Paris Book Fair Controversy

Came across this bit of news on BBC News today.

A book fair in Paris has become the subject of controversy with several Muslim countries announcing boycotts because the guest of honour is Israel.

Saudi Arabia has become the latest to withdraw, following Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Isesco) has also urged its 50 members to pull out from the fair, which starts on 14 March.


The organisers of the book fair have said their aim is to honour literature and promote dialogue between cultures.

… the Paris book fair is honouring 39 writers from Israel including well-known figures like David Grossman and Amos Oz.

What do you think?

Personally, I think boundaries and conflicts don’t apply to literature or art in general, they transcend origin, nationality, race, conflicts and everything to another level where we connect and appreciate each other and our works on the human level.

Still, I understand how it is viewed in another way especially when the organizers themselves add the origin factor into it all, and that the origin is Israel, in a time such as this, with tensions and problems at their highest, and peace at its farthest.

If it were up to me, I think it’s a time to be present rather than a time to boycott; in every situation: you can’t present your side of the story and defend it if you’re not there in the first place.
The problem is that we Muslims and Arabs are passive in the exact times we should be more present and proactive.

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Mohamed Marwen Meddah is a web development director, amateur photographer and web enthusiast from Tunisia, currently living in Canada.

5 thoughts on “Paris Book Fair Controversy”

  1. Not only that, I find it ridiculous that Israel is also the guest of honor of the Turin Book fair too.

  2. absolutely agree with u…
    and even if there was a conspiracy,
    the people who made this, was counting on this “pavlovian” arabic reaction…

  3. When the fair is “celebrating the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel”, it is no more a matter of art. The fair, by doing this, is making a political statement.

    Tunisia does not recognise Israel and most of us think it was a massive mistake to create it in the first place, therefore, I fully support the decision of the Writers Union to withdraw.

    A good book will be always present regardless of whether its author attends the fair or not, so I don’t really see passivity in the mere act of not attending.. not writing would be passivity.

    You have quoted the BBC’s article which has been nicely formulated to make it look like those Arab states are doing something irrational. Have you looked at the actual statements of the countries which refused to attend?


  4. @Imed: Well, as I said, it’s the organizers who brought origin into the whole situation and thereby created the controversy, and I totally understand the situation of the Muslim countries.
    Still, according to the organizers the fair is not celebrating 60 years of the creation of Israel; Israel is just a guest of honor, with a bunch of Israeli writers showcasing their work.

    I didn’t say the countries that opted out were irrational, and I don’t even believe that, I fully understand their position, I just think there are better ways of dealing with things.

    I know many Muslim countries don’t recognize Israel, and believe it was a mistake to create it, but turning their backs to it and pretending it doesn’t exist is no way of dealing with it at all.

    Israel exists, it will be present in world politics, art shows, literature fairs, olympic games, cinemas, everywhere; and the Muslim world has to face reality and deal with it sooner or later. Only by looking reality in the face and engaging it will it be possible to really reach a solution.

  5. Marwane,

    I think I have rushed to make some conclusions too quickly on this occasion. I even think that I agree with most of what you said.


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