Press Statement - July 16, 2013

Margaret Atwood among new signatories to Canadian writers’ open letter to Israeli and Canadian leaders

– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –

Montreal, July 16, 2013 — Margaret Atwood and John Ralston Saul have added their names to a list of 91 writers who have signed an open letter to Israeli and Canadian leaders. The letter asks Israeli leaders to halt the imminent “firing zone” evictions of 1000 Palestinians from the Southern Hebron Hills, and the Prawer Plan for the forced displacement of 20000-70000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from the Negev. Yann Martel (The Life of Pi), Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes), Guy Vanderhaeghe (The Englishman’s Boy) , Nino Ricci, Rohinton Mistry and Jane Urquhart are also among the additions to an impressive list of well-known Canadian writers.

Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Vincent Lam, Lisa Moore, Lorna Crozier, Alberto Manguel, George Bowering, Edeet Ravel, Patrick Lane, Sheila Heti, Kyo Maclear, Dr. Gabor Maté, Michel Tremblay and Canada’s current Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah are among the best known of the original signatories. Dozens of nominees or winners of the Governor General’s literary awards, the Giller Prize, the Impac Dublin Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Man Booker Prize, and other honours, including the Order of Canada, figure in the list. (See text of letter and full list of signatories below.

“It’s nothing but ethnic cleansing,” said one of the signatories, Gabor Mate, in an interview with Postmedia News last week. Mate is a Jewish Canadian and Holocaust survivor, and said that personal conviction compelled him to co-sign the letter. “One thing I’ve learned is you don’t be quiet when things happen that shouldn’t happen,” Maté added in his interview with Postmedia.p>

“These writers’ compassion and clear-mindedness are refreshing at a time in which Canadian politicians seem to have abandoned all principles, especially when determining Middle East policy,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. CJPME points out that Canadian politicians are almost always silent when Israel violates international law by confiscating Palestinians’ land and establishing Israeli-only “settlements” in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPT). CJPME is appalled that a spokesman for Foreign Minister John Baird last week dismissed the Prawer Plan as an “internal” Israeli matter. “Given the sheer numbers of people slated for forced displacement—20,000 to 70,000 — it’s tragic that Canadian leaders are acquiescing to such cruelty,” adds Woodley. The Israeli arguments that they are dislocating the Bedouin “for their own good” are reminiscent of similar arguments once made for placing Canadian aboriginal children in residential schools.

The European Parliament and various Israeli human rights groups, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, have urged the Israeli Knesset to reject the Prawer Plan. B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence (a veterans’ group) and ACRI, as well as internationally prominent Israeli writers such as David Grossman (To the End of the Land) and Amoz Oz have energetically opposed the evictions of Palestinian villagers from the Southern Hebron Hills (oPt) to make way for an Israeli firing zone.

Professional journalists wishing to interview CJPME representatives and some of the signatories to the Canadian writers’ open letter may contact Patricia Jean at 438-380-5410 for further details.

For the complete text of the Canadian writers’ open letter to Israeli leaders, and the current list of signatories, see below.

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Canadian Writers’ Open Letter to Israeli and Canadian Leaders Regarding Impending Evictions of South Hebron Palestinians and Negev Bedouin

We, the undersigned, urge Israeli leaders to heed the call by David Grossman, Amos Oz, AB Yehoshua and 21 other Israeli writers to halt, immediately and permanently, the eviction of about 1000 Palestinians from their homes in various villages in South Hebron, West Bank (occupied Palestinian territory), in order to clear land for an Israeli army firing zone. These Palestinian villagers have inhabited their homes for several centuries. Evicting them would violate international law and cause extreme hardship.

We also urge you to reject the Begin-Prawer Plan currently before the Knesset which, if fully implemented, would result in the forced relocation of between 20,000 and 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from their homes in the Negev. This Plan would also result in the destruction of up to 35 “unrecognized” Bedouin villages. We ask you to heed the European Parliament’s call to withdraw the Plan, which violates the constitutional rights of the Bedouin to property, dignity and equality.

The actions planned are manifestly unjust, and will gravely damage Israel’s international reputation.

We also respectfully ask our Canadian leaders to take diplomatic steps to encourage Israeli leaders to heed this call. As the Israeli writers have said, “Each and every one of us bears the moral obligation to try and relieve the suffering.”

Sincerely yours,


Maggie Helwig
Edeet Ravel
Lorna Crozier
Shani Mootoo
Shyam Selvadurai
Farzana Doctor
Kyo Maclear
Stan Persky
Gabor Maté
Rawi Hage
Mike Hoolboom
Sheila Heti
Larissa Lai
Alberto Manguel
Patrick Lane
Isabel Huggan
Lee Maracle
Gary Geddes
Michael Ondaatje
Michel Marc Bouchard
John Greyson
Kerri Sakamoto
Charles Demers
Hiromi Goto
Fred Wah
David Bentley
Steven Heightonv
George Bowering
Camilla Gibb
Stuart Ross
Robert Priest
Terry Fallis
Michel Tremblay
Wayson Choy
Judy Rebick
David Bergen
Susan Musgrave
Lillian Allen
Monique Mojica
Allison Hedge Coke
Rita Wong
Guillermo Verdecchia
Christine Pountney
Stéphane Bourguignon
Vincent Lam
Zainab Amadahy
Gale Zoe Garnett
Marcus Youssef
Di Brandt
Maureen Hynes
Carmen Aguirre
Carmen Rodriguez
Cynthia Flood
Ken Klonsky
Sheila Stewart
Hugh Hazelton
Martha Roth
Joanne Arnott
Donna Morrissey
Gabriela Etcheverry
Honor Ford-Smith
Silver Donald Cameron
Maureen Scott Harris
Claire Wilkinson
Lisa Moore
Sandy Shreve
Sandra Campbell
Steven Galloway
Susan Crean
Yann Martel
David Chariandy
Martha Baillie
Karen Shenfeld
Lilly Barnes
John Gilmore
Robert Fantina
Kim Goldberg
Kate Braid
Heather Spear
s Margaret Atwood
Lawrence Hill
Guy Vanderhaeghe
Dionne Brand
Naomi Klein
Charles Foran
Jane Urquhart
Nino Ricci
Rohinton Mistry
John Ralston Saul
Michael Redhill
Katrina Onstad

(n.b. for further info on signatories, click here)


About CJPME - Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact Patricia Jean, 438 380 5410
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East www.cjpme.org

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