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Arab world boycotts Paris fair

Latest update : 2008-03-13

This year Paris book fair has honoured Israeli literature. A choice that was not accepted by many Arab organisations who openly boycott the event.

The Paris Book Fair opens on Thursday under the cloud of a boycott by seven Muslim countries in protest against the choice of Israel as guest of honour at the French-speaking world's largest literary event.

The international fair, featuring 39 Israeli writers and publishers, was due to be officially opened by visiting Israeli
President Shimon Peres, who described the boycott as "the most ridiculous thing I have heard in my life".

Algeria, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen announced in advance they would shun the fair in response to a call from the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO).

The Morocco-based organisation said last month it had urged the boycott to protest against Israel's actions against

"The crimes against humanity Israel is perpetrating in the Palestinian territories ... constitute, in themselves, a strong
condemnation of Israel, making it unworthy of being welcomed as a guest of honour," ISESCO said in a statement.

It pointed out that Israel was being honoured in the year that the Jewish state marked the 60th anniversary of its creation.

Among Israeli writers expected to take part were Amos Oz, David Grossman and Sayed Kashua, an Israeli Arab novelist who writes in Hebrew.

Peres, on a state visit to France, said on Wednesday: "I am against the boycott of books ... Books are written to awaken
reflection, to try to make sense of ideas."

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, David Martinon, spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy, said the boycott was
regrettable, adding: "There is nothing to fear from books."

The organisers said the object of the fair was to honour literature and denied that Israel had been chosen because of its 60th anniversary.

Christine de Mazieres, speaking for the French Publishers' Association which organises the fair, said last week: "What is
happening in the Middle East is very sad, but it is not linked to our event."

She added all the countries that had withdrawn were aware Israel was being honoured when they signed up and many of the Israeli writers taking part favoured a Palestinian state.

A similar controversy is brewing about the May book fair in Turin, Italy, which is also highlighting Israeli works.

Date created : 2008-03-13