British Writers In Support of Palestine

May 27, 2018

THE ENDLESS SCREAM in the breaking news

Filed under: Uncategorized — Naomi Foyle @ 7:56 pm

Hello and welcome to everyone who has joined us so far in May – as Israeli atrocities in Gaza hit the headlines again and again, the site has continued to attract a high rate of new followers. Anyone with an ounce of moral sense would like to feel they are doing something to end this murderous apartheid regime; and thus, taking its cue from the Palestinian grassroots, BWISP exists to support the cultural and academic boycott of Israel, and the Palestinian cultural resistance – the latter being vitally important as it asserts Palestinian existence in the homeland, and identity across the diaspora.

It is with a sense of hope and defiance then, that I announce a forthcoming poetry event at this year’s Left Forum in New York City: ‘THE ENDLESS SCREAM in the breaking news’, which has to be the best title I’ve ever heard for a Palestinian poetry reading. No surprise, then, that it’s from a Mahmoud Darwish poem. And how fitting that the event will feature NYC poet, spoken word artist and calligrapher Farid Bitar reading from A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry (Smokestack Books, 2017), the title of which also owes a debt to Darwish. As editor of the anthology I am very pleased that Farid will be sharing the stage with poets from Jewish Voice for Peace, an outstanding US activist organisation that works tirelessly to end the occupation, and expose the lie that Judaism is co-extensive with Zionism.

Hopefully, Farid will be travelling to Palestine this summer to launch A Blade of Grass in Jerusalem and Ramallah. I know many of you will have been donating money to medical funds for the thousands of Gazans wounded in the recent massacres on the border, and the need there is huge. But if you can spare any small change for a cultural project, I am seeking support from members and followers for a crowdfunding campaign in aid of Farid’s airfare. No-one fights more passionately for his people than Farid does; their endless scream echoes throughout his work, and it would be very moving to see him in Palestine, returning to his homeland and hearing the whispers of its olive trees for the first time in over a decade.

There’s more on the crowdfunding campaign here. We are also seeking help with associated venue costs of the Ramallah launch, while any extra funds raised will go to Dareen Tatour’s legal fund. No donation is too small, and rewards include calligraphy drawings, CDs, and the anthology itself – which is also for sale here. Thank you from Farid and myself for any and all contributions – and for helping to spread the word about this campagin, and the Left Forum event.

 

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April 30, 2018

Crowdfunding Appeal: Help A Poet Return to Palestine!

Greetings to all BWISP supporters and welcome to all our new followers. Recent weeks have seen a spike of interest in the blog, which I take to be a response to the brutal Israeli response to the Great March of Return. Certainly when peaceful protesters, including children and journalists, are being massacred with impunity in full view of the world, many people wish to take action.

Only sustained international pressure and effective internal leadership will create a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moral leadership in Palestine is coming from the grassroots and, taking our cue from Palestinian activists, BWISP was formed to support the flourishing Palestinian cultural resistance.  We do this by promoting the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and by supporting Palestinian literature. This latter is vital because it asserts Palestinian existence against Israeli efforts to deny it, and helps to sustain Palestinian identity across the diaspora.

As BWISP co-ordinator, I am therefore currently seeking support from members and followers for a crowdfunding campaign in aid of the Palestinian launches of A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry. This bilingual anthology, which I edited last year for Smokestack Books, was launched to a standing-room only crowd at London’s P21 Gallery, and has since been praised in Poetry ReviewLondon Grip and Write Out Loud. Now it’s time to take the poems home – to Palestine. This summer the book will be launched at the Al Ma’mal Foundation in Jerusalem on July 27th, and at the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre in Ramallah on July 28th. The events will feature locally-based contributors Maya Abu Alhayyat and Marwan Makhoul, Jerusalemite-Londoner Mustafa Abu Sneineh and Brighton-based editor (me!) Naomi Foyle. We will hopefully also hear readings from Dareen Tatour, who is currently under house arrest in Israel and awaiting a verdict this week on charges related to her poetry, and New York City-based spoken word poet and calligraphy artist Farid Bitar, who is seeking help with his airfare.

There’s more on the crowdfunding campaign here. We are also seeking help with associated venue costs of the Ramallah launch, while any extra funds raised will go to Dareen Tatour’s legal fund. Rewards include calligraphy drawings, CDs, and the anthology itself – which is also for sale here. Best of all, against the violent repression of the Great March of Return, you will carry in your heart the knowledge that you have helped one Palestinian set foot again in his beloved homeland. Thank you from Farid and myself for any and all contributions – and for helping to spread the word!

 

Farid Bitar and Naomi Foyle at the London launch of A Blade of Grass, held at P21 Gallery and featuring a pop-up exhibition of Farid’s calligraphy drawings.

 

PS: for those of you in New York, there’s a fundraiser in Harlem this week for Dareen. RSVP here for exact venue details.


March 1, 2018

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry [Chichester Launch]

 

Following November’s sell-out launch at London’s P21 Gallery, celebrations of the new bilingual anthology A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry (Smokestack Books) continue.  The first review has appeared – and is glowing! – while February saw editor Naomi Foyle in discussion with Sarah Irving, editor of the landmark Scottish-Palestinian anthology A Bird is Not a Stone (Freight Books, 2015), an event chaired by Farah Aridi for Hibr: A Festival of Arab Poetry (Goldsmiths English PEN). Next up is a launch at Chichester University, where on Monday March 12th poet Mustafa Abu Sneineh and translator Waleed Al-Bazoon will join Naomi Foyle, also a Senior Lecturer at the University, for a reading of poems and translations from the book, followed by discussion and Q&A.

Monday March 12
4 – 5 pm
Academic Block 1.01
Bishop Otter Campus
College Lane
Chichester
P019 6PE
All welcome.  Free.

Should a trip to Chichester seem a daunting prospect, rest assured that the book can be ordered at any UK bookshop, or direct from the publisher.

* * *

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry brings together, in English and Arabic, new work by poets from the Palestinian territories, from the diaspora, and from within the disputed borders of Israel. Presenting work by Marwan Makhoul, Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, Fatena Al-Ghorra, Dareen Tatour, Ashraf Fayadh, Fady Joudah, Naomi Shihab Nye, Deema K. Shehabi, Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Farid Bitar, Sara Saleh and Mahmoud Darwish, and featuring an introduction by the book’s editor, poet and activist Naomi Foyle, the anthology celebrates the flourishing cultural resistance of the Palestinian people to decades of displacement, occupation, exile and bombardment. Voices fresh and seasoned converse with history, sing to the land, and courageously nurture an attachment to human fragility. Written in free verse and innovative forms, hip hop rhythms and the Arabic lyric tradition, these poems bear witness both to catastrophe, and to the powerful determination to survive it.

Smokestack Books is a small independent press based in Yorkshire. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry.

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry was part-funded by a University of Chichester Research Development Award, granted to the editor. A portion of proceeds from the book will be donated toward the legal fees of Ashraf Fayadh and Dareen Tatour, both currently imprisoned, respectively in Saudi Arabia and Israel, on charges related to their poetry.

Mustafa Abu Sneineh is a poet and writer from Jerusalem. His first poetry collection A Black Cloud at The End of The Line was published in 2016. He holds a degree in Law from Birzeit University, Palestine and an MA in Postcolonial Studies from Goldsmiths College, London.

Waleed Al-Bazoon is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Basra in Iraq. He holds a PhD in Contemporary Fiction from the University of Chichester, where he has taught in the Department of English and Creative Writing, and is currently a Fellow. His poetry collection The War on Idigna appeared in 2011.

Naomi Foyle is an award-winning poet, novelist, verse dramatist, and essayist. Her books include The Night Pavilion, an Autumn 2008 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and The Gaia Chronicles, a science fantasy quartet. In 2017 she co-translated the poetry collection Wounds of the Cloud by Yasser Khanger (Al Ma’mal Foundation, Jerusalem).

 

 

October 3, 2017

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry – Crowdfunding Begins!

 

Looking for a way to support the Palestinian cultural resistance? Why not feed the poets! The forthcoming Smokestack Books anthology A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry is crowdfunding now, seeking to raise money to help pay contributors’ fees and printing costs, and to donate to the legal campaigns of imprisoned poets Ashraf Fayadh and Dareen Tatour. There’s more information below, or just click here to go straight to the site. Thank you for anything you can do to help – even if just spreading the word!

‘Against barbarity,’ said the celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008), ‘poetry can resist only by cultivating an attachment to human frailty, like a blade of grass growing on a wall as armies march by.’ 

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry brings together, in English and Arabic,  new work by poets from the Palestinian territories, from the diaspora, and from within the disputed borders of Israel. Presenting work by Marwan MakhoulMaya Abu Al-HayyatFatena Al-GharraDareen TatourAshraf FayadhFady JoudahNaomi Shihab NyeDeema K. ShehabiMustafa Abu SneinehFarid BitarShahid NWASara Saleh and Mahmoud Darwish, and featuring a 12 page introduction by the book’s editor, poet and activist Naomi Foyle, the anthology celebrates the flourishing cultural resistance of the Palestinian people to decades of displacement, occupation, exile and bombardment. Voices fresh and seasoned converse with history, sing to the land, and courageously nurture an attachment to human fragility. Written in free verse and innovative forms, hip hop rhythms and the Arabic lyric tradition, these poems bear witness both to catastrophe, and to the powerful determination to survive it.

Smokestack Books is a small independent press that receives no public subsidy. The publisher and the editor are working pro bono. The book is partially funded by a research grant from the University of Chichester, awarded to the editor, which has allowed her to pay a small contributors’ fee of £10 a page.  This crowdfunding campaign seeks to increase this fee to a more professional rate; to cover design and printing costs for the book; and to raise money toward the legal fees of Ashraf Fayadh and Dareen Tatour, both currently imprisoned, respectively in Saudi Arabia and Israel, on charges related to their poetry.

Translators: Josh CalvoRaphael CohenKatharine HallsSarah Maguire and Anna Murison [c/o the Poetry Translation Centre], Tariq Al-HaydarAndrew LeberWaleed Al-BazoonWejdan Shamala.

Monies raised to support Ashraf Fayadh will be donated to the English PEN campaign on his behalf.  Funds raised for Dareen Tatour will be donated to the Free Dareen Tatour campaign.

September 23, 2017

Oxford Brookes: Gaza Lecture 2017

Filed under: Events — Naomi Foyle @ 2:54 pm
Tags: , ,

You are invited to book online now for the Oxford Brookes University 2017 Gaza Lecture, Britain and Palestine: One Hundred Years of Promises and Conflict, featuring Prof Avi Shlaim speaking to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

February 9, 2017

Smokestack Anthology of New Palestinian Poetry in Translation: Call for Submissions

Filed under: Poems — Naomi Foyle @ 5:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

Smokestack Books

invites submissions for

a bilingual anthology of

New Palestinian Poetry in Translation

edited by Naomi Foyle

forthcoming Nov 2017

As Yet Untitled will present up to five poems each by 10 to 12 Palestinian poets, representing a diverse range of voices, both new and established, representing the Occupied Territories, ’48 Palestinians, the diaspora and the refugee community. Some poets and translators will be invited to submit work; others will be selected through this open call.

Submission Guidelines

  • Please email between three and ten poems and their translations in a Word document to N.Foyle@chi.ac.uk. The original poems may have been previously published in journals, anthologies, pamphlets and single-authored collections. The translations may have been previously published in journals or pamphlets, but not in anthologies or translated single-author collections.
  • All modes of poetry are welcome, including performance poetry, traditional forms and experiments with form and voice. Please note that the editor is a non-Arabic speaker and the quality of the translations will form the ultimate basis of assessment.
  • The Word document should include short biographies, highlights of previous publications, and the email contact details of both the poet and the translator.
  • The total poetry submission (excluding biographies and publication highlights) should not exceed 20 pages.The deadline for submissions is midnight GMT June 10th 2017. The final selection will be made by June 30th
  • All contributors will receive one copy each of the anthology from Smokestack Books, and a 40% discount on future copies. And honorarium of up to £50 (depending on number of poems) will be paid to each contributor on publication. In the event of a reprint, an additional fee will be paid in lieu of royalties.
  • The publisher and editor also undertake to apply to other funding bodies to increase the payment to translators to professional rates, and cover the costs of launches in the UK and Palestine; and will also launch a crowd-sourcing campaign with the aim of ensuring payments to poets match those to translators. None of this additional funding is guaranteed, and most of it cannot be applied for until the final selection is made.

a-call-for-submissions_smokestack-books_arabic-jpeg

January 5, 2017

Jenny Diski and John Berger: In Gratitude Both

One would be forgiven for thinking that the famously traumatic 2016 also claimed BWISP – my last post was in November 2015. But although my silence was in part due to a breast cancer diagnosis in June, I received the All Clear two days before Christmas, and attended a New Year’s Eve party full of Palestinian rights activists, so rest assured 2016 didn’t have things all its own way: both I and the organisation are still kicking. Though perhaps there won’t be the need to leap into action: as I said at the party, it looks like BWISP has been so effective that either Israel hasn’t dared to offer another British writer a prize, or no British writer has wished to accept one!

Joking aside, my illness, which followed a period of travel in the spring, sadly meant that I did not post a timely tribute to one of our most renowned members, Jenny Diski, whose public journey with cancer ended in her death on April 28th. Diski hated being called a ‘fighter’ of cancer – and even ‘journeyer’ probably made her wince – but she did not shy away from political conflict: as one of the 94 signatories to John Berger’s Dec 2006 letter to The Guardian, she joined the first international roll-call of supporters of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), driving her legendary acumen straight into the mast of the Palestinian cause – and into the side of Zionism. Later she emailed support to BWISP in its early days. We never met, but also exchanged Tweets on the subject of fish and chips: a Jewish import to the East End, I had read. She replied: “We had cold fried fish on Fridays. & the Nautalus in NW6 serves fish battered with matzo meal. Gefilte fish never caught on tho”. I will be adding In Gratitude, Diski’s cancer memoir, to my growing collection of the genre, and now I’m recovering, I’ll make a trip to the Nautalus in her honour.

jenny-diski1

 

Diski’s loss is still keenly felt, and the death of BWISP ‘patron saint’ John Berger on January 2nd, felt like 2016’s final vicious swipe at the common good. Berger was a literary and political gentle giant, a man who combined an undimmed sense of wonder with moral leadership all the more persuasive for his playful nature. Like Diski’s, Berger’s death is summoning tributes from the most august journals; like hers too, few if any of these literary obituaries mention his deep commitment to the academic and cultural boycott. Yet, as the heartfelt tribute from PACBI makes clear, Berger was first among the ‘first responders’ to the boycott call and, as as author of the 2006 letter to The Guardian, was instrumental in ensuring the campaign gained traction amongst writers and artists. He too lent BWISP personal support, lending his name and telephoning me from France to discuss strategy. In particular he wanted to ensure that I was clear on his position: that the boycott did not apply to brave Israeli dissidents – or indeed to any Israeli as an individual. The conversation made me even keener later on to participate in ‘Redrawing the Maps’, the 2012 London celebration of Berger’s 86th birthday, for which I organised the event ‘Letter(s) To Gaza’, encouraging members of the public to write to people in the besieged strip. The panel included Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza – two young men who, as one commented, could never have met in their homeland, travel between the two territories being forbidden by Israel. Although himself absent, Berger occasioned this joyful reunion – just as his work will continue to generate fruitful encounters now he himself is gone.

With what I came to learn was his characteristic generosity, Berger also took a kind interest in my poetry, yet another genre of literature he breathed like mountain air. His Collected Poems (Smokestack Books, 2014) is dedicated to his late wife Beverly, ‘mistress of each page’, who also deserves our great respect and gratitude. Fondly remembered here by a high school friend for her impeccable taste in protest music, as the recent BBC documentary in honour of John’s ninetieth birthday makes clear, Beverly was not just simply Muse, but amanuensis. A librarian by profession, she gave John a vast amount of practical support, from typing his manuscripts to handling his voluminous correspondence. As a recipient of emails from her I know he could not possibly have accomplished all he did without her help.

Upon hearing the news of John Berger’s death I summoned to mind one of my favorite lines of his poetry: ‘The tongue / is the spine’s first leaf”. This image, to me, expresses the intrinsic relationship between voice and courage that John embodied.  The line became an epigraph of a poem in his memory this week, published today by International Times. Here at BWISP I will leave you with John’s own words, his personal message to the signatories of the 2006 letter to The Guardian in support of PACBI:

john-berger

I would like to make a few personal remarks about this world-wide appeal to teachers, intellectuals and artists to join the cultural boycott of the state of Israel, as called for by over a hundred Palestinian academics and artists, and – very importantly – also by a number of Israeli public figures, who outspokenly oppose their country’s illegal occupation of the Palestine territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Their call is attached, together with my After Guernica drawing. I hope you will feel able to add your signature, to the attached letter, which we intend to publish in national newspapers.
The boycott is an active protest against two forms of exclusion which have persisted, despite many other forms of protestations, for over sixty years – for almost three generations.
During this period the state of Israel has consistently excluded itself from any international obligation to heed UN resolutions or the judgement of any international court. To date, it has defied 246 Security Council Resolutions!
As a direct consequence seven million Palestinians have been excluded from the right to live as they wish on land internationally acknowledged to be theirs; and now increasingly, with every week that passes, they are being excluded from their right to any future at all as a nation.
As Nelson Mandela has pointed out, boycott is not a principle, it is a tactic depending upon circumstances. A tactic which allows people, as distinct from their elected but often craven governments, to apply a certain pressure on those wielding power in what they, the boycotters, consider to be an unjust or immoral way. (In white South Africa yesterday and in Israel today, the immorality was, or is being, coded into a form of racist
apartheid).
Boycott is not a principle. When it becomes one, it itself risks to become exclusive and racist. No boycott, in our sense of the term, should be directed against an individual, a people, or a nation as such. A boycott is directed against a policy and the institutions which support that policy either actively or tacitly. Its aim is not to reject, but to bring about change.
How to apply a cultural boycott? A boycott of goods is a simpler proposition, but in this case it would probably be less effective, and speed is of the essence, because the situation is deteriorating every month (which is precisely why some of the most powerful world political leaders, hoping for the worst, keep silent.).
How to apply a boycott? For academics it’s perhaps a little clearer – a question of declining invitations from state institutions and explaining why. For invited actors, musicians, jugglers or poets it can be more complicated. I’m convinced, in any case, that its application should not be systematised; it has to come from a personal choice based on a personal assessment.
For instance. An important mainstream Israeli publisher today is asking to publish three of my books. I intend to apply the boycott with an explanation. There exist, however, a few small, marginal Israeli publishers who expressly work to encourage exchanges and bridges between Arabs and Israelis, and if one of them should ask to publish something of mine, I would unhesitatingly agree and furthermore waive aside any question of author’s royalties. I don’t ask other writers supporting the boycott to come necessarily to exactly the same conclusion. I simply offer an example.
What is important is that we make our chosen protests together, and that we speak out, thus breaking the silence of connivance maintained by those who claim to represent us, and thus ourselves representing, briefly by our common action, the incalculable number of people who have been appalled by recent events but lack the opportunity of making their sense of outrage effective.
John Berger

November 20, 2015

Refuting J.K. Rowling + A Farewell to Irving Weinman

Followers of the UK debates around cultural and academic boycott will be well aware of the launch of the new anti-boycott group ‘Culture for Co-existence’, a response to this year’s significant formation of Artists For Palestine UK (APUK), which has to date garnered over 1090 signatures for its Artists Pledge for Palestine, and has in addition published a 64 page book The Case for a Cultural Boycott of Israel, a comprehensive response to all the questions that typically arise about the campaign.

In their recent brief letter to The Guardian (Oct 23) signed by, among others, J.K. Rowling and Simon Schama, ‘Culture for Co-existence’ argues that ‘Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and do not bring peace’ while ‘cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change.’

I was sorry and frustrated, but not surprised, to see the cultural and academic boycott of Israel once again misrepresented by its opponents. Rather than research the issue and respond to the detailed case we have time and again put forward, the signatories have made veiled accusations of anti-Semitism, and in their own defense have offered only easy slogans that bear no relevance to how the arts are in fact leveraged in Israel.

Once again it must be pointed out that pro-boycott campaigners do not ‘single out’ Israel. Many of us also reject funding or prizes from other authoritarian regimes. I’ve never been offered such a prize, but I didn’t watch a minute of the Sochi Olympics – and this was a sacrifice, as I love figure skating. Not watching TV is not, however, an effective political action. The boycott of Israel has gained such traction and visibility – and carries additional moral weight – because it is not simply a set of isolated refusals, but a growing collective response to an organised call made by the Palestinians themselves. This demand for solidarity from artists, writers and academics comes from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), whose existence ‘Culture for Co-existence’ signally fails to acknowledge.

In addition, far from being ‘discriminatory’, the entire boycott movement is grounded in respect for human rights and international law. It does not target individuals at all, let alone on the basis of religion or nationality. Rather, it rejects co-operation with Israeli institutions and the Israeli state,  insisting that we not accept cultural offerings funded by a government actively engaged in ethnic cleansing and illegal occupation in defense of an apartheid state. Like its great precedent against apartheid South Africa, the boycott also asks international artists to reject commercial ventures in Israel until such time as the country honours its responsibilities under international law. If signatories would not have ‘played Sun City’, then they should not play Tel Aviv.

I am a poet and novelist and I do believe in the power of art to generate empathy and understanding for others. But art exists within a globalised economy of money and power, and cultural products cannot be automatically assumed to nurture positive political change: in fact, they may well do the opposite. In the case of Israel ‘cultural bridges’ serve only to strengthen a highly privileged relationship with the West. Decades worth of literary prizes,  rock-n-roll concerts in Tel Aviv, and state-sponsored theatre tours of UK have not led to freedom for the Palestinians and peace for all in the region. Cultural engagement has not even put a brake on Israel’s relentless expansion of settlements, its demographic warfare on its Arab citizens, or its ruthless assaults on Gaza. In Israel the arts flourish, but the situation for the Palestinians simply gets worse. Cultural events are not neutral, either: they buttress the country’s self-styled reputation as a ‘liberal democracy’, a reputation that ensures its war crimes do not simply go unpunished, but are rewarded with sympathy, respect, and eye-watering amounts of military and financial aid.

In contrast, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement subjects Israel to sustained moral pressure, and provokes the honest and informed debate that all campaign proponents welcome. Finally, cultural and academic boycott does not burn bridges. Nothing in the PACBI call prevents cultural exchanges or intellectual collaborations between Israelis and Palestinians, or visits to the UK from Israeli artists, as long as these events do not involve Israeli state or institutional funding.

For further replies to the ‘Culture for Co-existence’ letter, please see PACBI’s Open Letter to JK Rowling, the astute analysis by BWISP member Sarah Irving of the Zionist actors driving the group, and statements by British artists for APUK.

* * *

Irving WeinmanVery sadly, I must also report in this update the loss of novelist, short story writer and BWISP co-founder Irving Weinman, who died suddenly on October 26th 2015, at the age of 78. His loss will be keenly felt by many. I first met Irving in 2007, when I came to Lewes to interview his wife Judith Kazantzis about her poetry. At the end of the interview, Irving joined us from the kitchen with three stubby bottles of beer on a tray, and we never looked back. I became a frequent visitor to their colourful home, often spoiled by Irving’s fabulous pescatarian cooking, always entertained by his marvelous raconteurship and inspired by his warm internationalism. Irving’s parents were shtetl Jews from Romania who lived in Paris before emigrated to Boston in the thirties where Irving was born. His mother spoke seven languages and Irving grew up hearing mainly Yiddish, Russian and French, and also much music in the house. A talented jazz pianist, Irving switched allegiance to literature in his youth. He attended writing classes with Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, called James Baldwin ‘Jimmy’, and co-founded the Key West Writers Workshop and Lewes Needlewriters. As well as successful crime novels, he wrote powerful literary fiction. Wolf Tones is funny and tough, a punchy, insightful portrait of a difficult father-son relationship, and ‘the sad arterioscleroris of America’.

Irving, Judith and I founded British Writers In Support of Palestine in 2010, and Irving was a prime force behind BWISP’s early recruitment drive and letter writing campaigns. He also lent his significant presence to local supermarket protests, and spent four weeks in 2010 as a driver for the Road to Hope Convoy to Gaza, blogging en route.  In a tribute penned for his own anti-fascist blog and reposted by Jews for Justice for Palestine, Tony Greenstein notes ‘Irving stood in an anti-racist tradition that went back to the Jewish fight against anti-Semitism in Europe, not the Zionist tradition of anti-Arab racism. Irving was proud to be Jewish.  His attitude to Israel’s war crimes was ‘not in my name’.’

Recently, Irving published books on the craft of fiction, and was writing short stories based on his family history, including the experience of refugees fleeing the pogroms. He spoke of his mother to me after I returned from Odesa last year – he was very taken by the fact I had seen Isaac Babel’s drinks cabinet in the city’s small Jewish museum. I still have Irving’s copy of Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People on my shelves, and there are many more conversations I would dearly love to have had with him. He is survived by Judith Kazantzis and her daughter Miranda; his son and daughter in America, Michael and Zoe; as well as grandchildren. Farewell to a wonderful friend.

March 6, 2015

Mike Marqusee: A Journeyer On Many Roads

Filed under: BWISP members — Naomi Foyle @ 1:24 pm
Tags: ,
Mike Marqusee in 2009.

Mike Marqusee in 2009. Photo by Felix Clay.

 

 

It was with great sorrow that I learned of the loss of BWISP member Mike Marqusee, who died in January after a long illness. I did not have the privilege of meeting Mike, whose premature departure deprives his loved ones of a precious partner, brother and friend, but both the legacy of his work and his obituary in The Guardian make it clear that we have all lost a marvellous and deeply principled writer, poet and intellectual. A footloose American, Mike’s interests ranged from cricket and British labour history to Renaissance art and Indian culture, while his memoir If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew (Verso, 2008) remains an outstanding contribution to the struggle to bring about a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. BWISP is thankful for Mike’s support of the cultural and academic boycott of Israel, and will remain forever proud to count him among our number.  On behalf of the group, I send our condolences to his family and friends.

Naomi Foyle

 

September 28, 2014

After The Tricycle: Can Arts Orgs Say ‘No’ to Embassy Funding?

Filed under: Boycott Israel,Cultural Boycott — Naomi Foyle @ 1:00 pm
Tags: ,
After The Tricycle- Can arts organisations say ‘no’ to embassy funding?

When: Tuesday 7th October, 19:00 – 21:00
Where: Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London. EC2A 3EA.

Panel discussion.  Entry free, booking recommended.
There will be a drinks reception afterwards.

 

Panel chair: Kamila Shamsie, novelist.
Speakers: April De Angelis and Tanika Gupta playwrights, Antony Lerman writer & commentator, and Ofer Neiman of the Israeli group Boycott from Within.

 

In August 2014, during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Tricycle Theatre asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to forego Israeli embassy funding. The festival refused, and very publicly walked away from the Tricycle, briefing the press that the theatre was boycotting a Jewish festival. The theatre came under immediate and sustained attack, all the way from campaigns to defund the theatre, via denunciations by liberal newspaper columnists, to intervention of the Secretary of State for Culture himself.

 

Do artists and arts organisations have the right to say ‘no’ when governments with negative human rights records try to co-opt culture in the service of their public relations strategies?

 

Please come to a discussion of the issues exposed by the Tricycle affair.

http://artistsright2sayno.wordpress.com

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