Sakset/Fra hofta

Valget av Israel som æresgjest på bokmessen i Torino har utløst et krav om boikott, anført av bla. Tariq Ramadan og Tariq Ali.

he calls to boycott the fair – coming both from far leftist political activists and prominent Italian and Arab intellectuals and authors – have produced a wave of newspaper articles, some raising concerns about censorship, others extolling the need to place art above politics.

«The aim of culture and literature is not to build barriers among people, but to open up to others,» wrote the novelist and playwright A. B. Yehoshua in the Turin daily newspaper La Stampa.
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«We’ve never had polemics before,» said Rolando Picchioni, president of the foundation that runs the fair. «Some years ago we honored Catalonian writers and they essentially presented themselves as an independent state, but Spain didn’t protest.»
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«A country has to be able to come to the fair without being counterbalanced by another country,» said Picchioni. «What’s next: If we honor Russia, do we also have to invite Chechnya? Or what about China. Do we bring in Tibet?»

Similar protests have yet to appear in Paris, which is also honoring Israel at its book fair, which runs March 14 to 19.

In the Arab world, though, the reaction has been strong.

The Muslim scholar and activist Tariq Ramadan and the Anglo-Pakistani writer Tariq Ali are among those endorsing the boycott. Mohamed Salmawy, president of the Writer’s Union of Egypt, wrote to the Italian writers union to say that «writers all over the Arab World» had been «shocked» by the Turin fair’s decision and that the writers unions in Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt had all officially condemned the choice. The book fair’s decision, Salmawy wrote, «has antagonized Arab public opinion.»

Messen åpner 8. mai

Book fair in Italy thrown into emotional debate over Israel’s role at event