Montreal, June 17, 2014 — Three of Canada’s top writers are among the 16 internationally renowned artists who, after a recent visit to the West Bank, have issued a strongly worded statement. The declaration expresses the “utmost sadness and dismay” over Israel’s recent announcement of yet another 1500 illegal settlement units in the West Bank. The artists note that this move is particularly unfortunate at a moment when the Palestinians have formed a unity government.
The artists go on to “applaud the non-violent efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and express our solidarity with its demand that Israeli should comply with international law.” They specifically call on Israel to end the occupation, dismantle the “separation wall”, recognize the rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and respect the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.
Michael Ondaatje, four-time winner of Canada’s top literary prize, the Governor General’s award (GG), novelist Linda Spalding, herself a GG winner and respected editor, and Prism fiction prize winner Eliza Robertson are the Canadians who participated in the fact-finding visit and statement. Other signatories include American writers Teju Cole (Open City, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award) and Sapphire (Precious), British author Brigid Keenan, Egyptian-British author Adhaf Soueif (Map of Love) , and Danish writer Janne Teller.
“We welcome the artists’ statement, and hope that other Canadian artists will be inspired by their courage and ethical clarity,” says Thomas Woodley, president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a grassroots citizens’ group. CJPME notes that Canadian MPs have buried their heads in the sand while Israel continuously expands its “settlements” on occupied Palestinian land, and repeatedly violates international law vis-à-vis the Palestinians. CJPME shares the writers’ conviction that “additional settlements can be seen only as an act of aggression, showing utter disregard not just for the human and civil rights of the Palestinian people, but for international law.”
CJPME notes that in the summer of 2013, over 100 Canadian writers co-signed the Canadian Writers’ Open Letter to Israeli and Canadian leaders. That letter urged Israel to halt evictions of Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills (West Bank) and of Bedouins in Israel’s Negev desert. The signatories included Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Nino Ricci, Joseph Boyden, Yann Martel, Vincent Lam, Lisa Moore, John Ralston Saul, Lorna Crozier, Jane Urquhart and Michel Tremblay. The evictions were discontinued, at least temporarily, and the proposed legislation to forcibly relocate the Bedouin was withdrawn.
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