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Israel bars Palestinian-American author from Jerusalem literature festival

Susan Abulhawa, author of the novel Mornings in Jenin, was denied entry to Israel. [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 November, 2018

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Israel has barred writer Susan Abulhawa from entering the country to attend a Palestinian literature festival, deporting her back to the United States.

Israel has barred a Palestinian-American writer from entering the country to attend a literature festival, deporting her back to the United States.

Susan Abulhawa, author of the novel Mornings in Jenin, was held by Israeli security at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport for 36 hours after arriving on Friday.

She had been due to appear at panel events in both Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah during the Kalimat Palestinian Literature Festival, which is co-sponsored by the British Council.

Israel's immigration authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told AFP the writer was refused entry because of an incident in 2015 when she refused to answer questions by security personnel when attempting to enter though a land crossing from neighbouring Jordan.

Abulhawa was forced to address the festival's audience via video link.

"It pains me that we can meet anywhere in the world except in Palestine, the place to which we belong, from whence our stories emerge and where all our turns eventually lead," she said.

"We cannot meet on soil that has been fertilised for millennia by the bodies of our ancestors and watered by the tears and blood of Palestine's sons and daughters who daily fight for her."

Abulhawa's publisher, Bloomsbury, said it was "appalled" by the decision to deny the author entry to her homeland.

"Susan Abulhawa is an important and internationally bestselling Palestinian writer whose novels uniquely and powerfully portray the history and plight of her country," said Bloomsbury's editor-in-chief, Alexandra Pringle.

Festival coordinator Mahmoud Muna said Abulhawa was denied entry for political reasons related to her support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israeli immigration authorities said her detention and deportation were unrelated to her support for BDS.

In March 2017, Israel's parliament passed a law barring entry to supporters of BDS, a movement inspired by an international campaign against apartheid in South Africa.

Last month an American student spent two weeks in Israeli detention appealing an entry ban over past support for a pro-Palestinian boycott campaign.

Lara Alqasem was eventually allowed to enter Israel after its supreme court overturned the ban.

The Palestinian-led BDS campaign, founded in 2005, calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities as a way to press the government to change its treatment of the Palestinians.

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