Kamila Shamsie's Nelly Sachs Prize withdrawn over author's support for Palestinian human rights movement

The eight-member jury that had previously awarded the prize to Shamsie said in a statement that the cultural boycott does not transcend borders but affects the whole of Israeli society regardless of its actual political and cultural heterogeneity

FP Staff September 20, 2019 15:46:20 IST
Kamila Shamsie's Nelly Sachs Prize withdrawn over author's support for Palestinian human rights movement
  • According to the jury, the support extended by Shamsie for the BDS movement is in contradiction to the statutory objectives of the award

  • Shamsie has authored several works of fiction including Broken Verses, Burnt Shadows and House Fire

  • She was the recipient of the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2018 and was longlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize

The jury of the Nelly Sachs Prize has rescinded the literary honour for 2019 awarded to the acclaimed novelist Kamila Shamsie citing her support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as one that is in "contradiction to the statutory objectives of the award," according to an Al Jazeera report.

The Nelly Sachs Prize, named after the Jewish poet and Nobel laureate is awarded by the German city of Dortmund every two years and stipulates that both, the life and work of an author should be taken into consideration by the jury. Shamsie was announced as the winner of this 15,000 euro purse earlier in September.

A report in The Guardian said that Shamsie had put her name down for the cultural boycott of Israel and following the jury's withdrawal of the award stated that it is a "matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust."

BDS was a movement launched by Palestinians in 2005 to generate international pressure on Israel to respect the Palestinian citizens' human rights.

The eight-member jury that cancelled the award said in a statement that the cultural boycott does not transcend borders but affects the whole of Israeli society regardless of its actual political and cultural heterogeneity.

"Kamila Shamsie’s work is also withheld from the Israeli population in this way. This contrasts with the claim of the Nelly Sachs prize to proclaim and exemplify reconciliation among peoples and cultures."

The statement added, "Despite prior research, the members of the jury were not aware that the author has been participating in the boycott measures against the Israeli government for its Palestinian policies since 2014."

The 46-year-old British Pakistani writer said in a statement on Twitter, "It is a matter of great sadness to me that a jury should bow to pressure and withdraw a prize from a writer who is exercising her freedom of conscience and freedom of expression."

Shamsie has authored several works of fiction including Broken Verses, Burnt Shadows and House Fire. She was the recipient of the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2018 and was longlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize.

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