The German writer Regula Venske has resigned from her position as general secretary of the international authors’ association PEN in protest against public statements made by her globally active artists’ organization on Hamas’ war against Israel.
She said on Monday that she read “with horror” a “release” from the London secretariat of PEN International on October 10th, according to a statement from the German PEN Center.
“Their lack of empathy for the Israeli victims of the Hamas massacre on October 7th” left them “deeply shocked and depressed,” Venske said, according to the German PEN Center in Darmstadt. She therefore asked PEN President Burhan Sönmez to “release” her from her duties as Secretary General of the global association “with immediate effect”.
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Venske explained that she had come to the conclusion that she could “do little in terms of press releases in the current structures of PEN International.” She also finds it “unacceptable” that the admission of a national Israeli PEN association has been “delayed for a long time”.
“Contrary position” to PEN International officials
On October 7th, hundreds of fighters from the Islamist Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the USA and the European Union, attacked Israel and committed atrocities mainly against civilians. According to Israeli information, around 1,200 people were killed in Israel and around 240 people were taken hostage to the Gaza Strip.
In response to the Hamas attack, Israel began massive attacks on targets in the Gaza Strip, and ground troops have since moved into the area. According to Hamas figures, which cannot be independently verified, the attacks killed 13,000 people in the Gaza Strip.
On Monday, the German PEN Center additionally referred to an already known “contrary position of the PEN Center Germany to the officials of PEN International” with a view to the “interpretation of the Middle East conflict”. This had already been “openly addressed” by the German PEN Vice President Astrid Vehstedt during a panel discussion at the Frankfurt Book Fair. PEN Germany also issued its own press release at the time.
Venske is a 68-year-old writer and literary scholar who writes adult and children’s books. The author, who lives in Hamburg, was president of the national German PEN association from 2017 to 2021. Last October she was elected Secretary General of PEN International and has been a member of the international organization’s Executive Board since 2015. (AFP)