Conference cancelled because of Israeli guest

By Jennifer Lipman, July 26, 2010

A French literary conference has been cancelled after pro-Palestinian activists refused to share a platform with an Israeli author who is a Holocaust survivor.

Novelist Esther Orner, 73, was set to appear at the March 2011 event hosted by the University of Provence.

But an anonymous group of Egyptian and Palestinian writers refused to take part in dialogue with an Israeli, prompting Ms Orner to speak out in the French media.

The controversy led university president Jean-Paul Caverni to cancel the entire conference.

Ms Orner accused the protesters of trying to delegitimise Israel by ousting her from the event, which was called Writing Today in the Mediterranean Region: Exchanges and Tensions.

She said: "I understand that it is not personal against me, but it greatly upset me because I see it as systematic – not against me, but against Israel.

“This time I chose not to keep quiet because I see these cancellations as a move against the existence of the state of Israel."

Born in Germany, Ms Orner fled to Israel after the Holocaust but has lived in France as well. She has translated the work of Yehuda Amichai and compiled an anthology of translations of Israeli women.

The cancellation comes less than a year after a conference in Luxembourg was cancelled because of objections over Ms Orner participating.

Last updated: 1:17pm, October 12 2010