Israel writers protest"They want control of our books"
A few days ago, the Tel Aviv-based Hebrew Writers' Union joined the resistance against the government's reform plans with a two-hour reading event. The proceedings are documented in a video on its Facebook page, entitled: "Story about a state and darkness – writers' and poets' protest against dictatorship". The association's president Zvika Nir, prose writer, poet, lawyer and former member of parliament, warned in his opening speech:
"For years I have been telling you that ultimately the dark clouds will also shed their rain on us. That's why we have to get organised. The current government is not only seeking to change the state system, it is out to alter everything. And to my deep regret, I have to say that I no longer believe in the concept of a democratic Jewish state – it can only be either democratic or Jewish."
In his speech, internationally acclaimed playwright Yehoshua Sobol recalled the fatal work of the Jewish zealots in antiquity during the era of the Second Temple. Thanks to their fanaticism, they arguably triggered its destruction by the Roman occupiers themselves:
"Neurotic forces seized control of the Jewish people and drove them to ruin. This is what is happening in Israel today. The neurotic camp is seizing control of the state. Albeit, by only a small majority. That's why the prospects of unseating them are good."
And further: "It must be said in all clarity – we are fighting for the very survival of our state and people. The time has come for a counter-rebellion against this coup, which aims to undermine our existence. The government is not about reform, it is an insurrection against the continued existence of the state."
The literati's revolt was sparked by the disturbing announcement by Education Minister Yoav Kish of the ruling Likud party that he intends to appoint the new director of Israel's National Library himself.
This would be in clear violation of existing procedures, which are designed to ensure several sections of Israeli society are involved in the selection process.
Nearly three hundred authors, including prominent writers such as David Grossman and Chaim Beer, have signed a petition protesting against the minister's plan.
National Library culture war
The authors of the petition not only warn against political interference in the affairs of this cultural institution, but have also threatened to stop supplying the National Library with the legally required deposit of copies of their books. Nor are they prepared any longer to bequeath their private archives or make bequests to the library.
Novelist and co-signer Chaim Beer warned of the consequences of political intervention on Israeli radio in no uncertain terms:
"It is a first indication, indeed a first implementation, of the violence with which legal changes are being pushed through in other areas – in other words, they want control of the books. Soon they will begin deciding what should be removed from the library and even what should not be included: books written by Arabs, by leftists. They will carry out a purge, an ethnic purge on our books. We have seen this before."
At the weekend, the writers also published their petition in the left-liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz. As can be seen from the list of signatories, their number has now risen to almost five hundred. Moreover, the management of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has now also joined the protest. The university has threatened to withdraw its book holdings from the National Library – equal to one third of the collection.
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