Pak-British author stripped of award for pro-Palestine views

Lawrence Kim
September 21, 2019

The jury of the Nelly Sachs Prize has rescinded the literary honour for 2019 awarded to the acclaimed novelist Kamila Shamsie citing her support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as one that is in "contradiction to the statutory objectives of the award", according to an Al Jazeera report.

But judges of the award, which is funded by Dortmund city council, said they had reversed their decision - which came after a complaint by right-wing blog Ruhrbarone.

Despite acknowledging the author's "outstanding literary work", the jury made a decision to withdraw the award, on the basis that "Shamsie's political positioning to actively participate in the cultural boycott as part of the BDS campaign...is clearly in contradiction to the statutory objectives of the award".

The German city of Dortmund had announced earlier this month that this year's Nelly Sachs Prize would go to the British Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie.

Shamsie took to Twitter to express her disappointment.

She told Middle East Eye that she asked the jurors to include her response in their statement but they refused.

The BDS movement is a Palestine-led campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel to put pressure on it for respecting human rights in Palestine. Shamsie has been an active supporter of the movement since 2014 and in the past called for a cultural boycott of Israel.

The same report quotes her saying, "In the just-concluded Israeli elections, Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to annex up to one third of the West Bank, in contravention of worldwide law, and his political opponent Benny Gantz's objection to this was that Netanyahu had stolen his idea; this closely followed the killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli forces, which was condemned as "appalling" by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process", she said.

German lawmakers approved a resolution in May denouncing BDS as "anti-Israel" and describing its methods as anti-Semitic.

Support soon poured in for the London-based author on social media.

Kamila Shamsie at Karachi Literature Festival 2013.

The novelist Ahdaf Soueif said the withdrawal was "a manifestation of a new McCarthyism - on an global scale". She was the recipient of the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2018 and was longlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize. She is the author of five novels including Burnt Shadows which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and has been translated into over 20 languages.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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