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Writer Kamila Shamsie Ordered to Return Award Over Pro-Palestinian Stance

A very poor decision.

Globally celebrated Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie had to return her Nelly Sachs Prize over her support for pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

After Kamila had been announced the winner of Germany’s Nelly Sachs Prize, her win was reviewed over her support for BDS movement that demands that Israel be boycotted over atrocities it continues to commit in Palestine.

“Kamila Shamsie’s political positioning to actively participate in the cultural boycott as part of the BDS (Boycott Disinvestment Sanctions) campaign against the Israeli government is clearly in contradiction to the statutory objectives of the award and the spirit of the Nelly Sachs Prize”

Kamila Shamsie Nelly Sachs Prize
Nelly Sachs Prize committee take away Kamila Shamsie’s Nelly Sachs prize.

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The organizers of the German literary award declared the Broken Verses novelist’s support for BDS as ‘anti-Semitic’.

Kamila Shamsie and BDS

This issue arose when the Kartography writer turned down an offer to have one of her works published in Israel. That’s when she voiced support for the pro-Palestine BDS movement.

Spiegel magazine reports that Kamila Shamsie had backed out herself and urged the committee to nominate someone else for the award. She volunteered to do so after her pro-Palestinian stance became a concern for the organizers.

That seems untrue given the British-Pakistani author’s outrage. Kamila Shamsie told the Middle East Eye that:

“It is a matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust.”


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Germany’s Nelly Sachs Prize is named after Jewish Nobel Prize laureate and poet Nelly Sachs. The accolade honors writers that embody ‘tolerance, respect, and reconciliation’.

Last year the German Federal Parliament declared any support for the BDS movement would be considered ‘anti-Semitic’. Under any other circumstance that would be considered curbing free speech. Interestingly, yhe country is not concerned with legislation to curb rising xenophobia and Islamophobia.

“It is a matter of great sadness to me that a jury should bow to pressure and withdraw a prize from a writer who is exercising her freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.”

Ironically an award meant to honor tolerant writers has no tolerance for Palestine or pro-Palestinian voices. Or do the committee just fear persecution by the German Federal Parliament?

Written by Ummara Sheraz

Entertainment & culture writer at ProPakistani/Lens. Occasionally dabbles in other news.

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