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PACBI-Shame, Sorrow and Revolt

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Middle East Online | May 13, 2008

Shame, Sorrow and Revolt

The Turin Book Fair opened, against a background of bitter dispute. Israel is this yearís guest of honor.

We are told: ďCulture and politics must not be mixed.Ē ďTo boycott the Fair is to deny Israelís existence, to seek its destruction and disappearance.Ē Weíve heard it all before.

In response to the boycott appeal, the President of Italy opened the Fair in person on Thursday, May 8. It was not a political but a cultural gesture, we are told. Of course! Meanwhile, the accusations fly, hot and heavy. Israelís ambassador to Italy has saluted the Presidentís action as a refusal to knuckle under to the diktat of those who, in boycotting the Fair, ďseek to deprive Israel of its legitimacy.Ē In posing as victim, the ambassador may well be the only one to grasp the true political implications of the Presidentís decision. Dark irony, indeed.

Again, Israel poses as the victim of bigots, extremists, and madmen! The same tired refrain, the old song, tried and true. Shame, and again shame.

Those who talk about the boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games have at least had the decency to mention Tibetan victims of Chinese policy. That is the least they could do! But when it comes to Palestine we hear not a word, read not a single line, and view not a minute of television airtime: the Palestinian people do not exist. Gaza is being stifled, blockaded, transformed into an open-air prison, a ghetto; starvation stalks the land. What do we hear? Nothing. Summary execution and torture? Mere trifles. The wall of shame encloses no one, nothing. Israelís settlement policy steals no oneís land. A people suffering, its basic rights, its very existence denied? Donít bother us with details.

At the Turin Book Fair, Israel and freedom of expression are the victims. The Palestinians have ceased to exist, their oppression, their suffering erased.

I am filled with shame and revulsion at the abject, crawling politicians and media; yet greater shame for all the token Arabs and/or Muslims and/or citizens, those spineless, groveling bondsmen of the mighty.

Let my sorrow be revolt: calm revolt, confident patience. Let the promise of History be memory.

Beware. Victory is not all that it seems.

Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Theology, Oxford University. He is also president of the think tank European Muslim Network in Brussels. This article appeared in his website

Posted on 14-05-2008

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