Author fights French boycott on Israeli academics
Israeli author Esther Orner could not believe it when the organizers of an important literary conference in the south of France told her she could not participate in the event because she is Israeli. Together with the local Jewish community, she fought against the organizers in the media until the entire conference was cancelled.
“The organizers decided that if it took on such proportions, it is best just to cancel the conference,” she explained.
In March 2011, the University of Provence Aix-Marseille in the south of France was slated to hold a literary conference titled “Writing today in the Mediterranean.” However, despite its ambitious title, reality again proved that the world of academics and art is not always a successful ground for real dialogue.
Last week, the university’s president, Jean-Paul Caverni, announced that the conference is cancelled due to the refusal of Israeli artists and academics to take part in it.
It came to light this week that the Israeli author Esther Orner’s participation in the conference led to its cancellation.
This is not the first time Orner has encountered a cultural-academic boycott. Last December, she was slated to participate in a conference in Luxembourg. However, after Belgian organizations took issue with her participation, the conference was cancelled.
Orner, a 73-year-old Holocaust survivor who grew up in Belgium and whose father was murdered in Auschwitz, was deeply insulted by the affront, but did not respond. However, this time, less than a year later, Orner decided not to keep quiet.
‘Against Israel’s existence’
“The idea was to convene authors living in the Mediterranean basin to discuss their works,” said Orner in a conversation from her home in Tel Aviv. “Everything was fine until June 17 this year when the organizers met to finalize details regarding the time table of the conference when they received a notice from certain authors that if authors from Israel attend, they will not participate.”
Orner said that none of the organizers fought for her, but instead, simply canceled her participation. The only one who expressed an opinion and resigned from her position as one of the conference organizers was Ann Roche, who invited Orner in the first place.
“I received a letter from the other organizers that said, ‘We don’t have anything against you, and we are against the boycott of intellectuals and cultural figures, but we are against Israel’s politics,'” recounted Orner.
“I wrote them in response, ‘How can such an important university allow foreign people to dictate what you should do.’ They made justifications, but did not cancel the conference.”
Distressed, Orner contacted her friend Rachel Samoul, a highly regarded blogger covering the cultural event. “After she published the story, the issue suddenly had a great impact online. The Jewish community in France got involved, and then the organizers decide that if it had reached such proportions, it is best they cancel the conference.”
“I understand that it is not personal against me, but it greatly upset me because I see it as systematic – not against me, but against Israel. This time I chose not to keep quiet because I see these cancellations as a move against the existence of the State of Israel.”
(Tags: Anti-Israelism, University of Provence Aix-Marseille, Exclusion)