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Pakistani writer’s literary award withdrawn for her anti-Israel stance

Famed and internationally recognized British-Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie was awarded Nelly Sachs award this month. However, the jury reversed its decision to award her the €15,000 (£13,000) Nelly Sachs prize because of her pro-Palestine activism.

Kamila is an active supporter of BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) Israel campaign. She termed it as a matter of outrage that the jury considers the anti-Israel campaign a ‘shame’ despite their atrocities in the region.

On September 6th, the eight-member jury has unanimously taken the decision to award Pakistani writer with the prestigious award due to her work, which they said: “builds bridges between societies”. However, upon learning about her vocal support for Palestine, the jury cancelled the original vote and stepped back.

“With its vote for the British writer Kamila Shamsie … the jury honoured the author’s outstanding literary work,” they said.

“At that time, despite prior research, the members of the jury were not aware that the author has been participating in the boycott measures against the Israeli government for its Palestinian policies since 2014.”

The Guardian

“Shamsie’s political positioning is contradictory to the statutory objectives of the award”

The award is named after German-Jewish Nobel laureate Nelly Sachs and is awarded to the writers promoting “tolerance and reconciliation”  by diminishing the cultural barriers among people. However, it states that the life and work of the author should be considered in the jury’s reasoning as well.

According to the jury, Kamila’s political positioning is radical and extremist. Her advocacy of Israel’s boycott and it does not transcend borders. They reasoned that such a ban would impact ordinary Israeli as well and hence, opposed the tolerant nature of the award.

Kamila said that it is a “matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modeled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust”.

The writer and novelist Ahdaf Soueif declared the jury’s decision as “a manifestation of a new McCarthyism – on an international scale”. Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship,  said that it is deeply saddening to see Kamila suffering for simply having an opinion of her own.

Furthermore, the city of Dortmund refused to publish her statement with the press release as well.

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