Sponsors withdraw amid controversy
AWW fallout

Sponsors withdraw amid controversy

PwC Australia has joined MinterEllison and French multinational IT company Capgemini in withdrawing support for Adelaide Writers' Week.

Mohammed El-Kurd, director of AWW Louise Adler, and Susan Abulhawa. Photo: Twitter @CHASS_Aus
Mohammed El-Kurd, director of AWW Louise Adler, and Susan Abulhawa. Photo: Twitter @CHASS_Aus

The fallout from Adelaide Writers’ Week (AWW) has continued, with PwC Australia the latest company to withdraw its support for the event.

Law firm MinterEllison has already distanced itself from the festival, as has French multinational IT company Capgemini, while three Ukrainian writers have now boycotted it.

The controversy began with the inclusion of two speakers, Mohammed El-Kurd and Susan Abulhawa, who have made incendiary public comments regarding Israel and Zionism.

Abulhawa is a Palestinian-American writer who has accused Ukraine’s Jewish president Volodymyr Zelensky of dragging the world into conflict, describing him as a Nazi-promoting Zionist.

El-Kurd, a Palestinian poet, has described Israel as a “terrorist, genocidal nation” and makes allegations that Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians.

The Executive Council of Australia Jewry (ECAJ) co-CEO Peter Wertheim said the expression of solidarity by PwC with the Jewish and Ukrainian communities in Australia is “heartening”.

“Australians rightly place a high value on the right to free speech, and have long recognised that the proper limits of that right are exceeded when it is exploited to disseminate racism and hate propaganda, whether emanating from the far right or the far left. Neither is acceptable,” Wertheim said.

“Adelaide Writers’ Week cannot be a forum for dialogue and debate when only one side of the argument about Israel is allowed to be presented by multiple speakers, with not a speaker with a contrary view being given a platform.”

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) also welcomed PwC’s decision to stand with the Jewish community.

“Hate speech and incitement to violence should have no place at a writers’ festival or anywhere else in Australia in 2023,” said ZFA president Jeremy Leibler.

“I hope that other sponsors follow this decision.”

Prominent publisher Morry Schwartz has called on Louise Adler to resign as director of AWW, but Adler – who is Jewish and a daughter of Holocaust survivors – has refused to back down, instead telling AAP, “I’m not running a political festival here, I’m running a literary festival.”

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