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.
"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," the letter states. "We call on PEN American Center not to partner with the Israeli government or other complicit institutions until Israel fulfills its obligations under international law and fully recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to live in full equality and freedom in their homeland."
Additional statements by some signers elaborated on the crux of the issue.
"The Israeli government deliberately uses the arts and culture to divert attention from its repression of the Palestinian people," wrote Geoff Dyer. "The participation of Israeli writers is welcome, but without their government’s sponsorship."
The letter is available on the Adalah-NY website.
Although PEN has yet to officially comment on the situation, the organization's deputy director of communications, Sarah Edkins, told Publishers Weekly that it has reached out to the signatories to inform them of a policy formally adopted in 2007 against participating in cultural boycotts.
“PEN doesn’t participate in cultural boycotts because they are incongruent to free expression," Edkins said.
The 2007 statement can be found on PEN American Center's website.