The German city of Dortmund has gone back on its decision to award British-Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie the Nelly Sachs Prize for literature because of her support for an anti-Israel boycott movement, Middle East Eye reported on Wednesday.
Sachs was a Jewish poet and Nobel laureate, and the award honours works that celebrate “tolerance, respect and reconciliation”. It also has a €15,000 (approximately Rs 11.80 lakh) prize money.
The German city council’s announcement came days after the prize’s jurors said they were rethinking their decision to present Shamsie the award. Shamsie – who supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement started by Palestinian activists opposed to Israel’s occupation of their territory – was named the winner on September 10.
The jury started reviewing its decision after a German blogger pointed out Shamsie’s support for the movement that advocates economic and cultural boycott of Israel for alleged human rights abuses of Palestinians by the country’s security forces.
In May, Germany’s Parliament had condemned the BDS movement as anti-Semitic and passed a motion criticising it. It had also accused the boycott movement of making use of “patterns and methods” employed by Nazis during the Holocaust.
The BDS movement responded to the criticism by accusing Germany of being aware of “Israel’s crimes of military occupation, ethnic cleansing, siege, and apartheid”.
Shamsie recently rejected an offer to get one of her works published in Israel, Spiegel magazine reported last week.
After it was reported that the Dortmund council was rethinking its decision, the writer reportedly asked it to find a replacement for her. “I am quite clear that there is no contradiction between supporting BDS and receiving this award,” Shamsie told Middle East Eye in an email on Tuesday. “I’ve refused to have my books published by any publishing houses in Israel who aren’t BDS compliant – and unfortunately that appears to be all publishing houses in Israel.”
She also claimed that she was not boycotting Hebrew or refusing to allow her novels to be translated into the language. She pointed out that the jury’s decision came even as Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to annex one-third of the occupied West Bank.
Shamsie has often written about her support for the BDS movement and was one of the 100 signatories of a letter published in The Guardian in February 2015 that supported a cultural boycott of Israel.
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