Arab states withdraw prize over Israel visit

Paris-based Arab Ambassadors’ Council withdraws 15,000 euro from Algerian author Boualem Sansal for his May visit to Israel.

July 1, 2012 03:18
2 minute read.
Boualem Sansal

Boualem Sansal_370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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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.

Sansal 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 Jerusalem.

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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 with Israel.”

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 jury’s decision.

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.”

Sansal 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 this.”

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 community.’”

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