BERLIN – The Paris-based Arab Ambassadors’ Council pulled the plug last week on
a 15,000 euro literary prize award to the distinguished Algerian author Boualem
Sansal because he visited Israel in May, France 24 TV reported.
participated in a panel discussion with Daniel Ben-Simon, a Moroccan-born Labor
MK, at the third International Writers Festival at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in
Hamas termed the visit to Israel, “an act of treason against
the Palestinian people.”
A spokeswoman for the the Arab ambassadors told
France 24 that Sansal’s visit to Israel had forced their hand, but denied that
the Hamas statement had any bearing on the decision.
The spokeswoman, who
declined to be named, added, “The ambassadors are subject to the official
position of the Arab League which considers itself effectively in a state of war
According to France 24, Sansal had been due to receive the
Editions Gallimard Arabic Novel prize earlier in June for his book Rue Darwin.
The Editions Gallimard jury delivered Sansal his prize on Thursday but without
the 15,000 euros.
Sansal told France Inter radio on Friday that it was
“completely unacceptable” that the ambassadors should interfere with their own
He added that the Arab states were fixated on a
“nonexistent” conflict with Israel, saying that Algeria and the other Arab
countries had “shut themselves in a prison of intolerance.”
continued in the radio interview, “We have to do away with this dictatorial
approach. Yes, there are complicated relations with Israel, but we are not at
war with them. And if we really want to help the Palestinians, people like me
should be able to visit the country freely.”
Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, the
director of France Culture radio, resigned from the jury and called the link
between the Hamas statement and the withdrawal of the prize, “a sordid truth.” A
copy of his resignation letter can be read on the website of France’s Jewish
community umbrella organization CRIF (Conseil représentatif des institutions
juives de France).
According to an English-language translation from
France 24, Poivre d’Arvor wrote, “Between being nominated for the prize and
actually receiving it, Boualem Sansal visited Israel. Hamas immediately issued a
statement calling his presence an act of treason against the Palestinians. The
reaction of the Arab Ambassadors’ Council was a direct result of
The Jerusalem Post reported on Sansal’s visit in May. He told his
Israeli audience at the time, “I said, ‘What are we boycotting? This is a
country with a flag that flies in the institutions of the international