Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Shroud Over Turin: Book Fair Boycott

Having first indicated Egypt as their choice, organisers of the Turin Book Fair in Italy postponed having Egypt as their international Guest of Honour for 2009. One would consider that in 2008, inviting Egypt’s neighbour Palestine as the Guest of Honour would have been inspired in this 60th anniversary of the Nakba, a powerful symbolic gesture to a peoples who have not experienced any let-up in blocked efforts towards justice.

Instead, the organisers chose Israel as book fair guest for this year. This decision is coupled with the choice of Israel as guest of honour for the Paris Book Fair and is ill-considered, coinciding as it does with the 60th Anniversary of the Naqba and the founding of the state of Israel, and at a time when the Israeli military occupation has only worsened.

Italian and international protests and calls for boycott have ensued, protesting the organisers decision that would serve to “commemorate” the Israeli occupation state and and its repressive policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The protest organisers are “appalled to see the world of culture take the side of those who methodically operate to annihilate Palestine and the Palestinians”.

One of the invited Israeli writers, poet Aaron Shabtai, applied his conscience when he rsvp’ed the organisers. Here is his note to Edna Degon of the organising committee (from Tlaxcala):

Dear Edna,
Thank you for your letter.

I do not believe that a State that maintains an occupation, committing on a daily basis crimes against civilians, deserves to be invited to any kind of cultural week. That is, it is anti-cultural; it is a barbarian act masked as culture in the most cynical way. It manifests support for Israel, and even to France that sustains the occupation. And I do not want to participate.
Kind regards,
Aharon Shabtai
7 December, 2007

Born in 1939  in Tel Aviv, Aharon Shabtai’s life has been longer than the state of Israel. It is fitting that this elder statesman and poet should be one of its few voices of conscience.

See also:

Culture – Aaron Shabtai

The mark of Cain won’t sprout
from a soldier who shoots
at the head of a child
on a knoll by the fence
around a refugee camp
-for beneath his helmet,
conceptually speaking,
his head is made of cardboard.
On the other hand,
the officer has read The Rebel1;
his head is enlightened,
and so he does not believe
in the mark of Cain.
He’s spent time in museums,
and when he aims his rifle at a boy
as an ambassador of Culture,
he updates and recycles
Goya’s etchings
and Guernica.

1 : English title of the famous essay of Albert Camus, L’homme révolté

5 comments on “Shroud Over Turin: Book Fair Boycott

  1. guerrilla radio
    25 February, 2008

    Grazie mille amica,
    tomorrow i will link your post on guerrilla.

    Amore e solidarietà,
    stay human, restiamo umani

  2. JollyRoger
    27 February, 2008

    There are so many good people in Israel, decent human beings as outraged by what is going on as we are. Why are they not heard from more often?

    Aaron Shabtai is to be commended for having the courage to speak up for what is right, and stare down what is wrong.

  3. LDU
    4 March, 2008

    Protest over the Paris book fair:

  4. Michael Kalmanovitz
    10 April, 2008


    On Monday 31 March over two dozen people picketed the
    Italian Embassy in London with placards, banners and loudhailers, calling for a boycott of the Turin Book Fair, which has invited Israel as the “guest of honour”.

    Protesters were appalled that the President of the Italian Republic has added his weight to this decision by publicising his intention to open this Book Fair on May 8, even though this is in the week of Nakba – the 60th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people by the Israeli state.

    Jewish anti-Zionist women and men in the Global Women’s Strike and Payday men’s network, who called the picket, and activists from Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) and Camden – Abu Dis Friendship Association (CADFA) were vocal in their denunciation of Israel’s deputy defence minister Vilnai’s call for a “shoah” – a holocaust – against people in Gaza. A speaker from the Utility Workers Union of America (AFL-CIO) decried that the AFL leadership had helped support and finance the occupation.

    Anti-Book Fair demonstrations at the weekend in Turin, Rome & Milan were reported to the picket. Over 700 people had rallied in Turin’s main square, with street theatre and a photo exhibition; and there were sit-ins at Feltrinelli bookshops in Milan and Rome because they announced that they would take part in the Book Fair. The police attacked the demonstrators in Milan following an afternoon of provocation by Zionists, who tried to tear up one of the banners.

    Representatives of the London picket tried to deliver a letter of protest to the Ambassador, but the carabiniere representing the Embassy said that the Ambassador would not accept the letter without an appointment! A demonstrator commented on her loudhailer that “They’d rather welcome Israeli Zionists!”

    Demonstrators, who were also from Canada, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, Turkey and the US, were incensed at the Ambassador’s refusal and declared that they would contact their networks to flood the Embassy with letters.

    Please email this letter or write your own to the Italian Embassy in your country.
    Please CC the Global Women’s Strike & Payday men’s network
    For the list of Italian Embassies check

    We protest against the outrageous decision of the Turin Book Fair to make Israel its “guest of honour”. If this decision to invite and honour Israel is not rescinded, the Book Fair must be boycotted.

    The invitation has sinister echoes in the UK: on 7 April Prince Philip has hosted a dinner in Windsor Castle for the Jewish National Fund, a key Zionist organisation that has dispossessed & expelled Palestinian people from their lands.

    We find it all the more astonishing that President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano plans to open the Fair on 8 May considering that the Fair’s President, Rolando Picchioni, was a member of the Masonic Lodge P2, led by Lucio Gelli, who was not only a fervent admirer of the Fascist leader Mussolini, but a liaison officer with the Hermann Goering SS division. In the ‘70s the P2 infamously planned a right-wing coup d’état in Italy.

    Those of who are Jewish are particularly outraged that the Israeli State is so eager to take a part in the fair organized by an old associate of Nazis. This collaboration, however, is less surprising following Israel’s deputy defence minister Vilnai’s Nazi call for a “shoah” – a holocaust – against people in Gaza.

    Calling for a boycott in response to inviting the Israeli State to the Paris & Turin Book Fairs, Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai said:

    “The book event, or any other kind of exhibition in which the Israeli State is invited, is not a way to promote peace in the Middle East, and not a way to bring justice to the Palestinians, but only propaganda to give Israel an image of being a liberal & democratic society. A State which maintains an occupation & commits daily crimes against civilians does not deserve to be invited to whichever cultural week.”
    The Union of Palestinian Writers & Intellectuals has also called for a boycott. And there are protests, demonstrations & boycott demands planned throughout Italy: on 5th February the headquarters of organizers of the Fair, Fondazione del Libro, was occupied; Italian book publishers have launched an appeal; a petition is being circulated & signed internationally by MEPs, students, workers, teachers & prominent individuals; demonstrations took place in Turin, Milan and Rome on 29th March; and your embassy was picketed on 31st March.

    For the organisers of the Book Fair to honour Israel in the week before Nakba is not only a provocation but also a disgraceful defence of the murder, rape & torture that is the Israeli occupation.

    This occupation is one with the occupation of Iraq: military control of oil & water in the Middle East for the real axis of evil – US, Israel & their European stooges. And now the Italian authorities have shown they are complicit in the additional crime of Nakba denial.
    Global Women’s Strike 020 7482 2496
    Payday men’s network 020 7209 4751

  5. Pingback: Library Juice » Israel-Palestine conflict comes to the Turin Book Fair

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This entry was posted on 24 February, 2008 by in Activism, Apartheid, Boycotts, France, Human Rights, Israel, Italy and tagged , .

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"