Rejecting calls to boycott Israel, Gordimer urges talks with Hamas

South African Nobel laureate to speak at int'l conference in J'lem.

hamas funeral 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
hamas funeral 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Ahead of her arrival from South Africa next week, Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer urged Israel and Hamas to hold a direct dialogue, "for the very survival of the peoples of Palestine and Israel." "Hamas, despite its declaration denying the right of Israel to exist must be part of these talks, for the very survival of Palestine and Israel, for them to be at peace in full independent states within justly agreed boundaries," Gordimer said in a statement faxed to The Jerusalem Post. Rejecting calls to boycott an international writers' conference in Jerusalem coinciding with Israel's 60th anniversary, Gordimer stressed that she was not invited by the Israeli government, but by the event's organizers. "What such a meeting of writers is for is to assert vitally that whatever violent, terrible, bitter and urgent chasms of conflict lie between peoples, the only solution for peace and justice exist and must begin with both sides talking to one another," she said. Gordimer, 84, a Jewish liberal who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, is famous for her anti-apartheid activities and writing. Some 15 foreign and 40 Israeli writers are scheduled to attend the International Writers Festival from May 11-15, including Amos Oz, who will share a stage with Gordimer on May 12. Gordimer urged Israelis and Palestinians to learn a lesson from the end of apartheid in South Africa. "Let us not forget that Nelson Mandela went, escorted from and returned to Pollsmoor Prison, for a face-to-face meeting with apartheid president P.W. Botha," Gordimer said. She said she deplored many of the Israeli government's actions. "I, along with nearly half the population of Israel, do not support the present government of their country and deplore many of its actions." On the telephone from her Johannesburg home, Gordimer declined to comment further on her decision. "I have made a statement about my coming to Israel and my impending visit, and I don't want to comment further until I get there," Gordimer told the Post. A range of academics from around the world have urged Gordimer not to travel to Israel, and join in a "cultural boycott" of the Jewish state. One of the appeals came from Dr. Haidar Eid, an English literature lecturer at Gaza's Al-Aqsa University, who studied in South Africa and has citizenship of that country as a result of his marriage to a South African. Calling on Gordimer to "stand against Israel's apartheid," Eid said he had taught her anti-apartheid novels to his Palestinian students, praised her support for sanctions against apartheid South Africa and urged her to reconsider her trip to Israel. "The news of your conscious decision to take part in the 'Israel at 60' celebrations has reached us, students and residents of Gaza, as both a painful surprise and a glaring example of a hypocritical intellectual double standard," he wrote. "My students, psychologically and emotionally traumatized and already showing early signs of malnutrition as a result of the genocidal policy of the country whose birth you intend on celebrating, demand an explanation." But Gordimer said that as well as seeing Israelis, she also planned to meet Palestinians in Ramallah and Jerusalem, and visit Al-Quds University. She noted that she had endorsed the "Not in our name" letter issued by South African Minister for Intelligence Services Ronnie Kasrils and other prominent Jewish figures against Israel's occupation of the territories.