Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Israel at the Book Fair: a wrong boycott

Valentino Parlato, il manifesto, 24/01/08

The International Book Fair will be held in Turin next May (from the 8th to the 12th) but it is already arousing quarrels and polemics that have concerned even our tenacious and tolerant group. The fair is being held in the 60th anniversary of Israel’s foundation and therefore, quite inevitably, the Palestinian question gets resumed. After World War II and the massacre of the Jews, it was necessary to recognize their right to have a territory and a state of their own. Even Stalin was in favour of the foundation of Israel while Great Britain , a fact of not minor importance, was against it. and it’s my personal memory to insist that the Arab world wouldn’t have accepted a Jewish state, it favoured great manifestations of resistance: in Tripoli (where I lived at that time) a violent and blooddy anti-Jewish pogrom took place in a complicit indifference of the British military authorities. Today’s polemics regard this Book Fair, one that gives Israel a place of honour with the risk of a literary legitimization of its policies. Let me say first that I have no position in principle against the boycott, since it was more than fair to endorse it against the racist white South Africans. But there’s boycott and boycott and therefore I’m completely against boycotting this Book Fair (books must be always respected) and against boycotting Israel. The Israelis, who after all are still Jews, no matter how many wrongs as they have done against the Palestinians, can by no means be compared with the racist South Africans and moreover, there’s a point that we can’t forget andm by no means a small one, that there is the historical persecution of the Jewish people, there are the ghettos and the concentration camps. At this point is useful recalling what I was told in an interview to il manifesto with Rome’s Chief Rabbi. In the Warsaw Ghetto, the last song the Jews sung was the Internationale (translator’s note, Communist anthem). And then they were slaughtered by the Germans. Hence let’s take advantage of this International Book Fair of Turin to talk, to criticize Israel’s policies, to uphold the Palestinians’ rights who, in those territories, seem to have turned into the new Jews. Let’s talk and argue with each other, but let’s tell the boycott to go to hell. Not only because the Israelis are Jews and not Afrikaaners, but also because the boycott is mute. It’s a no without any arguments. Next May in Turin there are going to be Jewish writers of high stature and we must talk, reason, argue and defend the Palestinian people’s rights along with them. I’m aware of the ancestral fears of Israel’s people. I’m aware of their fear, I was told by a good Israeli ambassador in Rome, of being the target of renewed crusades. I think I can understand, but Israel must be more Jewish with the Palestinians. It must consider them as close relatives. But just because of all this, the boycott serves only to be detrimental the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Valentino Parlato
Source: http://www.ilmanifesto.it/Quotidiano-archivio/24-Gennaio-2008/art4.html
Translated by Diego Traversa and revised by Mary Rizzo
The Labyrinth


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