Two Israeli Arab authors who won literary awards in Lebanon will not be able to collect their prizes in Beirut later this month because of laws in the two countries, organizers of a cultural festival said Wednesday.
Instead of traveling to Beirut, writers Ala Hlehel and Adania Shibli will be going to London to receive their prizes there. The two are among 39 Arab authors to be honored at the Beirut39 Festival that starts April 15.
The ban was not unexpected – Lebanon prevents holders of Israeli citizenship from entering the country and Israel bans its citizens from visiting "enemy" states.
The two countries remain technically at war and have fought several battles in the past decades. Israel occupied parts of southern Lebanon for 18 years until it withdrew in May 2000. In 2006, a war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah group left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.
The four-day cultural event in Beirut celebrates fiction and poetry writers under the age of 40. It's organized by the Britain-based Hay Festival, a nongovernment group that fights for rights of writers, and the Beirut UNESCO World Capital of the Book 2009.
'Authors living under occupation'
Hlehel, 35, is acclaimed for his collection of short stories Al-Sirk, or The Circus, and a play. Shibli, 36, wrote the novel We Are All Equally Far From Love, and has published short stories and essays in literary magazines.
The regulations are so strict that Israeli lawmakers have gotten into trouble before for visiting Lebanon. Lebanon also bans travelers with Israeli stamps in their passports from entering the country.
Raquel Vicedo, project manager with Hay Festival, told The Associated Press the organizers knew from the start the two would not be able to make the festival and set up a simultaneous event, entitled Free the World, in London in which the two will participate.
Ghassan Abu Chakra, in charge of cinema, theater and exhibition at Lebanon's Ministry of Culture, said the two authors "are Arabs living under occupation and it is our job to help them."
"Adania and Alaa will be in London because, regrettably, we were not able to bring them to Beirut," said Joelle Rizkallah, also a project manager.
Hlehel, who was not immediately available for comment, wrote on his blog that he has petitioned Israel's High Court to travel to Beirut.