Israel bars hundreds of Arab writers and publishers from book fair in Ramallah

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Palestinians visit the 7th International Book Fair in the West Bank town of Bireh near Ramallah. (AFP/file)
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Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has been convicted by an Israeli court of ‘inciting violence’ after posting her poem on Facebook. (Reuters)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Israel bars hundreds of Arab writers and publishers from book fair in Ramallah

  • The International book fair, held under the slogan ‘Jerusalem the Capital of Palestine,’ features 500 Palestinian and Arab publishing houses.
  • Israel’s action amounted to “war against Palestinian culture and the insistence on destroying cultural bridges with Palestinians living under occupation,” says the Jordanian Publishers Association.

AMMAN: Israeli authorities have blocked hundreds of Jordanian and Arab authors from attending the annual Palestine International Book Fair in Ramallah. 

The event, held under the slogan “Jerusalem the Capital of Palestine,” features 500 Palestinian and Arab publishing houses. It was opened by Ehad Bseiso, the Palestinian Culture Minister, on May 3 and runs until Sunday.

The Israeli authorities denied travel permits to authors and publishers despite the fact that their books were shipped to the event and displayed at the book fair.

Nawal Heles, director of the fair at the Ministry of Culture, told Arab News that nearly 300 Arab authors and publishers were denied permits.

She said that in the past they had presented the list of people they wanted to attend to Israeli authorities who then turned down certain individuals, but this year “the entire list of authors and publishers was turned down without a single exception.” 

She said that invitations were sent to writers and publishers from many Arab countries including Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq and countries in the Arabic Gulf.

Heles told Arab News that she had received no explanation from the Israeli side. 

The Jordanian Publishers Association said the Israeli action amounted to “war against Palestinian culture and the insistence on destroying cultural bridges connecting with Palestinians living under occupation.”

Elias Farkouh, a Jordanian novelist and founder of Azmenah publishing house in Amman, told Arab News that he was not surprised by the Israeli action. “Nothing surprises me anymore by this oppressive regime that has no regard for people or for culture.”

The travel ban on Arab publishers comes three days after a Palestinian poet was convicted by an Israeli court of “inciting violence” and “supporting a terrorist organization” for a post on social media that prosecutors claimed incited violence against the occupation.

Nazareth magistrates declared Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, guilty for writing a poem titled “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” which she posted on Facebook.

Israeli prosecutors told the court that the poem incited violence. Tatour’s lawyer Gaby Lasky told the court that the poem had been misinterpreted by Israeli translators, that it was “artistic expression” not a call to violence, and that the charge ran counter to her client’s freedom of expression.

“The verdict violates the right of speech and freedom of expression. It is an infringement on cultural rights of the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It would lead to self-censorship and self-criminalization of poetry.”

Lasky said she would appeal against the verdict. A date for sentencing has not been set.

More than 150 American literary figures have called for Israel to free Tatour, including Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Claudia Rankine, Naomi Klein and Jacqueline Woodson.

Tatour’s poems appeared in “A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry,” a UK bilingual Arabic and English anthology published in 2017, that presents Palestinian poets.


UN expert held in Tunisia over ‘espionage’ freed on bail: sources

Updated 3 min 32 sec ago
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UN expert held in Tunisia over ‘espionage’ freed on bail: sources

TUNIS: A United Nations arms expert held in Tunisia since late March on espionage charges was released Tuesday on bail, the prosecution service said.
Moncef Kartas is a member of the UN panel of experts investigating allegations of violations of an arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on Libya.
The Tunisian-German dual national was detained on arrival in Tunis on March 26.
“The indictment division has decided to release Moncef Kartas on bail,” prosecution spokesman Sofiene Sliti said.
But Kartas was still being prosecuted for the “unofficial collection of information related to terrorism, which constitutes a dangerous crime,” he told AFP.
The investigation had uncovered equipment used to control civil and military air traffic and whose use “requires authorization,” he added.
Kartas’s defense team has said the charges are linked to the arms expert’s possession of a device allowing him to have access to data on flights of civil and commercial aircraft.
The device, an RTL-SDR, was used “only for monitoring air traffic to Libya, in order to identify flights that could be linked to violations of the arms embargo,” said his lawyer, Sarah Zaafrani.
Last week, the United Nations rejected Tunisia’s reasons for Kartas’s arrest and demanded charges be dropped and his immediate release.
It argued that, as a UN employee, Kartas was subject to diplomatic immunity, but Tunisia challenged this.
The UN panel investigating the alleged sanctions breaches has reported that arms and ammunition deliveries still reach warring parties in Libya — with the involvement of member states — despite the embargo.
Libya, which borders Tunisia, has seen an uptick in violence since military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on April 4 to take the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognized government.
An arms embargo has been in force since Libya’s 2011 revolt that toppled its longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.