Writers' Petition

By the writers gathered at the International Writers Program 2001 of the Iowa University, on behalf of their colleagues in Israel and Palestine

May 13, 2002

To our colleagues in the Israeli and Palestinian PEN Centres,

To the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority,

To Kofi Annan,

To President Bush,

To the national governments of the individual writers signing this petition:

Rehman Rashid (Selangor) , Mileta Prodanovic (Belgrade), Shashi Warrier (Coimbatore), Christopher Merrill (Iowa City), Rowena Torrevillas (Iowa City), Jennifer Baum (Iowa City), Natasa Durovic (Iowa City), Torunn Borge (Oslo), Marius Burokas (Vilnius), Marek Zaleski (Warszaw), Antonia Logue (Dublin), Medy Loekito (Jakarta), Antonije Zalica (Amsterdam), Peter Nazareth (Iowa City), Man-Sik Lee (Seoul), Sitok Srengenge (Jakarta), Viet Huu Tran (Ha Noi), Vince Ford (Gisborne), Chris Keulemans (Amsterdam), Victor Aladji (Lome), Rocco Carbone (Rome) and Andrey Bychkov (Moscow)

As a very diverse group of writers from all over the world, we were hosted by the International Writers Program of Iowa University last fall. Being in the USA during the tragedy of September 11 and its aftermath, we felt compelled to speak out about the values of curiosity, precision and understanding as opposed to opposed to dehumanizing violence, whatever the cause might be. Three writers in our company gave an especially impressive show of high human and literary values: Israeli writers Aida Nasralla and Etgar Keret, and Palestinian writer Ghassan Zaktan appeared together on many occasions to stress the need for peaceful coexistence.

Now, they are back in Am-el Fahem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah, living amidst daily violence. We, the writers of the Iowa International Writers Program 2001, all having returned home, are deeply concerned about the fate of our three friends and so many other civilians kept hostage by on one side the horrors and humiliations connected to the occupation and various war crimes, and on the other hand, by the fear and suffering coming from suicide bombings.. Being writers, it is our job and our nature to distinguish the particular from the general. We are committed to the lives of human individuals and to their particular, meaningful stories. We are opposed to indiscriminate, random and senseless acts of violence. Suicide attacks on innocent people are not the answer to any question, and our literary imagination does not foresee a life of eternal bliss after such a death. But the brutal destruction of whole neighborhoods in Jenin, Bethlehem, Nablus and Ramallah is an act that defies all imagination, even now that we have finally seen the results on our television.

Where imagination chokes, life will soon follow. Therefore, the violence must stop. Militants and politicians on both sides fail to understand the politics of non-violence. We follow Edward Said in calling for coexistence as an answer to Israeli exclusivism and belligerence, as the only way towards solidarity and the isolation of exclusivists, racists and fundamentalists. We follow Michael Ignatieff in stating that there is no future for the state of Israel without a state of Palestine. Coexistence in two separate, safe states, that recognize and respect each others political and territorial existence, is the only option. A neutral, international military presence will have to be installed immediately, preventing further violence and creating space for reconstructing a viable, democratic Palestinian state.

Only that will make possible the return of the imagination necessary to restore human dignity, in stories of past and future, to the individual lives that have been shattered during these days of war.