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

April 29, 2011

Support needed for Dr Ahmad Qatamesh

Filed under: Call to Action,Palestinian Literature — Naomi Foyle @ 1:22 pm
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Israeli Occupation Forces Arrest Palestinian Writer Ahmad Qatamesh
PACBI Statement in support of Dr Qatamesh

Author and Human Rights Activist Ahmad Qatamesh

In the early hours of dawn on Thursday, 21 April 2011, a large force of Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers raided the home of the prominent Palestinian writer and academic Dr. Ahmad Qatamesh [1] in
Al-Bireh and arrested him. An hour earlier, Qatamesh’s wife, 22-year-old daughter and two other female relatives, including a 14-year-old child, were taken hostage by Israeli troops in another
apartment to compel him to surrender himself. He was led to “Ofer” detention center in Beitunia.

Ahmad Qatamesh was born in 1950 in a cave in Bethlehem to a refugee family expelled during the Nakba from the village of Al-Malihah, near Jerusalem. Qatamesh earned his diploma in Arabic literature from the UNRWA-run Teacher Training Center in Ramallah. In 1992, he was arrested by a massive Israeli force in the presence of his then 3-year-old daughter. Accusing him of being a particularly “dangerous” national leader, the Israeli Shabak tortured and ill-treated him for a hundred days, an experience that he articulately exposed in his well-read prison notes titled I Shall not Wear Your Tarboush (fez). After the Shabak failed to produce incriminating evidence, however, an Israeli military court issued an “administrative detention” order against him, in accordance with an emergency law that allows Israel to detain for renewable terms anyone under its
jurisdiction without charges, trial or access to the charges against him/her. This unjust procedure was repeatedly condemned as a violation of internationally accepted standards of justice by leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

Qatamesh’s detention was renewed continuously for almost six years, making him the longest serving administrative detainee ever. In
April 1998, after a persistent public pressure campaign by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists and organizations, Qatamesh was finally released.

Ahmad Qatamesh earned his master’s degree and later his PhD in political science from a Dutch university through distance learning, as he was under a travel ban by the Israeli occupation. He then became a thesis supervisor for several Palestinian graduate students of the same university. He authored several books on diverse literary, political and philosophical topics, and he was a sought-after speaker in local universities and research centers. In 2010, he taught a course in the
School of Humanities at Al-Quds University.

Qatamesh’s wife, Suha Barghouti, who is a board member of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization and of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, as well as a Steering Committee member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), considered his arrest “an attempt to silence his critical voice and prevent his compelling vision for emancipation and self determination from spreading further in the Palestinian public.” She called on human rights organizations to pressure the Israeli authorities for his immediate release and held those authorities fully responsible for his safety and well-being. His daughter, Haneen, who is on a short break from her studies at the American
University of Cairo, commented on her traumatizing experience of being held hostage by Israeli soldiers saying: “They tried to intimidate me by exploiting my deep agony over the idea of being denied my father again, but I firmly confronted them and reminded them of the fate of all colonial powers on our land. In response, their commander shouted that I was as ‘obstinate’ as my father.”

Gerarda Ventura, Vice President of the Euromed Platform of NGOs, expressed deep solidarity of European civil society with Palestinians like Ahmad Qatamesh, whom she called “one of the most sensitive and intellectual people I have ever met,” in their civil struggle for “freedom, justice and peace.” The Addameer-appointed lawyer who visited Qatamesh the day after his arrest stated that he was not
interrogated and that he was informed instead that he would get an administrative detention order. This indicates that the Shabak, again, lack any evidence to build a case against him and proves that
he was arrested indeed for his writings and peaceful activism and not any “security” reasons as was claimed by the Israeli authorities.
Praising Ahmad Qatamesh as “an excellent writer, principled researcher and devoted human rights advocate … struggling for freedom and respect of fundamental rights,” Palestinian Legislative Council
member Dr. Mustafa Barghouti condemned his arrest by Israel as “a shameless attempt at muzzling him in an unjustifiable attack on his freedom of expression.”

Ahmad Qatamesh’s family has appealed to international agencies and human rights organizations to work for releasing him and all the other Palestinian prisoners of conscience. They also called for ending the draconian policy of administrative detention, which is based on emergency regulations from the era of the British Mandate, as a blatant violation of freedoms and human rights, in particular the right to a fair and just due process.

PACBI has asked readers of this blog to contact their MPs, and/or other political representatives asking them to pressure Israel to release Ahmad Qatamesh and end the policy of administrative detention.

1 Also spelled “Katamesh” and “Qatamish.”

September 16, 2010

Call to Action: Please share these links with friends in California

Dear BWISP Members,

The inspiring Californian Israel Divestment Campaign needs the signatures of 434,000 Cali voters to qualify for a state-wide ballot. Petitions will be available soon so please share these links with your Californian friends. And take heart all – Netanyahu’s nephew is a Refusenik! Los Angeles Launches Nation’s First Israel Divestment Campaign

July 16, 2010

Call to support PACBI members conference travel expenses

Filed under: Boycott Israel,Call to Action — Naomi Foyle @ 1:42 pm
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I am forwarding this message from BRICUP – please help if you can.

Support is needed for a European initiative. AURDIP, BRICUP’s French sister organisation, is convening a conference on academic boycott in Paris this coming September 25-6. The aim is to bring together the several organisations in Italy, Catalonia, Britain and France now in existence, to forge relations with smaller academic groups elsewhere in Europe, and to improve our coordination and effectiveness. Academics from Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have already indicated their intention toparticipate.

Of course it is essential that PACBI should be directly involved in the conference. Three PACBI members, two already in Europe, one inRamallah, have indicated their wish to attend. They will be able to stay with French supporters, but shortage of funds could make it difficult for them to make the trip. Current estimates suggest that about £600 is needed to defray their basic travel costs.

BRICUP itself operates on a shoe-string, and does not have the funds to support this expense. Can you help? We hope that individualsupporters might be able to donate £20, but please don’t feel prevented from giving less (or more). We can’t be sure how much we willreceive, or precisely how much the PACBI expenses will be. If there is a deficit BRICUP will have to stump up. If there is a surplus we guarantee to put it to good use.

If you wish to support this activity please either send a cheque to the Treasurer at BRICUP, BM BRICUP, London WC1N 3XX, UK
make a bank transfer to BRICUP at Sort Code
08-92-99 Account Number 65156591
IBAN = GB20 CPBK 0892 9965 1565 91

So that we know it is on the way it would help if
you could drop a line to

July 8, 2010

Global BDS Day of Action: 9th July – get involved!

Filed under: Boycott Israel,Call to Action — Naomi Foyle @ 12:31 pm
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To mark the fifth anniversary since the call for BDS against Israel until it complies with international law, the Boycott National Committee has called on supporters to organise a BDS day of action

BWISP is pleased to re-post the call of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign  to  all its supporters  to mark the date by participating in the following actions –

1. Join supermarket actions: London lunchtime action outside Tesco’s, 1-2pm opposite Russell square (tube: Piccadilly line).

2. Supermarket phone in:

  • Phone Morrisons; 0845 611 6111 (Lines open 7.30 a.m. – 6.30 pm)
  • Phone Sainsbury: 0800 636 262 (lines open 8 a.m. – 7 pm)

For suggestions on questions to ask, and points to make during the phonecall follow this link >>

3. Attend the ‘Dates: Check the label’ launch: July 15th, 6.30pm

Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial St, London E1 6LS (nearest tube: Aldgate east)

RSVP to: Fo more information about the campaign and the e-launch on Monday 12th July at 8pm visit:

For more info visit:

BNC’s call to action:

Blog at