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Festival slammed for promoting Deborah Conway after Palestine comments

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Deborah Conway has received criticism over comments made about Palestinian children (Images via YouTube, Google Docs screenshot)

An open letter signed by more than 500 writers and arts workers has criticised Writing WA for including musician Deborah Conway on Perth Festival’s Literature and Ideas program which runs across the weekend (Friday 23–Sunday 25 February).

Conway, who questioned whether Palestinian children killed by the Israeli Defence Forces were actually children when she was interviewed by Patricia Karvelas for ABC radio, is programmed as the opening event.

The letter is signed by writers including Randa Abdel-Fattah, Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Sarah Ayoub, Yves Rees, Jennifer Mills and Laura Jean McKay.

The letter states:

The programming of Deborah Conway risks the safety of the Festival and platforms beliefs that should be comprehensively rejected.

 

Conway’s recent comments on ABC Radio, particularly her dehumanising refusal to acknowledge Palestinian children as innocent victims, seek to normalise the ongoing genocide enacted by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people.

Conway was earlier named as one of the contributors to the “creatives” WhatsApp group which was organising campaigns against Overland literary magazine and other pro-Palestinian writers such as Clementine Ford.

The publication on social media of names from that WhatsApp group was the catalyst for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to propose new anti-doxxing laws.

Perth Festival issued a statement in January in response to complaints, without mentioning Conway’s name:

‘People should consider the impact of their statements and actions and should not cause hurt, humiliation or intimidation of others. We all have a collective responsibility to engage with each other.’

The Festival has told Books and Publishing that Conway’s events were still programmed. However, the three events are listed as “currently unavailable”.

Nick Dyrenfurth, Executive Director of the John Curtin Research Centre, went public with his condemnation of the letter writers’ campaign on X, claiming Conway’s ‘crime of being Jewish in 2024’ was the reason for the ‘call to deplatform her’.

Dyrenfurth also took a swipe at Adelaide Writers Week director, Louise Adler, saying he looked forward to her ‘condemnation of such cultural barbarism’.

Rosemary Sorensen was a newspaper books and arts journalist based in Melbourne, then Brisbane, before moving to regional Victoria where she founded Bendigo Writers Festival, which she directed for 13 years.

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