A group of over one hundred literary translators—including International Booker Prize winners Jennifer Croft, Daisy Rockwell, and Deborah Smith, as well as Susan Bernofsky and Antonia Lloyd-Jones—have signed on to a powerful statement of solidarity with the people of Gaza, calling for a ceasefire and identifying aspects of the special role translators play in moments of international conflict:
As literary translators, we are in contact with writers all over the world, working to bring their work across cultures and borders … Gaza’s airspace and sea border are both controlled by Israel. Yet writers from Gaza continue to reach out to tell the world what is happening to them. Sometimes they are killed just days or weeks after their words reach us.
Organized by translators Anna Gunin and Maya Chhabra (after Gunin’s initial attempt to to encourage the U.K.-based Society of Authors to issue a statement was met with resistance), the statement calls to an end to the Israeli army’s bombing of Gaza and the violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, as well as “a just peace that ends the current domination of Palestinian life by the Israeli military occupation.”
If you’re a translator who would like to add your name to the statement, please email gazaopenlettertranslators@
Here is the statement in full:
We watch in horror as Israeli bombs fall on Gaza. The total number of Palestinian deaths in Gaza has now surpassed 10,000. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on November 6th that 4,008 of those deaths were children. Hospitals lack sufficient fuel for their lifesaving equipment, but Israel has banned the entry of fuel into Gaza. Israeli authorities order Gaza’s civilians to flee south, but the south is also being bombed and forced displacement does not guarantee their safety. Faced with this carnage, the undersigned literary translators feel morally compelled to oppose the devaluation of Palestinian civilian lives and to call for a ceasefire.
As literary translators, we are in contact with writers all over the world, working to bring their work across cultures and borders. Gaza has been cut off from the rest of the world by a constant blockade since 2007. The Palestinians who live there cannot leave without exit permits from Israel or Egypt. Gaza’s airspace and sea border are both controlled by Israel. Yet writers from Gaza continue to reach out to tell the world what is happening to them. Sometimes they are killed just days or weeks after their words reach us.
Revulsion at Hamas’s killing of over 1,400 Israelis, including around 1,100 civilians, cannot supersede international law. Even in times of great grief, the fundamental principle of civilian immunity must not be violated. Understanding the pain of Israelis as they fear for the lives of the hostages does not mean justifying the actions of the Israeli government. To make the protection of civilians by any side conditional on reciprocity will lead only to disaster. Just as Israeli civilians must be off-limits, so too must Palestinian civilians.
This urgency extends beyond Gaza. Since October 7th, Israeli forces have killed over a hundred Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, which is not controlled by Hamas. Soldiers abuse detainees; extremist settlers attack Palestinian civilians with impunity.
An equitable resolution that ends the occupation and enables Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace and freedom seems as far away as ever. The current Israeli government, which includes a convicted far right extremist as Minister of National Security, has consistently doubled down on supporting illegal settlements in the West Bank, rather than taking steps to negotiate with Palestinian partners and achieve a just peace. High-level politicians make inflammatory speeches referring to “human animals” and “Amalek.” We focus on the actions of the Israeli government as we believe they have the most power in this situation. And amid such actions from those in power, it is hard not to be discouraged.
We, the undersigned translators, refuse to despair. We believe that peace is possible and that it starts with choosing to protect civilians now. We insist that Palestinian lives have equal value and that civilians must be protected at all times.
We invite our fellow translators, as well as professional groups in our field, to join us in calling for:
The cessation of Israeli bombardment and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to protect civilian life, as well as lifting the blockade so humanitarian aid can be delivered safely.
The immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas.
A just peace that ends the current domination of Palestinian life by the Israeli military occupation, and provides for the freedom, security, and civil and political rights of both peoples.
Kareem James Abu-Zeid
Nguyễn An Lý
Kimrey Anna Batts
Hope Campbell Gustafson
Juliet Winters Carpenter
Musharraf Ali Farooqi
Claudia Gómes Oliveira
Louise Heal Kawai
Anne Marie Jackson
Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Jenny Jisun Kim
Janet Elizabeth Lee
Sophia Rebecca Lewis
Bruna Dantas Lobato
Kathleen Maris Paltrineri
Louise Rogers Lalaurie
Ginny Tapley Takemori
Katherine Van de Vate
Emily Yae Won