London (QNN)- More than 250 writers published Monday an open letter to defend Kamila Shamsie after a German literary prize withdrew an award over her support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against ‘Israel’.
The open letter, which was published in the London Review of Books, the writers, who include Noam Chomsky, Amit Chaudhuri, William Dalrymple, Yann Martel, Jeanette Winterson and Ben Okri, say that the Nelly Sachs prize has chosen to “punish an author for her human rights advocacy”.
The signatories also included Michael Ondaatje, a former winner of the award, Arundhati Roy, JM Coetzee and Sally Rooney.
The judges had initially chosen Shamsie’s work that “builds bridges between societies” for a €15,000 prize, but changed their minds on learning she backed the BDS movement, saying that her “political positioning to actively participate in the cultural boycott … contrasts with the claim of the Nelly Sachs prize to proclaim and exemplify reconciliation among peoples and cultures”.
The letter asks: “What is the meaning of a literary award that undermines the right to advocate for human rights, the principles of freedom of conscience and expression and the freedom to criticise? … Without these, art and culture become meaningless luxuries.”
In a statement on the decision, Shamsie, winner of the UK’s Women’s prize for fiction, branded it “a matter of great sadness”. She added: “It is a matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled 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 Nelly Sachs Prize, named after a Jewish poet, is given every two years by the German city of Dortmund.