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

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.

Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 26 min 27 sec ago

Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.