Board of Deputies launches British Council complaint

By Simon Rocker, May 31, 2012

The Board of Deputies has protested to the British Council over the funding of last month’s Palestinian literary festival which it claimed supports a boycott of Israel.

Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin, in a letter to the council’s chief executive Martin Davidson, said it was “shocked” at the decision to fund the event.

He cited a Guardian article which stated that the festival endorsed “the Palestinian call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel”, quoting a Gaza professor who said that visiting participants were coming in solidarity with the boycott stance.

But Mr Davidson said the article painted “an inaccurate and partial picture” of the festival (PalFest). “To our knowledge, neither PalFest nor the Palestinian Writers’ Workshop [PWW] has in the past called for a boycott of Israel,” he responded.

The council had worked with the festival since 2008 and was paying for two British writers this year to take part in PWW educational sessions on the West Bank, he explained. The council had “consistently opposed the calls for an academic boycott of Israel”.

But Mr Benjamin said the Board was “struggling to understand” how funding could be justified. “The simple fact is that PalFest does promote an academic and cultural boycott of Israel”.

Last updated: 9:31am, May 31 2012