Israel’s Colonial Conquest at Mexican Book Fair Draws Protests

Protest Israel’s honoured status at FIL!

Published on 12 November 2013
Written by Connie Hackbarth, Alternative Information Center (AIC)

 Israel was selected as guest of honour at the 2013 Guadalajara International Book Fair/Image: fil.com.mxIsrael was selected as guest of honour at the 2013 Guadalajara International Book Fair/Image: fil.com.mx

Mexico’s Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), slated for 30 November – 8 December, selected Israel as its guest of honour for this year’s event. A hasbara dream for Israel, the fair’s guest of honour “brings to the city its publishing industry and literary presence, as well as the best of its culture, including the performing and visual arts, music, cinema, gastronomy and folklore.” “Each night,” the Fair’s website notes “the Guest of Honour offers a performance at FIL’s Foro as well as several performing venues throughout the city that host events in an effort to display and achieve a transforming experience for the public.”

Prominent intellectuals in Mexico publicly condemned the selection of Israel as guest of honour, writing in the Mexican press that the creation of Israel “caused the tragedy of the Palestinian people, condemned to exile, oppression and dispossession…Coexistence was replaced by a state founded on ethnic and cultural exclusion which has denied the legitimate right of the Palestinians to a state and a territory.”

Signatories of the statement include Néstor Braunstein, an Argentine exile in Mexico and one of Latin America’s most prominent psychoanalysts, and Margit Frenk, the daughter of Jewish German refugees in Mexico and world expert in Spanish literature and Miguel Cervantes. 

Israel understands the importance of this honoured position, which according to fair organisers has over the years “consolidated the Book Fair’s international and multicultural character.” Israeli President Shimon Peres himself will be present to open the Israeli pavilion.

Statement signatories requested that a “pluralistic and representative roundtable on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” be conducted during this year’s fair, and that Palestine be invited as the honoured guest in 2015. It is unclear at this stage if the fair organisers have responded positively to this public request.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reports that the official Israeli delegation to FIL numbers in the dozens. In addition to authors and poets, delegation members include musicians,  dancers, scientists and academics. In the delegation there is one Druze member, Israel’s ambassador to Norway, but not one Palestinian citizen of Israel. This is despite Israel’s promise on the fair’s website that its delegation “will be broad, diverse, and representative of all generations and trends.”

Israel media reported in 2012 that then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman appointed Druze Naim Araidi as ambassador to Norway as part of an effort “designed to improve world opinion of Israel.”

Palestinian author Oudeh Basharat told Haaretz that he finds composition of the delegation as a “gross and ugly expression of the definition of the state as Jewish. If the Arab citizens are requested to adopt this definition, they thus approve that they are second fiddle in the state.”  

 

A spokesperson from Israel’s foreign ministry, responsible for the delegation, told Haaretz that only authors translated into Spanish were invited to participate, and that Palestinian author Said Kashua had declined to take part. When asked about composition of the other delegation members, the spokesperson said they were selected by a “private Mexican producer who came to Israel and selected the artistic programme according to artistic and financial considerations.”

In writing about Israel’s selection as FIL’s guest of honour, Haaretz did not translate information about the delegation composition into English.  

You may contact FIL’s General Director, Marisol Schulz Manaut on marisol.schulz@fil.com.mx to express outrage that the colonial state of Israel is being assisted in whitewashing its crimes against the Palestinian people through events such as FIL. Additional contact information for FIL officials may be found here.

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