(JTA) – An author said he was “shocked and upset” to learn that two British literary events declined to invite him to speak after learning he was Jewish.
Richard Zimler’s newest book is The Gospel According to Lazarus. He wrote in the British daily newspaper The Guardian that his publicist was “turned down by two cultural organizations that had previously shown enthusiasm for hosting an event with me. ‘They asked me if you were Jewish, and the moment I said you were, they lost all interest,” his publicist said.
The organizations reportedly feared backlash from the pro-Palestinian movements including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
“If cultural organizations are afraid of hosting events for Jewish writers, then Britain has taken a big step backwards,” Zimler wrote.
Zimler, who wrote the best seller The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon published in 1996, was born in the United States and lives in Portugal and said he has no ties to Israel.
His new novel is set 2,000 years in the past in ancient Israel, not the modern state, and deals with Jesus’ relationship with Lazarus, who he raised from the dead. It was released in the United Kingdom in April.
Zimler wondered in his column: “Are there Jews – scientists, engineers and professors, for example – who are denied jobs in the U.K. or lose contracts because of prejudice? Five or 10 years ago, I’d have said it was highly improbable. After my recent experience … I’d say it was entirely possible.
“If you fail to be welcoming to Jewish writers and artists because you fear a backlash, then your cowardice makes it possible for the haters to have their way – to spread their irrational dislike of Jews and make shunning them seem acceptable,” Zimler also said.