„Well, the Jews!“

Tapfer im Nirgendwo presents twelve authors whose names you needn’t take note of:

Sinan Antoon
Hayan Charara
Junot Díaz
Deborah Eisenberg
Ru Freeman
Randa Jarrar
Nancy Kricorian
Sarah Schulman
Kamila Shamsie
Linda Spalding
Eliot Weinberger
Dave Zirin 

They all belong to the more than one hundred and forty persons who signed a letter in May 2015 to protest a decision of PEN, worldwide association of writers, to award the magazine Charlie Hebdo with the PEN / Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award.

The letter stated that it’s indeed „clear and indisputable“ that the murder of twelve people in the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo „disgusting and tragic“ and that the cartoons „certainly didn’t deserve violence or murder”. But – there’s always this “but” – the signatories were also „concerned“ because „a portion of the French population who has been marginalized, who is marked by the legacy of French colonialism and includes a large percentage of devout Muslims,“ whereby cartoons in the magazine Charlie Hebdo may, as a „further humiliation“, “lead to more suffering.“ The undersigned designated the cartoons as anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb and anti-Arab.

As the artists at Charlie Hebdo were murdered because they published cartoons of Mohammed, four people were killed by an accomplice merely because they were Jewish. The killer’s name was Amedy Coulibaly. He went straight to a Jewish supermarket, took hostages and killed four of them. Then he called the French television station BFMTV and directed the station to broadcast his demands. One of the station’s journalists asked him: „Why did you choose that shop?“ The answer came promptly: „Well, the Jews!“

The signatories of the May 2015 letter not only kicked the murdered artists at Charlie Hebdo in their heads as they lie blood-soaked on the ground, they’ve also kicked at murdered Jews!

Along with more than a hundred other writers, including Alice Walker and Angela Davis, they’ve signed an open letter in which they’ve also asked that the US-PEN Center should reject any support from the Israeli Embassy, ​​which is one of the sponsors of the annual PEN Center associated World Voices festival. The letter states:

„It is very unfortunate that the festival has chosen to accept support from the Israeli government.“

It’s quite odd that these heroes of the pen single out Israel. Israel is the only country in the Middle East, where none of the books written by PEN Center authors are prohibited. Israel is also the country in the Middle East where PEN authors can gain entry, while neighboring Middle Eastern countries deny entry to authors either because they’re simply Jewish or because the government doesn’t approve of their political views. Some members would face persecution in those countries, because they are gay or emancipated in a manner deemed undesirable by authorities there. Israel is a beacon of freedom in the Middle East. In the entire region, only in Israel is there freedom of art, of the press and of expression.

What reason could there possibly be that these people are signatories to a letter against Israel? The answer is likely to be the same as that of Amedy Coulibaly in January 2015: „Well, the Jews!“

(Translation: William Wires)

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