Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I have another story up on Cafe Diverso. It’s the other sample story I sent them. Actually it was up yesterday already, but I am a bit shy about it. It’s not light and trivial like Sponja, and it touches a delicate place.

It’s called ‘The Birthday Boy’. It was maybe not the wisest story to be published there so early, but stories I've sent in since will hopefully even out the impression somewhat.

On Sunday evening I sent in my next batch of stories, and have been busy rewriting stories I sent in February, according to the editors’ requests. I tell you this Cafe Diverso thing is proving to be better writing experience than any creative writing course, or even blogging. I think blogging spoils us, actually, because we have such freedom.

Writing to order, more or less, is completely different. Having to align with certain objectives; having to keep the stories to a certain length, to certain subjects; having to work out what they will find acceptable without compromising myself -- it is all very challenging. (Don't worry, John. I'm not compromising myself).

Some of you have commented on the fact that Cafe Diverso lists Israel and Palestine together on their list of countries, and on the fact there is actually no sovereign state called Palestine right now.

When they first approached me I was also struck by this, so I wrote them the following:

I find it difficult to accept that Israel and Palestine are listed on the site together. It feels to me a lack of respect for both peoples. My hope and dream is for a free and independent Palestinian state alongside a free and independent Israel, in which we two peoples who share this land will each be able to live in peace and coexistence according to our different values and beliefs. Is it not possible for there to be a separate category for Palestine and for Israel?

The answer I received from Boris Matijas, the blogs and connections editor who had contacted me (and has recently left Caf? Diverso), was this:

We acknowledge our impact yet this was certainly not our intention. This is a very delicate issue and one that resulted in much debate amongst the team. In fact we would offend someone no matter what route we took. In the end we decided to choose Israel and Palestine, with separate country profiles, and to make a concerted effort to find a Storyteller from Israel. This is why we have contacted you. Please try and understand that all of the members of our team share your vision of a solution to the problems. However we cannot change our decision at this point. We believe that our choice is the one that is most consistent with the objectives of our project. We respect very much your opinion however. Please be assured that we will create separate country categories as soon as the political powers make it a reality, even though we wholly acknowledge that many people in your countries already believe in this reality.

While I wasn’t very happy with this answer, I decided to overlook the matter. I see Caf? Diverso as an opportunity to reach people who would not otherwise be exposed to a moderate ‘middle Israel’ point of view (as someone once called it).

When I asked Killian, founder of Cafe Diverso and a really nice guy, if I could post this exchange on my blog, he asked to add that ‘our objective is to 'bridge cultural divides' and that this forms the basis of our decision.’

So I just wanted you to know.

My comments on the matter seem to have struck a chord. Cafe Diverso’s Palestinian storyteller also seems to have remarked on the issue, and now they are rethinking the policy. I’ll keep you updated.