A symbolic act of protest is appropriate in a political environment where much of the world, particularly the supposedly civilised West, seems to have lost its moral compass and worse, its humanity.
That is why the Malaysian Ministry of Education and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) took a principled stand to pull out of the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair 2023 to express their strong objection to the organisers’ reportedly pro-Israeli stance.
The organisers of the world’s largest book trade fair had announced that more space would be given to Israeli writers to speak up at the event.
In making their political and ideological preferences known in no uncertain terms, the organisers found it apt to silence Palestinian voices by postponing an awards ceremony to honour Palestine-born novelist and essayist Adania Shibli, who was due to receive the 2023 LiBeraturpreis at the fair. So much for the West’s mantra of freedom of expression and human rights.
Shibli is the author of Minor Detail, which tells the true story of the 1949 rape and murder of a Bedouin girl by Israeli soldiers. The novel was published in English in 2020 and nominated in the US for the National Book Awards as well as for various international prizes.
Taking the awards segment out of the book fair is just rubbing salt into the Palestinian wound.
By withdrawing from the book fair, Malaysia’s Ministry of Education and DBP join a growing chorus of voices demanding justice, accountability and an end to the carnage that has visited on innocent Palestinian civilians in recent times.
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The book fair organisers condemned Hamas’ atrocities inflicted on Israeli civilians during the latter’s military incursions into Israel on 7 October.
Such condemnation is well taken as human lives, irrespective of whether they are Israelis’ or Palestinians’, are indeed precious, and because violence only begets violence.
But the Frankfurt Book Fair organisers, like many others who only focus on the bloody outcome of the recent Hamas’ violence, seemed to have chosen to skip an important chapter of the Palestinian struggle. They have missed getting a good grasp of the underlying causes of the asymmetrical war between the Israeli regime and the Palestinian people since the creation of the state of Israel.
The recent Hamas’ attack on Israel is essentially the cumulative effects of many decades of Israeli settler-colonisation of the Palestinian land, apartheid rule, dehumanisation, ethnic cleansing, mass killings and maiming of the Palestinians.
It is ‘madness’ that much of the so-called international community often looks the other way when collective punishment is meted out to the Palestinians – all in the name of Israel’s right to self-defence.
It gets even more insane when the occupying Zionist regime gains support from Western countries in the form of financial and arms assistance that often ends up being used to further oppress and kill the colonised Palestinians.
The oppressed and long-suffering Palestinians deserve a new chapter in their collective life in which their snatched land, freedom, justice, peace and human dignity must be duly returned to them.
It is most unfortunate that injustice and curbs on free expression have become the added values of the book fair. – The Malaysian Insight