British Writers In Support of Palestine

May 2, 2012

Open Letter to Tracy Chevalier and Tom Rob Smith: reconsider your invitations to Jerusalem Writers Festival

Dear Tracy Chevalier and Tom Rob Smith,

We are disappointed to hear that you will be appearing at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim International Writers Festival in Jerusalem this month. Funded by the state of Israel, the Festival is a highly political event: in 2010 its keynote speakers were President Shimon Peres and Minister of Culture Limor Livnat (1). The festival has the stated aim of ‘improving the image of Jerusalem around the world’ (2) – yet in blind defiance of international law it celebrates the ‘reunification of Jerusalem’ (3). Let us be clear: the UN has designated Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state, and what the festival calls ‘reunification’ all right-minded people call occupation and illegal colonisation.

Israel has no sovereign rights over East Jerusalem, yet it has located its main police station and Ministry of Justice there; has erected a wall to annex Palestinian neighbourhoods; and grabs yet more land with illegal Jewish-only settlements. Arab East Jerusalemites are considered residents — but not citizens — of Israel, but even this dubious, second-class status is far from secure. Manipulating law and bureaucracy to suit its demographic purposes, Israel routinely revokes residency permits and demolishes Palestinian homes.(4) Protesters, including children, are brutally punished by detention in solitary confinement under conditions tantamount to torture. (5) Jerusalem, as a result, is a deeply divided city, carved up and scarred by the policies of an apartheid state.

We know you are both writers of conscience: Tracy is currently writing a novel about slavery, and Tom donates ten percent of his royalties to charity. We, members of British Writers in Support of Palestine (6), respectfully urge you to stand on the right side of history: to reconsider your invitations, and join us in taking up the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel. This boycott obtains until such time as Israel abides by its obligations to international law.


Felicity Arbuthnot
Prof Mona Baker
Hugh Dunkerley
Naomi Foyle
Fred Johnston
Ghada Karmi
Judith Kazantzis
Eleanor Kilroy
Wendy Klein
Diane Langford
China Miéville
Jeremy Page
Khadiga Safwat
Seni Seneviratne
Irving Weinman
Eliza Wyatt

2. Jerusalem Foundation Writers Proposal Page 2
3. Jerusalem Foundation Writers Proposal Page 4


  1. I would be very happy to add my name to this should you wish, Kindest regards, Felicity a. Am also circulating.

    Comment by Felicity Arbuthnot — May 6, 2012 @ 6:48 pm | Reply

    • I am honoured to add your name, Felicity. Thank you, and for your courageous and compassionate reporting. If you would also like to become a member of BWISP (ie, to sign the general letter of commitment to the boycott), please feel free to email me at Best wishes, Naomi Foyle

      Comment by Naomi Foyle — May 6, 2012 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

  2. I am horrified you are thinking of going. This right wing government has over 9000 Palestinian prisoners in jail, some are on hunger strike because of their conditions and near death.See Amnesty Internation Appeal. Remember Operation Cast Lead and the attack on Gaza. Read I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian gynaecologist whose daughters were killed in operation cast lead while he was trying to help infertile women in Israel conceive. The story dispassionately told, of his difficulties in gaining an education is as moving as his heroism in face of his bereavement. think of the endless land grab and harassment by Netanyahu’s government and increasingly judiciary, including the grabbing of scarce water. Please, do not go. Sara Wood

    Comment by fallujahmothers — May 6, 2012 @ 7:42 pm | Reply

  3. Please do not go. If you have never seen first hand how the Palestinians are treated then take my word for it because I have. I have witnessed events that would leave the Nazis or the Klu Klux Klan wide eyed. Don’t have this on your conscience, make a stand for basic human rights, please.

    Comment by Klawd — May 7, 2012 @ 10:21 am | Reply

  4. Please add my signature – make a stand for Palestinian rights and do not perform in Israel or itsillegal settlements

    Comment by Mary Beaman — May 7, 2012 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  5. A writer I admire, Ian McEwen was seduced into accepting an Israeli prize recently. It is very sad that someone with this kind of talent falls for so blatant an attempt to garner respectability. Please don’t do the same.

    Comment by Philip Foxe — May 7, 2012 @ 7:21 pm | Reply

  6. […] for being a successful writer, so it is perhaps unsurprising that in his only response to a public appeal to boycott the International Writers Festival, British novelist Tom Rob Smith began by underlining […]

    Pingback by Rejecting boycott, Tom Rob Smith and Tracy Chevalier prepare for Jerusalem International Writers Festival | Mondoweiss — May 10, 2012 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

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