French writers confab canceled over Israeli invite

PARIS (JTA) — A writer’s conference at a southern French university was canceled when unidentified Arab participants refused to attend with an Israeli author.

The University of Provence Aix-Marseille nixed the conference last week aimed at featuring Mediterranean authors.

“The story beneath all this — and it’s an enigma — is that nobody knows the names of the Arab writers” who refused to dialogue, Esther Orner, the Israeli author who was invited to the confab, told JTA Tuesday.

Jean-Raymond Fanlo, a Spanish literature professor at the University of Provence Aix-Marseille, told the French media that one of the Arab authors against Orner’s presence at the conference was “a major writer around which we will organize a vast program in Marseille schools for back to school.”

Fanlo refused to divulge the author’s name for fear of adding controversy to the widely covered story.

As a result of the Arab refusal, the university said in a July 20 statement that it was forced to cancel the whole program.

The professor who invited Orner to speak on a panel titled “Writing in the Mediterranean” reportedly quit the group that organized the conference following the incident.

“I don’t understand how people from another country can dictate what a prestigious university can do," Orner said. "I find it incredible.”

Orner said she felt obliged to publicize information about the conditions of her revoked invitation to speak because “individual people like me have to do something” in reaction to propaganda aimed at “delegitimizing Israel.”

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