I'm no fan of PEN America, an organization of the U.S. corporate publishing establishment that purports to champion literary liberty but actually operates for the most part as a bourgeois-liberal mouthpiece of U.S. imperialism. Wielding its heartiest denunciations against socialist countries. Aligning itself with vile racist anti-Muslim journalism. Generally letting U.S. and allied political imprisonment off the hook. I've written about this several times in earlier years on this blog. Most recently here, and here, in 2013, when misogynist extraordinaire Philip Roth was awarded for his aid to counterrevolution in Czechoslovakia.
So count me as unsurprised, though nonetheless appalled, at PEN's latest offense. The organization lists the Embassy of Israel as one of the "champions"--a level of sponsorship, no doubt financial--of the upcoming 2016 incarnation of its annual World Voices Festival. The apartheid state's embassy appears on the festival program a second time as "sponsor" of one of the author panels.
This outrage--featuring as a sponsor, which is in effect a promotion or advertisement, the U.S. representative of a government whose hallmarks are racism, torture, political imprisonment, denial of all basic human rights to the indigenous Palestinian nation, an apartheid settler state, a government that is in its very essense everything this fake-pro-freedom organization claims to oppose--has been noted. A few days ago a letter headlined "Don't Partner with the Israeli Government: Israeli Government Is No 'Champion' of Freedom of Expression" was sent to the PEN American Center. The letter calls on PEN to "reject support from the Embassy of Israel," and goes on to list some of the Zionist state's offenses.
Besides Alice Walker, long a strong supporter of the Palestinian struggle, signers include acclaimed Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa, Junot Diaz, Angela Davis, Max Blumenthal, Hari Kunzru, Sarah Schulman, China Mieville, Kamila Shamsie, Randa Jarrar, Richard Ford, Marilyn Hacker and many other writers and poets. More names are being added daily. I signed. Writers: add your name as well. Here's the letter, with info about signing on.