An American writer’s group will keep the Israeli embassy as a sponsor of its literature festival, despite calls by writers to drop the endorsement.
Over 100 writers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Díaz, Richard Ford, and Alice Walker, were among those who signed the message, sent last week to PEN American Center by pro-BDS organization Adalah-NY.
The letter called the Israeli government’s sponsorship of the festival “regrettable,” citing human rights abuses and targeting of Palestinian writers by the Jewish state.
PEN American Center, which works to advance literature, free expression and international cooperation among writers, denied the request, saying boycotting countries is not in line with its core values.
Funding from foreign governments allows writers of different nationalities to attend the festival, and is not an endorsement of those countries’ policies, the literature organization added
The program for the PEN World Voice Festival, which celebrates international literature, is being sponsored by the Israeli embassy, along with organizations representing several other countries, such as Mexico, Denmark, and Hungary.
Israel is also co-sponsoring an event during the festival where Ethiopian-Israeli writer Dalia Betolin-Sherman will be speaking.
Josefin Dolsten is a news fellow at the Forward. She writes about politics and culture, and edits the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten.