domingo, 1 de diciembre de 2013


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents at the beginning of the 21st Century the paradigm of the politization of forgiveness, of the humanitarization of ethnic conflict, of the instrumentalization of culture as a tool for solving conflicts, pacifying violence, rebuilding the social tissue, etc. Gaza and the West Bank are laboratories of war technologies, systematic urbicide, security and protest control, which Israel exports to the rest of the world – including to Mexico. Mexico and Israel have in common a vast record of human rights violations that remain unpunished; Israel’s include dispossession, expulsion, oppression, siege, tyranny of incertitude, land and vital resources theft, psychogical torture, surveillance, continuous control and limitations of movement of the Palestinian people. The Palestinians’ Nakba (or catastrophe) did not only occur in 1948 with the creation of the State of Israel, but it is ongoing. Along with the endless and futile peace process – the Palestinian negotiation team quit two weeks ago on the grounds of the “unprecedented increase of colonization and oppression against Palestine and the Palestinian people,” – Israeli impunity is due to the exceptionality for which the State of Israel lobbies across the world. To make another analogy between Mexico and Israel, we could mention two incidents that occurred in Mexico in the past month, which are worthy of any apartheid state: first, the expulsion of two young doctoral students and indigenous women, who wanted to eat at a French bakery shop in San Cristóbal, Chiapas (allegedly the owner mistook them for beggars). Second, Aeromexico prevented seven indigenous men from Oaxaca from boarding a national flight. Taking these parallels into account, it makes sense that the Mexican government would entertain Israel as a special guest to Guadalajara’s 2013 International Book Fair. If we consider that a week before inaugurating the Fair, Shimon Peres will head a delegation of eighty representatives of Israeli corporations for an Israel-Mexico business encounter in Mexico City, the Fair reveals itself as part of a diplomatic machinery geared at reaffirming the links between the countries. The visit of the Israeli business men’s delegation will include an audience with President Enrique Peña Nieto and telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim, before whom they will present a range of possibilities of cooperation between the nations and the companies; amongst them: in the fields of security, internet, military technology (drones), banking, water and energy. With this visit – aside from strengthening business ties – Israel seeks to present itself as a country beyond the Middle East conflict, as a harbinger of technology and entrepreneurship. In this context, it becomes clear that culture plays a key role: in order to cultivate an image as a liberal and democratic country, Israel tries to better and to feed its image through cultural events.
            Protests against the presence of Israel in the International Book Fair, – to denounce its gradual destruction of Palestinians, its expansionist and colonial politics – however, differently than in other parts of the world, have been almost imperceptible. For instance, when in 2007 it was announced that Israel would be the guest of honor at the Turin Book Fair, a wave of protests emerged immediately in Italy, and many personalities supported the call for boycott made by Arab writer’s associations. On October 27th, in the section El correo ilustrado of the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, appeared a fragment of a release titled: “About Israel as a Special Guest at Guadalajara’s Book Fair.” The signatories (most of them academics in Mexico), wanted to “highlight the necessity of having the history of Israel very present as well as considering the fact that its creation provoked the tragedy of the Palestinian people, condemned to exile.” They manifested their wish that during the Fair – to which some of them will be guests and panelists – what happened to the Palestinian people is remembered, as they evoke the history of the creation of Israel, its Zionist origins and they underline the “confessional and ethnic character” of a “Fundamentalist Jewish” State formally dressed as a Western democracy. The cosigners further propose “real peace” in the hands of civil society – amongst them thinkers, writers and creators. In sum, in the release they ask Mexico to recognize both States and that Palestine be a guest to the Fair in 2015. Debatably, this approach to armed conflict, occupation and continuous dispossession as a matter of cultural dialogue in the hands of civil society, validating an event that promotes the State of Israel, obviating parallelisms with Mexico, passes as a mere formal gesture to alleviate consciences. The call for equal representation and recognition of Palestine could be framed within a conception of culture with redemptive potential. We are looking at the world as it is, and we act as if we could change it, knowing that it is not enough. And yet, most of the Mexican literati, followed the official line and chose to ignore the conflict in the Middle East represented by Israel, and to profit from the meetings, networking, publishing contracts, lectures and book presentations offered by the Book Fair. This is perhaps why ‘culture’ has become an ensemble of discourses that always end up on the side of power and capital; from this point of view, to press for ‘the right thing being done,’ and for ‘saying the truth,’ are still obviating that the system is broken, that political processes are not in the hands of the people but in the hands of very few. And although at least a small sector of the Mexican intelligentsia submitted a release that has had minimal transcendence, the political and financial class in Mexico and Israel that will gather before the Book Fair begins (those who represent the interests of the 1%) no longer feel the need to justify what they do to generate profits. This is why culture is administered by cultural producers who are part of a compensatory mechanism of neoliberal dispossession and devastation. In this context, culture is the supplement of a business meeting that represents the interests of the oligarchy at the global level. This is further underlined by the fact that during the Book Fair, round tables will be devoted to the topics of: national security, public security, challenges and perspectives on teaching security in both countries, as well as the “Police Single Command Model in Mexico,” presided by members of the army and retired officers, academics, counterterrorism specialists, security experts from Mexico and Israel.

            Visible action? From its inception in 2005, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (or BDS), a call to boycott Israel, has served as a tool to strengthen civilian resistance against Israeli occupation; it is addressed to Israeli companies and products, as well as to cultural and academic institutions in Israel, who directly contribute to maintain, defend and hide the oppression of the Palestinians. Where is the call to boycott Israel’s presence as a guest of honor at the Guadalajara International Book Fair? Having Israel as a special guest at the Book Fair is an explicit politics of complicity with Israeli occupation: the participants are ambassadors of Israel, assistants are collaborators and part of the propaganda. As Jehan Helou, president of the Palestinian association IBBY (International Board of Books for Young People) wrote in a letter to the director of Guadalajara’s Book fair: “To have Israel as a guest is to award occupation, colonization and oppression; it is to help a racist state to whitewash its crimes against the Palestinian people. Shimon Peres, the war criminal, together with his delegation of businessmen constitute a black page in the history of culture.” Writers and thinkers with nothing to loose are needed like Aharon Shabtaï, Bertolt Brecht, Louis Aragon, André Breton, Jean-Paul Curnier, Juan Goytisolo, Mahmoud Darwish, Jean-Luc Godard…

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