The selection of Israel as guest of honor at this spring’s International Book Fair in Turin has set off a furious debate among Italian, Israeli and Arab authors and intellectuals, including calls to boycott the event, Italy’s largest annual gathering of the publishing world.
Those opposed to the decision say that offering such an honor at a fair opening in May, when Israel will celebrate its 60th anniversary as a nation, is to ignore its policies toward Palestinians.
“A prestigious event like the book fair can’t pretend it doesn’t know what’s happening in that part of the Middle East,” said Vincenzo Chieppa, a local leader of the Italian Communist Party, who was one of the first to raise objections to the selection of Israel.
Subsequent calls to boycott the fair — coming both from extreme-left-wing Italian political activists and prominent Italian and Arab intellectuals and authors — have prompted a wave of newspaper articles, some raising concerns about censorship and others extolling the need to place art above politics.
On Tuesday, for instance, a small group of protesters associated with a local pro-Palestinian group stormed the book fair offices in Turin, demanding that the invitation to Israel be rescinded.