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Even after cease-and-desist letter, ‘Palestine Writes’ lists Pennsylvania agency as sponsor 

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts “has repeatedly attempted to address this matter amicably and cooperatively,” an attorney wrote to organizers of the festival, which features several prominent antisemitic speakers.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Credit: Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.
The Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Credit: Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.

Even after receiving a third and final warning from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to cease and desist claiming that the state agency was a sponsor, the “Palestine Writes” literary festival continues to display the PCA logo on its sponsor webpage.

“The PCA has repeatedly attempted to address this matter amicably and cooperatively, but the ‘Palestine Writes’ Literature Festival organization has failed to take necessary action to resolve this matter. In fact, Palestine Writes abruptly reversed course and failed to follow through on its own offer to remove the logo entirely from the website,” Amber Sizemore, counsel to the PCA, wrote to the festival on Sept. 21.

“Instead, the sponsor web page was merely manipulated to list the PCA as a sponsor for ‘Palestine Writes Press,’ which the PCA expressly stated by email was not sufficient to resolve its concerns,” Sizemore wrote.

The attorney noted that the state agency had provided “limited grant funding to Playgrounds for Palestine,” which was “limited to a literary anthology project and a series of workshops, seminars, readings and other events to launch the anthology and provide publishing education to authors.”

PCA understands that Playgrounds for Palestine is a “Palestine Writes” subsidiary, but it “has provided no funding, or other sponsorship or support, to the parent initiative or to the festival,” Sizemore wrote.

The festival, which is taking place at the University of Pennsylvania from Sept. 22 through Sept. 24, includes several prominent antisemitic speakers, including musician and Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters; and Marc Lamont Hill, fired by CNN for anti-Israel remarks and who now works for the City University of New York (an academic institution that has also exhibited anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment and speakers on its campus).

“It is a celebration of terrorism against Israel by self-styled Palestinian activists,” Lori Lowenthal Marcus, legal director of the Deborah Project, told JNS.

She noted that the state funding was to go towards an anthology and what was supposed to be a “non-political literary festival.”

Sam Markstein, national political director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, condemned the festival.

“As antisemitism rises across the country, it is shocking and appalling that UPenn and its president, Elizabeth Magill, would permit and enable such noxious Jew-hatred, particularly during the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” he told JNS. “Jewish students deserve to feel safe on college campuses, not subjected to harassment and vandalism.”

Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemitism, applauded Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and his office for “their unwavering commitment to ensuring that the State of Pennsylvania plays absolutely no role in this reprehensible hate fest.”

“We hold serious reservations that by permitting the perpetuation of this troubling event, President Magill is effectively fostering an environment in which antisemitism at Penn will not merely endure but flourish,” Rez said.

Leaders of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law also condemned the festival in a lengthy letter to the president of the university.

“By tacitly condoning the inflammatory and false narratives about Israel and the denial of the Jews’ ancestral connection to the land of Israel—themes that speakers at this weekend’s festival repeatedly espouse—Penn is allowing the festival to create a hostile environment for Jewish students on its campus at a time when, even the university has acknowledged, antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault are rising on college campuses,” they wrote.

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