Monday, January 28, 2008


Culture cannot save Israel, Shabtai and more on the Turin Israel Extravaganza

The Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai says “no” also to the Book Fair of Paris. Here is the letter he sent to negatively respond to the invitation of the director of the book fair, dedicated, as is the Turin edition, to Israel.

Dear Edna,
Thank you for your letter.
I do not believe that a State that maintains an occupation, committing on a daily basis crimes against civilians, deserves to be invited to any kind of cultural week. That is, it is anti-cultural; it is a barbarian act masked as culture in the most cynical way. It manifests support for Israel, and even to France that sustains the occupation. And I do not want to participate.
Kind regards,
Aharon Shabtai
7 December, 2007

Culture - Aharon Shabtai

The mark of Cain won't sprout

from a soldier who shoots
at the head of a child
on a knoll by the fence
around a refugee camp-
-for beneath his helmet,
conceptually speaking,
his head is made of cardboard.
On the other hand,
the officer has read The Rebel;
his head is enlightened,
and so he does not believe
in the mark of Cain.
He's spent time in museums,
and when he aims his rifle at a boy
as an ambassador of Culture,
he updates and recycles
Goya's etchings
and Guernica.


Dear Valentino,
I think that for you to have expressed your hasty negative judgment on the proposal of boycotting of the International Book Fair of Turin this year, which has decided to choose as its guest of honour the State of Israel in the year that marks the 60th since its birth, you could and should have used less banal and more convincing arguments. Your fine distinction between the (just) boycott of Apartheid South Africa and the (wrong) boycott of Apartheid Israel is of a subtlety that is even somewhat dangerous to interpret. You write, with a particularly insufferable tone, that “with the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel, the Palestinian question inevitably reopens”. In reality, the Palestinian question has been open for 60 years and has never been closed. The State of Palestine, which itself was foreseen by the UN in December 1947, never saw the light of day, not even on that minuscule 22% in which the Palestinian population has been rounded up into after the Nakba, that is, the Catastrophe, that is, the ethnic cleansing of 1948. And it is really strange that you, in order to justify these 60 years of oppression, occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing bring in Stalin, notorious organiser of Gulags. It is just as strange that you cite the fact that in the Warsaw Ghetto the last Jews who were the protagonists of a heroic armed resistance (that right to resistance that the cowardly and hypocritical European governments deny to the Palestinians who are occupied militarily and who have been mistreated for decades by Israel), sung the Internationale before being massacred. Those heroes, certainly, would have had nothing whatsoever to do with a State, the State of Israel, that for more than 60 years denies every kind of right to the Palestinian people, that forces them to undergo cruel incarceration in a ghetto and constant genocide. Not in their names, please! Hence, there is nothing to celebrate: next 15 May will be a sad and tragic date, it is the sign of a historical failure and a catastrophe that unfolds day after day. It is with a heavy heart that I write this to you, deeply troubled by your brief article and, I add, aware that the newspaper you edit is one of the very few non-embedded voices and that through your correspondents from Palestine, it is able to still communicate that tragic truth without compromise, taking the side of the victims and not of the persecutors no matter what ethnic group or religion they belong to.

Vincenzo Tradardi
ISM Italia
Parma 24 January 2008
Translated from Italian by Mary Rizzo, member of Tlaxcala, network of translators for linguistic diversity.

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