The Palestine Book Awards ceremony in London on Friday, 18th November, required the judges panel to select from 40 titles – when this annual event commenced five years ago, there were only a handful to consider. The increase is testimony to both the determination of a growing number of writers to make Palestine a centre piece of their intellectual effort and expression of talent, and also the effective platform provided by the Award’s trustees. For many, Jehan Bseiso’s reading of her poem on the Israel bombing of Gaza in 2015 was most moving, which included the lines
[. . . ] Talk about bomb shelters and war sirens in Sderot and Tel Aviv.
Call it “Neutrality”
Talk about your 5 dead and your iron dome.
Call it “Objective Reality”
Bring your billion dollar pledges and your aid caravans
Your excel sheets, monitoring reports and donor requirements.
Call it “Accountability”
“Abu Muhammmad sits on the balcony hopelessly smokes a hopeless cigarette talks about lack of hope.”
This one is human interest story [. . .]
My boys took a ball to the beach.
Came back bodies.
How can we remember what we can’t forget?
As on previous occasions, the evening commenced with gracious opening remarks by Awards trustee Victoria Brittain, but which were also sobering: she highlighted the ‘disastrous situation we are in . . . a poignant symbol of what we are up against’, alluding to one of President-Elect Donald Trump’s advisors associated with the Lebanese civil war [Walid Phares]’.
The keynote address was presented by Professor Salim Vally, University of Johannesburg. He provided the facts and figures of Israel’s intimate collaboration with the apartheid regime, ‘which extended to the area of nuclear weaponry’, and recommended Jeff Halper’s War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification for further details on the new methods of control.
The winners of the 2016 awards included:
- Anaheed Al-Hardan (Palestinians in Syria)
- Yasir Suleman for a collection based on over a 100 short reminisces (Being Palestinian)
- Ramzy Baroud, Jehan Bseiso and Samah Sabawi’s collection of poems (I Remember My Name)
- Lorenzo Kamel (Imperial Perceptions of Palestine)
Dr Kamel’s Imperial Perceptions, is particularly significant. The book is based on diligent research, with the author’s language skills in Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish providing him access to primary sources in seventeen archives!
Dr Lorenzo Kamel receiving his award
Among his findings are the British Government’s manipulations to appoint Amin al-Hussaini as a ‘Grand Mufti’, and notwithstanding his later association with National Socialists during World War II, over 6,000 Palestinians joined the British Army to fight against Germany.
The concluding remarks of the Chair of Judges, Haifa Zangana, were apt, ‘. . . with every new book we learn something new; please buy the books – help Palestine to be alive for ever. . . ‘
Jamil Sherif, 21 November 2016