‘Why I Will Not Participate in the Turin Book Fair’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, February 5, 2008
When I agreed to participate in the Turin Book Fair, which I have done before, I had no idea that the ‘guest of honour’ was Israel and its 60th birthday. But this is also the 60th anniversary of what the Palestinian call the ‘nakba’…the disaster that befell them that year, when they were expelled from their villages, some killed, women raped by the settlers.
These facts are no longer disputed. So why did the Turin Book Fair not invite Palestinians in equal numbers? 30 Israeli writers and 30 Palestinian writers (and I promise you they exist and are very fine poets and novelists) might have been seen as a positive and peaceful gesture and a positive debate might have taken place. A literary version of Daniel Barenboim’s Diwan Orchestra, half-Israeli, half-Palestinian.
Such a move would have brought people together, but no. The cultural commissars know best. I have argued vigorously with some of the Israeli writers visiting the fair on other occasions and would have happily done the same again if conditions had been different. What they decided to do is an ugly provocation. read more