Israel: Palestinian authorities ban book, issue arrest warrant for writer

28 February 2017
Palestinian authorities have banned Abbad Yahya’s latest novel for “indecency”, confiscated copies of the novel and issued an arrest warrant for the writer.
Photo: Section of front cover of ‘Crime in Ramallah/Abbad Yahya Facebook page


Palestinian authorities have banned Abbad Yahya’s latest novel ‘Crime in Ramallah’ for “indecency”, confiscated copies of the novel from bookstores and issued an arrest warrant for the writer, who is currently in Qatar on business and afraid of going back home, reported Al Jazeera on 10 February 2017.

“I don’t know what to do. If I go back, I will be arrested, and if I stay here, I can’t stay far from my home and family,” Yahya told the Associated Press.

Palestinian Authority Attorney General Ahmed Barak said the novel included “indecent texts and terms that threaten morality and public decency, which could affect the population, in particular, minors” adding that the ban “does not violate freedom of opinion and expression”.

Palestinian News Agency WAFA on 16 February 2017 reported that Barak, in a letter to the Ministry of Culture, said his office did not confiscate the novel, but “temporarily removed it from bookstores until the conclusion of the investigation”.

Editor detained and interrogated
After the ban was issued on 6 February 2017, the book’s editor and distributor, Fuad al-Aklik, was detained for six hours and interrogated. He was released the following morning with the help of Palestinian Culture Minister Ehab Bsaiso, reported The Times of Israel on 10 February 2017.

Bsaiso has also urged Barak to revoke the ban and arrest warrant.

The culture department of the Palestine Liberation Organisation issued a statement criticising the ban, saying:

To use the term public decency is a form of manipulation and unacceptable justification because it has no legal or logical definition. It opens the doors for an endless censorship, which violates freedom of expression and right to creative writing.

Ban dividing Palestinian community
While hundreds of artists and intellectuals have come out in support of Yahya though social media and a petition, others, including head of the Palestinian Writers Union, Murad Sudani, agree with the ban, saying the writer has gone too far.

Sudani called the book a “silly novel that violates national and religious values of the society in order to appease the West and win prizes”.

“The job of the writer in our occupied country is to raise the hope and enlighten people, not break the national and religious symbols,” Sudani said. “My freedom as a writer ends when the freedom of the country begins.”

English PEN reported on 16 February 2017 that Yahya has received death threats, been the victim of a social media hate campaign and that copies of his book have been burned in Gaza.

‘Crime in Ramallah’ tells the story of three men who live in the city and work together in a bar where the murder of a young woman takes place. The story follows the lives of the three men, one of whom is gay, as they take very different turns after the murder. In telling their story, the novel makes fun of Palestinian leader and includes graphic sexual language.

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