In Australia, Palestinian Authors Are Harassed by Israeli Regime’s Smear Campaigns
March 09 2023

Adelaide Writers’ Week is Australia’s largest and oldest literary festival. Over the years, it has hosted some of the world’s pre-eminent writers, including JM Coetzee and Isabel Allende. For Adelaide — the capital of South Australia — the festival is a landmark cultural event. It enjoys healthy support from both government and private sponsors.

But this year, things are a little bit different. For the first time, the Adelaide Writers’ Week decided to invite not one, but four international Palestinian guests. As a result, the head of the South Australian government — succumbing to pressure from the Israeli regime’s lobby — announced that he is boycotting sessions featuring Palestinian writers. Major sponsors — including MinterEllison and PricewaterhouseCoopers — have also suspended their ties.

The panic began just a last month. The Australian, one of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids, broke the news that festival invitees Mohammed El-Kurd and Susan Abulhawa — contemporary Palestinian authors — have engaged in “unvarnished and vicious anti-Semitism.” Since then, variations of this lie have been repeated across the entire Australian media landscape, with scarcely any opportunity for comment or response from Palestinians, nor from the authors themselves.

We know this slander was pushed by the Zionist lobby. What has been more troubling is that no mainstream journalists or editors in Australia took the time to analyse these false claims.

El-Kurd has allegedly “accused Zionists of eating the organs of Palestinians." Where does this lie originate? What did Mohammed El-Kurd actually say?

In Rifqa — El-Kurd's debut poetry collection — he writes:

Seven decades later

they harvest organs of the martyred

feed the warriors our own. [5]

The people of Haifa left.

Some fled after news some stayed,

gave coffee to massacre.

Some walked a straight line into the sea

back to their city

refused to be martyred

refused to exit.

This poem traces the life of his grandmother, Rifqa El-Kurd, who survived the Nakba. You must read it for yourself: the poem is a heart-wrenching chronicle of the Palestinian experience at the hands of the murderous Israeli regime.

It is painfully obvious to any reasonable person that El-Kurd is not being purely literal. But wait, what's that footnote at the end of the sentence? On literally the same page, El-Kurd explains his meaning:

“[5] In 2009, Swedish photojournalist Donald Boström published an essay titled ‘Our Sons Are Being Plundered for Their Organs,’ in which he exposed the decades-long Israeli practice of returning the bodies of young Palestinian men to their families with organs missing. See also: Israeli necroviolence.”

El-Kurd is being smeared for using a poetic metaphor to allude to a demonstrable fact. Israel has even admitted that it engaged in organ harvesting.

You can guess that the apartheid state didn't like Donald Boström's original report. Yuval Steinitz —the finance minister at the time — called it "an anti-Semitic blood libel against the Jewish people and the Jewish state."

The irony here is that Zionists are running exactly the same line against El-Kurd, even though they were forced to admit the truth of the original report. Presumably, they think we have short memories. Certainly these journalists do.

The Israeli lobby’s smear campaigns are nothing new; they come and go, sometimes with long-reaching consequences for those involved. They are hardly ever grounded in fact. El-Kurd and Abulhawa are not targets for anything they have said: they are targets for being Palestinian.

The point of these allegations are to disarm Palestinian truth-tellers and distract from the ongoing violence of occupation, apartheid, and settler-colonial expansion. Not one article in the Australian press thought to mention the theft of El-Kurd’s family home in Sheikh Jarrah by criminal settlers, or the massacre in Jenin that inspired Abulhawa’s first novel.

Despite the noise, Adelaide Writers’ Week has stood firm, in large part thanks to the efforts of its director, Louise Adler. Adler, a Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors, was a student and teaching assistant under the late Edward Said. She knows how these cynical allegations operate better than most in the Australian literary scene.

The attack on Adelaide Writers’ Week would be a hard sell to the communities that actually make up and enliven the festival. Writers tend to be a progressive bunch, and progressives, as it turns out, don’t care much for genocide.

This leads me to an important point: Australia is a settler-colony founded on the genocide and displacement of Indigenous peoples. We recognize this fact as Palestinian organizers on stolen land — land that is not our own, land that is, was, and always will be Aboriginal.

And yet the Zionists must scratch their heads, wondering how they still lost.

The events at the Adelaide Writers’ Week went ahead. The first such session was held on March 5, featuring Palestinian writers Randa Abdel-Fattah, Ramzy Baroud, and Mohammed El-Kurd. It was a massive success with a huge turnout. Palestinians are speaking our truth. We won.

About The Author: 

Fahad Ali is a molecular biologist, science educator, and writer. A Palestinian in exile, he lives and works on the unceded land of the Darug people in so-called ‘Australia’.

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