Tadamon! letter to Nadine Gordimer

May 9th, 2008 | Posted in Boycott, Culture, Palestine, Politics, Solidarity, Tadamon!

    An open letter to Nadine Gordimer from Tadamon!


    Dear Nadine Gordimer.

It is with great shock and dismay that we have learned of your intention to participate in the Israeli Writers’ Festival this May, in conjunction with the “Israel at 60” festivities (largely supported by the Israeli Foreign Ministry). The function of cultural events such as this one in the international public relations campaigns of apartheid regimes is strongly reminiscent of the same maneuverings by the South African apartheid government. Have you forgotten the morally unconscionable historical ties between apartheid Israel and apartheid South Africa during the years of sanctions, when millions of dollars of weapons were supplied by Israel to the apartheid regime?

The friendships that you have shared with the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said, or John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Rights in the Occupied Territories, have offered you ample insight into the depths of the violence inflicted daily on Palestinians by the Israeli state. The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa, labeled Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” and denounced its policies as “crimes against humanity.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu has even asserted that the situation in Palestine is worse than apartheid South Africa.

Surely you are aware of the ongoing Israeli military occupation and settlement expansion in the West Bank, and the unyielding reality of the apartheid wall there that continues to dispossess Palestinians of their homes, lands and water. Much as media sources consistently under-report on and under-represent the gravity of the ongoing siege of 1.4 million Gazans, the fact that it continues is undeniable. The second-class citizenship status of Palestinians living inside Israel, the languishing of over 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli dungeons, and the state-sanctioned tactics of torture and political assassination by the Israeli military have been documented by many human rights groups worldwide. The heartbreaking nature of exile as experienced by many South African anti-apartheid activists during the 1970s and 1980s is widely acknowledged. Compassion should similarly extend to the upwards of 4 million Palestinian refugees worldwide who remain locked out of their homeland.

We trust that your conviction to principles of racial equality and against oppression have not changed since your outspoken resistance to the apartheid policies of the South African state. The position that you have often articulated, that writers must not ignore injustice, is one that we, too, share. On this basis, as fellow artists, intellectuals, and organizers committed to justice, we ask that you once more stand with the oppressed. We ask that you rescind your confirmation at the Israeli Writers’ Festival. Moreover, we call on you to support the burgeoning cultural boycott of the apartheid state of Israel, which has been gaining strength daily since its launch in July 2005.

In your 1991 Nobel lecture, you aptly quoted Albert Camus and his call for “courage in one’s life and talent in one’s work.” It is not your talent but your courage that we appeal to now, in solidarity with the people of Palestine who have long been steadfast in their struggle for justice and dignity.


Meg Leitold
for Tadamon! Montreal.

1 Comment »

There is misinformation or a misconception about my intended visit to Israel.

I am not invited to Israel by the Israeli government. I do not go under its auspices. My invitation came from an International Writers Festival, through the Konrad Adenauer Conference Centre. The premise and purpose, conditions on which I have agreed to participate, are for writers to discuss their responsibilities to their art, their communities, their countries and the world we share. The role of literature in opening up the human mind, understanding and spirit beyond the provision of information as offered universally now by technological expansion of the media.

This is a contentious subject like that of others, of smaller or greater magnitude, which must be faced and confronted openly.

What part the writer, if worthy at all of that name, is to play not alone in freedom of expression and publication, exchange of cultures through the written word, the exploration of the possibilities for human understanding that come from translation of literary works across languages. What such a meeting of writers is for, is to assert vitally that whatever violent, terrible, bitter and urgent chasms of conflict lie between peoples, the only solution for peace and justice exist and must begin with both sides talking to one another.

Hamas, despite its declaration denying the right of Israel to exist must be part of these talks, for the very survival of the peoples of Palestine and Israel, for them to be at peace in fully independent states within justly agreed borders. Let us not forget that Nelson Mandela went, escorted from and returned to Pollsmore Prison, for a face-to-face meeting with apartheid president P W Botha.

My solidarity with the struggle – our Struggle – against apartheid – surely can leave no doubt in the minds of my comrades and others concerned that I, along with nearly half the population of Israel, do not support the present government of their country and deplore many of its actions. I am a signatory among those South African Jews who endorsed the statement made by Ronnie Kasrils declaring ‘Not in our name’.

I shall go to the West Bank, Ramallah, have arrangements to meet individual Palestinians and the students at El Kudes University in East Jerusalem. I shall do my utmost to uphold the principles and practice I have held, and still hold, at home in our country.

Nadine Gordimer.

Comment by Nadine Gordimer — May 10th, 2008 @ 4:27 AM

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