Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Vincent Lam, Lisa Moore, Lorna Crozier, Alberto Manguel, George Bowering, Edeet Ravel, Patrick Lane, Sheila Heti, Kyo Maclear, Dr. Gabor Maté, Michel Tremblay and Canada's current Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah are among the best known of the original signatories. Dozens of nominees or winners of the Governor General's literary awards, the Giller Prize, the Impac Dublin Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Man Booker Prize, and other honours, including the Order of Canada, figure in the list. (See text of letter and full list of signatories below.)
"It's nothing but ethnic cleansing," said one of the signatories, Gabor Mate, in an interview with Postmedia News last week. Mate is a Jewish Canadian and Holocaust survivor, and said that personal conviction compelled him to co-sign the letter. "One thing I've learned is you don't be quiet when things happen that shouldn't happen," Maté added in his interview with Postmedia.
"These writers' compassion and clear-mindedness are refreshing at a time in which Canadian politicians seem to have abandoned all principles, especially when determining Middle East policy," says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. CJPME points out that Canadian politicians are almost always silent when Israel violates international law by confiscating Palestinians' land and establishing Israeli-only "settlements" in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPT). CJPME is appalled that a spokesman for Foreign Minister John Baird last week dismissed the Prawer Plan as an "internal" Israeli matter. "Given the sheer numbers of people slated for forced displacement - 20,000 to 70,000 - it's tragic that Canadian leaders are acquiescing to such cruelty," adds Woodley. The Israeli arguments that they are dislocating the Bedouin "for their own good" are reminiscent of arguments once made for placing Canadian aboriginal children in residential schools.
The European Parliament and various Israeli human rights groups, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, have urged the Israeli Knesset to reject the Prawer Plan. B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence (a veterans' group) and ACRI, as well as internationally prominent Israeli writers such as David Grossman (To the End of the Land) and Amoz Oz have energetically opposed the evictions of Palestinian villagers from the Southern Hebron Hills (oPt) to make way for an Israeli firing zone.
Professional journalists wishing to interview CJPME representatives and some of the signatories to the Canadian writers' open letter may contact Patricia Jean at 438-380-5410 for further details.
For more information, please contact:
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
CJPME Email - CJPME Website
The whole or parts of this press release can be reproduced without permission.
Canadian Writers' Open Letter to Israeli and Canadian Leaders
Regarding Impending Evictions of South Hebron Palestinians and Negev Bedouin
We, the undersigned, urge Israeli leaders to heed the call by David Grossman, Amos Oz, AB Yehoshua and 21 other Israeli writers to halt, immediately and permanently, the eviction of about 1000 Palestinians from their homes in various villages in South Hebron, West Bank (occupied Palestinian territory), in order to clear land for an Israeli army firing zone. These Palestinian villagers have inhabited their homes for several centuries. Evicting them would violate international law and cause extreme hardship.
We also urge you to reject the Begin-Prawer Plan currently before the Knesset which, if fully implemented, would result in the forced relocation of between 20,000 and 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from their homes in the Negev. This Plan would also result in the destruction of up to 35 "unrecognized" Bedouin villages. We ask you to heed the European Parliament's call to withdraw the Plan, which violates the constitutional rights of the Bedouin to property, dignity and equality.
The actions planned are manifestly unjust, and will gravely damage Israel's international reputation.
We also respectfully ask our Canadian leaders to take diplomatic steps to encourage Israeli leaders to heed this call. As the Israeli writers have said, "Each and every one of us bears the moral obligation to try and relieve the suffering."
Michel Marc Bouchard
Allison Hedge Coke
Gale Zoe Garnett
Silver Donald Cameron
Maureen Scott Harris
John Ralston Saul