Italy’s president opened the Turin book fair honoring Israel, despite criticism from Muslim groups.
“No dialogue is possible if there is a refusal to recognize Israel,” Napolitano said Thursday at Israel’s special stand at the fair, according to an Agence France-Presse report.
The stand was surrounded by hundreds of people, many draped in the Israeli flag, according to AFP. Police stopped pro-Palestinian protestors from placing a banner outside the fair.
President Giorgio Napolitano’s office said in a statement that his participation in the book fair is no different than his participation in a myriad of other cultural events.
In criticism leveled at the president, prominent Muslim academic, Tariq Ramadan, said at a press conference that Napolitano was “proving with his presence that it is a political rather than a cultural event.”
But Italian Islamic religious community vice-president Yahya Pallavicini told Adnkronos International that Napolitano should preside at the opening of the book fair in a show of support for Israel.
Israel was named guest of honor at the fair to celebrate her 60th birthday, which is expected to be attended by about 300,000 peolpe. Protests also took place at the Paris book fair in March, which featured Israeli writers.