Monday 08 March 2021

Arab authors boycott UAE book awards due to ties with Israel

A number of Arab authors are boycotting the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in protest against Abu Dhabi's decision to normalise ties with Israel.

Seventeen former IPAF winners, jury members and shortlisted authors appealed to the trustees of the event demanding a halt to Emirati funding of the prize to "maintain its independence."


The UAE and Bahrain signed normalisation deals with the Zionist occupation regime in August, becoming the third and fourth Arab countries to establish diplomatic relations with Zionist regime after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The deals have drawn widespread condemnation from Palestinians, who say the accords ignore their rights and do not serve the Palestinian cause.


Palestinian academic and author Khaled Hroub, an IPAF founding member, stressed that he can no longer be affiliated with the award financed by Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism. Denouncing the UAE-Israel normalisation, he labelled it as a "shocking and sad trade-off" for the Palestinians' rights.


"I used to have great cultural contacts in the UAE over the years, had many Emirati friends and took part in many activities, book fairs and festivals in the country," said Hroub. "These activities have certainly contributed to the Arab cultural scene. But all this has now been thrown into uncertainty and replaced by Israel. What do you learn culturally, educationally and artistically from the states that are forcing and oppressing the entire population?"


IPAF was launched in Abu Dhabi in 2007 in collaboration with the Booker Prize Foundation, a British charity that manages its own prestigious annual fiction award.


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