet Adonis claims there is no longer any Arab literature; it is all propagandistic trash. He said this in a famous interview a few years ago. He surely meant, above all, the “Palestinian” writers whose subject, only subject, is the wickedness of the Israelis and of the unparalleled suffering — why, there’s just nothing like it in human history — of the “Palestinian people” about whom not a word was said, for they did not yet exist, before the Six-Day War.
To balance a real country, with a real literature and real freedom of the mind, by then inviting a non-existent country, that is merely one subset of the Arab Muslim people, a place that has never had, and never will have, freedom of thought and freedom of speech, is monstrous. “Palestinian” writers are not critics, but remain silent about the warlords (the Fast Jihadists of Hamas, the Slow Jihadists of Fatah), those “Palestinian” lords of misrule. Their loyalty is not to literature, but to politics, to saying nothing that would ever endanger the “sacred cause” — which turns out, upon inspection, to be nothing but the old Muslim cause of eliminating any Infidel nation-state that stands in the way of the Greatest Cause of All. Not “Palestine” (that’s trivial), but Islam.
Whatever else “Palestine” may be, it does not produce literary works but political propaganda ill-disguised as literature. That includes the much-rewarded (Lannan Prize, the whole works) and celebrated “star” of “Palestinian” literature, that downmarket mayakovsky, that sweet swinger of the Lesser Jihad against Israel, the execrable poet (just try to read his stuff) Mahmoud Darwish.
And so what might have been an act of moral heroism will inevitably be leached of its initial heroism when, in a few months or in a year, or in two, at the Fiera del Libro in Torino, a place tendentiously called “Palestine” becomes — not on literary merit but by way of atonement or making up for, or “balancing,” the act of inviting Israel to be the Torino Bookfair’s Guest-Country of Honor — the next “guest.”
This is not “balance.” One side kicks the beam.