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February 24, 2017 5:44 pm

Israeli Spokesman: Attempts by BDS Movement to Paint False Image of Success Indicate ‘Desperation and Lack of Integrity’

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

A BDS protest. Photo: Takver via Wikimedia Commons.

A BDS protest. Photo: Takver via Wikimedia Commons.

An Israeli government representative slammed the BDS movement on Friday for falsely implying that a prominent US literary society had decided to boycott the Jewish state.

Shimon Mercer-Wood — spokesman and consul for media affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York — was referring to an Adalah-NY press release that heralded the lack of Israeli government funding for PEN America’s 2017 World Voices Festival — an annual New York event that Israel had been a sponsor of in recent years.

Adalah-NY claimed that this was the result of “a campaign and a call supported by leading literary figures asking the organization to reject Israeli government sponsorship.”

PEN America has faced pressure from pro-Palestinian activists to forgo Israeli funding. However, there is no evidence that BDS had anything to do with this year’s sponsorship setup and PEN America has publicly stated its opposition to boycotts.

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“Attempts to single-out and discriminate against one country and its people, by restricting freedom of speech and stifling cultural dialogue, are occasionally made even in a multicultural and tolerant city like NYC,” Mercer-Wood told The Algemeiner. “Fortunately, PEN has made very clear its opposition to such attempts. The repeated and pathetic attempts of the so-called ‘boycott movement’ at creating an illusion to the contrary speak to their desperation and lack of integrity.”

On its website, PEN America has a statement critical of boycotts. “PEN is an organization founded on the principle that the unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations is essential for human coexistence and understanding,” the statement said. “It believes that literature, works of art, and ideas must remain common currency among people despite political or international upheavals, and that political and national passions should not prevent or interrupt intellectual and cultural exchange.”

“In this spirit, PEN American Center emphatically opposes any efforts to inhibit the free international exchange of literature, art, information, or knowledge, including academic and cultural boycotts,” the statement continued. “We believe that such boycotts threaten the free expression rights not only of those associated with the boycotted institutions but also of those in the countries where the boycott is practiced, and that the universally guaranteed right of all to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers includes the right to engage in direct, face-to-face discussions, debates, challenges, and collaborations.”

Last year, the chairman and director of the World Voices Festival explained how foreign sponsorship of the event works, writing in a letter, “In the dozen years since its founding, PWVF has received funding from many sources, including several dozen governments that have provided individual writers from their own countries with travel and other expenses. This includes the subsidies received for PWVF 2016.”

“The diversity of our funding helps to ensure that programming decisions are our own,” they went on to say. “‎It is important to note that national sponsorships of festival writers do not imply any endorsement of those governments’ policies, and have no bearing on PEN’s free expression advocacy decisions.”

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