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.



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.

December 16, 2013

The UK Human Rights Act: in support of cultural and academic boycott?

Best of the season to all BWISP members, followers and blog readers. Updates have been sporadic this year, but we continue to stand firm in our commitment to academic and cultural boycott, ready to campaign actively should British writers and Israel come under the media spotlight again. In the meantime, as a little Christmas present, I send you Article 10 of the UK Human Rights Act, which seems to me to enshrine a basic argument in favour of the boycott – that freedom of expression involves the responsibility to protect the freedom of others, and if this responsibility is spurned, then penalties may be justly incurred. Many of us will have been arguing this in principle to friends and colleagues, explaining the many ways Israeli HE institutions and cultural funding bodies work to exclude and silence Palestinians; if you are not already aware of the Act it may be useful for you to cite it in future. If any lawyers can comment further – please do!


The UK Human Rights Act 1998

Article 10 Freedom of expression

[my emphasis]

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

November 2, 2012

The 95th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration

Filed under: Uncategorized — Naomi Foyle @ 10:49 am
Tags: , , ,
This letter, organised by Haringey Justice for Palestine, with the support of five BWISP members, appeared today in The Guardian.
Today is the 95th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, when the then foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, signed a fateful letter to Lord Rothschild announcing that the British government “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people”. Britain thus gave the Zionist movement carte blanche to transform the overwhelmingly Arab state of Palestine into a Jewish one.
To further this aim, from 1920 onwards, Britain encouraged the mass immigration into Palestine of hundreds of thousands of European Jews, expressly against the wishes of the majority population. As Palestine descended into chaos, the British washed their hands of their responsibility for the mess they had caused and stood by while hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were terrorised into fleeing their homeland, as Palestine was transformed into Israel.
We call for the British government to acknowledge publicly the responsibility of previous British administrations from 1917 to 1948 for the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians, when over threequarters were expelled deliberately and systematically by the Zionist army. Most of them remain refugees today without redress. The truth about their expulsions is still not officially established, since Israel officially denies any responsibility for it.
Ghada Karmi
Tim Llewellyn
Karl Sabbagh
John Rose
Kamel Hawwash
Naomi Foyle
Mona Baker
Mike Marqusee
Seni Seneviratne

October 30, 2011

Poetic Injustice: Remi Kanazi UK Tour!

BWISP is excited!  After his storming performance at the Southbank last November, Remi Kanazi hits the UK again, with a three week tour kicking off November 12th in London:

Poetic Injustice

an evening of political performance poetry

with Remi Kanazi & Special Guests

Zita Holbourne, Rafeef Ziadah, Omar Offendum

Sat 12 Nov 2011, 7.15pm// Tabernacle, Powis Square, London W11 2AY

REMI KANAZI Palestinian-American Performance poet, writer, and activist based in New York City, Remi is the editor of Poets For Palestine and the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine. His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world and his poetry has taken him across North America and the Middle East. He recently appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International at London’s Southbank. He is a recurring writer in residence and advisory board member for the Palestine Writing Workshop.

RAFEEF ZIADAH is a Canadian-Palestinian spoken word artist and activist. Her debut CD Hadeel is dedicated to Palestinian youth, who still fly kites in the face of F16 bombers, who still remember the names if their villages in Palestine and still hear the sound of Hadeel (cooing of doves) over Gaza.

OMAR OFFENDUM is a Syrian-American Hip hop artist, author and producer- born in the KSA, raised in the USA , and repeatedly hassled by the TSA. His solo release in 2010 was affectionately dubbed “SyrianamericanA”.

ZITA HOLBOURNE is a poet, artist and activist. Former member of Brothaman Poetry Collective she campaigns for equality, freedom, justice, and democracy through activism, art and poetry.

Book here.

October Early Bird Concessions / NUS £6.00

October Early Bird General Admission £8.00

Doors open: 7.15pm – Show starts at 8pm

N.B. Concessions are those on job seekers allowance or full time students (JSA/NUS cards must be shown to the box office).

Remi Kanazi UK Tour:

Nov 12: London

Nov 13 London

Nov 14: Cambridge

Nov 15: Brighton

Nov 16: Portsmouth

Nov 17: Southampton

Nov 18: Dorset

Nov 19: Bristol

Nov 20: Bristol

Nov 21: Oxford

Nov 22: Birmingham

Nov 23: Liverpool

Nov 24: Nottingham

Nov 25: Leicester

Nov 26: Leeds

Nov 27: Newcastle

Nov 28: Manchester

Nov 29: London

For more information on the above dates contact:

Telephone: 020 7700 6198

October 4, 2011

Palestinian Literature: A Short Reading List

New to the field of Palestinian literature?  This short list will get you started.  In future, titles will be added on a Page on this blog.


In Search of Fatima.  Ghada Karmi.  Verso, 2002.

This hugely successful account of how the author’s childhood in Jerusalem became, in 1948,  a lifetime in exile is much more than a gripping personal narrative.   All the major events of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are covered here, by a Palestinian woman who grew up in Golders Green, and from wanting nothing more than to ‘fit in’ with her new surroundings, become one of the world’s leading  commentators on Palestine.

Palestine: A Personal History.  Karl Sabbagh.   Grove Atlantic, 2006.

Sabbagh, whose father was the lead broadcaster for the BBC Arabic Service during WWII, here interweaves the literary and political history of Palestine, with his own family’s story, in particular his father’s experience during the partition of his country and creation of Israel.

Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape.  Raja Shehadeh.   (Profile Books 2008).

A moving and beautifully written account of the author’s walks in his native hills, spanning 27 years, and witnessing the devastating impact of illegal Israeli settlements on the people and the landscape of the West Bank.  Winner of the Orwell Prize 2008.

The Other Side of Israel.  Susan Nathan.  Harper Perennial 2006.

Nathan, a South African Jew who ‘returned’ to Israel to live, quickly became aware that Arabs in Israel were discriminated against in ways that echoed the treatments of Blacks under apartheid.  She chose to act in solidarity with Palestinians; this is her highly researched yet personal story of being a Jew living in an Arab town in Israel.


The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.  Ilan Pappe.  Oneworld Press, 2004.

A detailed, academic yet compassionate and very readable account by a leading Israeli historian of the founding of Israel.  Explains the history and ideology of the Zionist movement, and gives a month by month account of the ethnic cleansing of over 500 Palestinian villages, major towns and cities.

Married to Another Man.  Ghada Karmi.    (Pluto Press 2007).

Ghada Karmi is a medical doctor and a leading Palestinian writer.  This is her detailed, lucid and eloquent account of the impact of Israel on the Arab world, and its relationship with America and Europe.  The book is also a informed defense of the One State solution.

Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.  Joel Kovel.    (Pluto Press 2007.)

The author is the Jewish American former leader of the US Green Party.  This book is a sustained critique of Zionism as ‘state-sponsored racism’, and a compelling argument for the One State solution.  The author has particular insights into the psychology of Zionism, and the state of denial that the ideology attempts to engender in Jews.

Palestine Inside Out.  Saree Makdisi.   (W.W. Norton.  2008).

The author, a Palestinian who grew up in Lebanon, is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA.  This is his highly articulate and informed account of the mistreatment of Palestinians within Israel; also his analysis of the failed peace process, during which Israel has never acknowledged the rights of the refugees it created in 1948.  Another educated plea for a One State solution.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.  Omar Barghouti.   Haymarket Books.  2011.

The author, a dance choreographer turned key architect of the BDS movement, argues the case for the Palestinian global campaign to boycott Israeli goods, academia and culture; divest from Israeli institutions; and sanction the Israeli government.  Particularly good for artists to read, as it answers any questions you might have about cultural boycott.


In general,  BWISP highly recommends poetry by Mahmoud Darwish, Mourid Barghouti, Naomi Shehab-Nye, Suhair Hammad and Remi Kanazi.  Mini-reviews forthcoming!

Modern Poetry in Translation: Palestine [third Series of MPT, Number 9]

Still available on the MPT website.  A collection of poetry and essays on Palestine-Israel by a great range of Arab, Jewish and international writers.

April 29, 2011

The Bookseller of Jerusalem

Filed under: Uncategorized — Naomi Foyle @ 12:50 pm
Tags: , ,

Readers of this blog will remember that delegates to the Jerusalem Book Fair often meet informally at East Jerusalem’s landmark 19th-century hotel the American Colony. For 16 years the hotel has been home to a renowned bookshop run by Palestinian Munther Fahmi. Now, as Jonathan Cook explains, thanks to Israel’s racist residency laws and demographic goals, Israeli officials have told Munther Fahmi that he is no longer welcome in either Israel or Jerusalem. BWISP members have added their names to the call to Israel to reconsider this particular decision. The on-going international BDS campaign is the best hope of changing the oppressive political context in which it was made.

February 14, 2011

Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace: Press Release

2011, February 14th
For immediate release

The Israeli Parliament will hold tomorrow a hearing on the Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill – The bill will criminalize criticism and action against Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israeli organization, Coalition of Women for Peace: “This is a step up in anti-democratic lawmaking in the Knesset.”

(Tel Aviv, Israel ) Tomorrow, Tuesday 15.2, the Knesset committee of Constitution and Law will hold a first hearing on the so-called Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill. In practice, the bill criminalizes a variety of political activities that object to Israel ‘s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, under the claim that such activities may encourage or support a boycott of Israel .

The bill was proposed last summer and passed a preliminary vote. It was initiated by right leaning MKs, including: Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), David Rotem (Israel Beitenu), and Daliya Izzik (Kadima).

The bill’s hazy wording causes concern, as it broadens the scope of prohibited activities that it defines as “aiding and abating” boycott, such as:

· Publishing information about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories – will become illegal.

· Monitoring settlement expansion and publishing settlement maps – will become illegal.

· A Facebook “Like” for a page that supports BDS – will become illegal.

Eilat Maoz, Coalition of Women for Peace Coordinator: “This is a step up in which the government isn’t satisfied with persecution of left wing organizations, but tries to make leftist protest illegal and silence its citizens. It’s a government that’s afraid of democratic debate, because such a debate will expose the disagreement of the public with the destructive policies of the occupation and the settlements.”

Rina Shapira, coordinator of FORA, Feminist Organizing of Russian-speaking Activists:

“This dangerous bill reminds us of the silencing and censorship phenomena that are all too reminiscent of other regimes, such as the Soviet regime. We call on the Knesset members to stop the law making process of this anti-democratic law.”

For further details:

Tamara Traubman, Media and Communications Coordinator, Coalition of Women for Peace: 050-8575730

Roy Yalin: 054-4654431

December 2, 2010

The Limits of Words: Boycott Haifa Literary Festival

Filed under: Uncategorized — Naomi Foyle @ 12:24 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The City of Haifa Words Without Limits Festival is running from Dec 1-4 2010. According to the Israeli Tourist Board the festival features ‘the participation of 45 international and local writers, Jews and Arabs’, and addresses ‘issues of human rights, creation in conflict zones, poetry readings and more’.

The festival is organised by the City of Haifa and PEN International and is funded by the Israeli government. The Palestinian Writers Union are calling all those against Israeli aggression and the Israeli Occupation of Palestine to take a stand in boycotting this festival.

BWISP supports the call of the Palestinian Writers Union, and urges all writers of conscience to refuse to participate in festivals and conferences that, with pale words of peace, whitewash the grave injustices and daily hardships and humiliations that the state of Israel visits on the Palestinian people. BWISP supports professional visits of foreign writers to Israel only if they are invited by individuals and/or organisations that take an open and active stance against the Occupation.

Blog at