Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Freedom to Read Hitler's book, Censoring Milan Kundera

.."the Arab cultural production, at least as seen through
the lens of the Cairo Book Fair,
"reflects above all, a certain emptiness."

There was this story about the Strange case of the antisemitic author and the Vancouver Public Library that featured him in an evening that "celebrates" the National Freedom to Read Week;

And then there was this story about a campaign by left-wing and Arab splinter groups to boycott the Book Fair in Turin, where Israel is this year's the guest country. "The initiative has the backing of Tariq Ramadan, the ever-present and controversial Islamic preacher who, in an interview with the news agency Adn-Kronos, trickled his rhetoric vitriol into the debate.

And now this has come to light:

David Bidussa reminds Tariq Ramadan and all the others who criticised the Turin Book Fair for inviting Israel as its guest country, that things are far more amiss in Arab countries than in Northern Italy. "It is not what they are saying that makes the attitude of Tariq Ramadan and the Arab Writers Union so questionable, but what they are not defending, and that is freedom. At the same time as Tariq Ramadan was calling for a boycott of the book fairs in Turin and Paris, Milan Kundera was being censored at the Cairo Book Fair and his books banned. None of these people who present themselves as the great defenders of freedom and who speak out against suppression – Tariq Ramadan being the most vociferous of them all – none of them has taken the time to find the words or the way, to step out of line from the chorus of disapproval about Israel and to stand up for the freedom of the book in Cairo."

Why was Milan Kundeira censored?

According to this blog, here,

The Egyptian police have seized boxes of books deemed subversive or immoral, such as For bread alone by Mohamed Choukri, The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera etc.

According to Al-Jazeera here,

"...certain books didn't make it to the fair. As Lebanese publisher Dar al-Adab discovered when the boxes containing works by Milan Kundera, Nikos Kazantzakis and noted Egyptian authors Nawal al-Saadawi and Edward al-Kharrat were missing.

"We knew from previous experience that the censor had banned them," said Nabil Nofal, a member of the sales team, adding that they never receive official notification or explanation for why the books weren't allowed.

According to literary observers, subject matters involving sex, controversial politics and attacks on religion set off alarms among the censors.

What are Egyptians free to read?

According to Al-Jazeera, the crowd-pleasers are

"...anti-Christian polemics advocating conversion to Islam as the only solution to a flawed religion and of course plenty of editions of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" for sale.

"It makes up a big part of our success, especially among the 18 to 25 crowd," said Mahmud Abdallah of the Syrian-Egyptian Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi publishing house.


At 7:09 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 7:09 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8:04 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


On Monday 31 March over two dozen people picketed the Italian Embassy in London with placards, banners and loudhailers, calling for a boycott of the Turin Book Fair, which has invited Israel as the “guest of honour”.

Protesters were appalled that the President of the Italian Republic has added his weight to this decision by publicising his intention to open this Book Fair on May 8, even though this is in the week of Nakba – the 60th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people by the Israeli state.

Jewish anti-Zionist women and men in the Global Women’s Strike and Payday men’s network, who called the picket, and activists from Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) and Camden - Abu Dis Friendship Association (CADFA) were vocal in their denunciation of Israel’s deputy defence minister Vilnai’s call for a “shoah” – a holocaust – against people in Gaza. A speaker from the Utility Workers Union of America (AFL-CIO) decried that the AFL leadership had helped support and finance the occupation.

Anti-Book Fair demonstrations at the weekend in Turin, Rome & Milan were reported to the picket. Over 700 people had rallied in Turin’s main square, with street theatre and a photo exhibition; and there were sit-ins at Feltrinelli bookshops in Milan and Rome because they announced that they would take part in the Book Fair. The police attacked the demonstrators in Milan following an afternoon of provocation by Zionists, who tried to tear up one of the banners.

Representatives of the London picket tried to deliver a letter of protest to the Ambassador, but the carabiniere representing the Embassy said that the Ambassador would not accept the letter without an appointment! A demonstrator commented on her loudhailer that “They’d rather welcome Israeli Zionists!”

Demonstrators, who were also from Canada, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, Turkey and the US, were incensed at the Ambassador’s refusal and declared that they would contact their networks to flood the Embassy with letters.

Please email this letter or write your own
& cc the Global Women’s Strike & Payday men’s network
To find the email of the Embassy in your country:

If you are based in the UK send fax to: +44 20 7312 2230 or email sa.amblondra@esteri.it

We protest against the outrageous decision of the Turin Book Fair to make Israel its “guest of honour”. If this decision to invite and honour Israel is not rescinded, the Book Fair must be boycotted.

The invitation has sinister echoes in the UK: on 7 April Prince Philip is hosting a dinner in Windsor Castle for the Jewish National Fund, a key Zionist organisation that has dispossessed & expelled Palestinian people from their lands.

We find it all the more astonishing that President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano plans to open the Fair on 8 May considering that the Fair’s President, Rolando Picchioni, was a member of the Masonic Lodge P2, led by Lucio Gelli, who was not only a fervent admirer of the Fascist leader Mussolini, but a liaison officer with the Hermann Goering SS division. In the ‘70s the P2 infamously planned a right-wing coup d’état in Italy.

Those of who are Jewish are particularly outraged that the Israeli State is so eager to take a part in the fair organized by an old associate of Nazis. This collaboration, however, is less surprising following Israel’s deputy defence minister Vilnai’s call for a “shoah” – a holocaust – against people in Gaza. To propose a shoah against Palestinians validates all shoahs – including that inflicted on the world by the Nazis.

Calling for a boycott in response to inviting the Israeli State to the Paris & Turin Book Fairs, Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai said:

“The book event, or any other kind of exhibition in which the Israeli State is invited, is not a way to promote peace in the Middle East, and not a way to bring justice to the Palestinians, but only propaganda to give Israel an image of being a liberal & democratic society. A State which maintains an occupation & commits daily crimes against civilians does not deserve to be invited to whichever cultural week.”

The Union of Palestinian Writers & Intellectuals has also called for a boycott. And there are protests, demonstrations & boycott demands planned throughout Italy: on 5th February the headquarters of organizers of the Fair, Fondazione del Libro, was occupied; Italian book publishers have launched an appeal; a petition is being circulated & signed internationally by MEPs, students, workers, teachers & prominent individuals; demonstrations took place in Turin, Milan and Rome on 29th March; and your embassy was picketed on 31st March.

For the organisers of the Book Fair to honour Israel in the week before Nakba is not only a provocation but also a disgraceful defence of the murder, rape & torture that is the Israeli occupation.

This occupation is one with the occupation of Iraq: military control of oil & water in the Middle East for the real axis of evil – US, Israel & their European stooges. And now the Italian authorities have shown they are complicit in the additional crime of Nakba denial.

Global Women’s Strike www.globalwomenstrike.net 020 7482 2496

Payday men’s network www.refusingtokill.net 020 7209 4751

At 8:39 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Of course these kinds of initiatives can only assume the outraged moral tone implied in this comment when they are based on lies and distortions. To point to one example:

" This collaboration, however, is less surprising following Israel’s deputy defence minister Vilnai’s call for a “shoah” – a holocaust – against people in Gaza. To propose a shoah against Palestinians validates all shoahs – including that inflicted on the world by the Nazis. "

Here is a more reliable account:



Let me re-interate the following principle: the responsibility for finding, reading and understanding correctly and accurately is not the sole onus of the writer and purveyor of data. It is also the responsibility of the reader, consumer of this information to know what he or she is reading, to know truth from lies and fairness from prejudice.

What good is a cause that has to rely on lies, distortions and twisting of words and historical records in order to justify its existence?

At 1:17 AM EST, Anonymous Noor Amin said...

Arab Writers Union conference is a good initiative by Arab officials to promote Arab literary work. It’s a best platform where cultural personalities can gather and such events encourage cultural and poetic events in the country.


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