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International PEN Melbourne Centre Statement: Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories war

March 28, 2024 IN WIP
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International PEN Melbourne Centre
Statement: Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories war

19 March, 2024
Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of
political or international upheavals.

PEN International Charter

The  committee members of International PEN Melbourne Centre abhor the ongoing
humanitarian catastrophe of the Israeli/ Occupied Palestinian Territories war now in its fifth
month. Unspeakable atrocities are reported each day since the 7 October Hamas attack on
Israel followed by Israel’s declaration of war against Hamas. To date the Ministry of Health
Gaza has reported 31,553 deaths, 73,546 people injured and 72% of the total fatalities being
children and women. (Note 1) In addition, on 18 March the United Nations World Food
Programme reported that famine is imminent in the northern part of the Gaza Strip and the
entire population of Gaza is facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, according to the
new Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report. (Note 2)

On 17 March 2024, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that 95 journalists
and media workers were confirmed dead including 90 Palestinians, two Israelis, and three
Lebanese. Sixteen journalists are reported injured; four reported missing, and 25 reported
arrested. Multiple assaults, threats, cyberattacks, censorship, and killings of family members
are also reported. Note 3.

These journalists on the ground are our eyes and ears, they risk all to witness and report the
war. PEN is all too familiar with this narrative of war: those who reveal the ‘inconvenient’
truth – the first casualty of war – are targeted and too often killed. PEN International
condemns the killing of all journalists, writers, and poets for the peaceful practice of their
professions.

We join the calls for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, the return of hostages, the
unfettered and free delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid and desperately needed
food supplies, and a halt to the targeted killing of journalists.

Here, we are saddened and troubled by the toll the war has taken in our community where
writers and literary organisations have been divided and many writers have come under
attack and have been excluded for their positions on the war or because of their culture.

The PEN International charter calls members to work ‘to dispel all hatreds and to champion
the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality in one world.’ This is a hard ask,
however writers and journalists must be free to speak and free to write and continue the
work of crossing boundaries through their words.

International PEN Melbourne Centre Committee, 19 March 2024

 

 

Note 1. Statistics from a war zone will always be difficult to verify.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/26/can-we-trust-casualty-figures-from-the-
hamas-run-gaza-health-ministry

Note 2. https://www.wfp.org/news/famine-imminent-northern-gaza-new-report-warns
The famine threshold for acute food insecurity has already been far exceeded, while acute
malnutrition among children below five years is proceeding at record pace towards the
second famine threshold. Non-trauma mortality – the final famine indicator – is accelerating,
but data remains limited, as is typical in war zones.
Note 3. https://cpj.org/2024/03/journalist-casualties-in-the-israel-gaza-conflict/
Here you will read a list of those journalists killed, their names and where available their
employment status and the situation of families.
This is devastating reading and is updated regularly as information comes to hand.
“CPJ emphasizes that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and
must not be targeted by warring parties,”

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International