Frankfurt, Germany: Author Salman Rushdie on Friday called for a “cessation” in fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, saying he was filled with “horror” and “foreboding”.
Hamas group rushed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death, according to Israeli officials.
Israel said around 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed before its army regained control of the area under attack.
More than 4,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed in Gaza in relentless Israeli bombardments in retaliation for the Hamas attack, according to the latest toll from the Hamas health ministry in Gaza.
Making a rare public appearance since a near-fatal stabbing attack in the United States last year, Rushdie said he was horrified at the escalating conflict.
“I am filled with horror about the attack by Hamas,” the British writer told a press conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s biggest publishing trade event.
“I’m filled with foreboding about what (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu might do in return.
“I just hope that there can be a cessation in hostilities at the earliest point.”
Rushdie lost sight in one eye after the attack by a knife-wielding assailant who jumped on stage at an arts event in New York state in August 2022.
The author, a naturalised American based in New York, has faced death threats since his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” was declared blasphemous by Iran’s supreme leader.
Wearing glasses with a black lens over his right eye, Rushdie said on Friday: “It’s obviously been a difficult year.”
“But I’m happy to be back in reasonable health,” added the author, who is to receive the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade on Sunday.
The knife attack “was a pretty harsh and sharp reminder” of the fatwa issued against him, he said.
He added that it was “somewhat surprising” as “the temperature had cooled off”.
“I’m just happy to still be here to say so. It was a close thing.”
Threats to democratic values
The award-winning author, 76, was stabbed multiple times in the neck and abdomen at a literary conference before attendees and guards subdued the assailant.
Earlier this month, Rushdie’s publishers announced he would next April release a memoir about the attack entitled “Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder”.
Asked about the new work, he said it seemed “impossible to write anything else”.
“It would seem kind of absurd to write something else until I had dealt with this subject.”
He also voiced concern about threats to democracy in some parts of the world, referring to the “madness of the (US) Republican Party”.
“It’s very worrying that one of the major political parties in the United States seems to have departed from democratic values and moved towards a kind of cult of personality,” he said.
Rushdie singled out India — where he was born in 1947 — saying there was “increasing risk to journalists and anyone who stands up against or criticises the administration”.
He also criticised recent moves to prosecute Booker Prize-winning Indian novelist Arundhati Roy.
“She is one of the great writers of India and a person of enormous integrity and passion,” he said.
“The idea that she should be brought to court for expressing those values is disgraceful.”
Earlier this month, Indian media reported that Roy — a trenchant critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government — could be prosecuted for a 2010 speech about Kashmir.
(This story has been published from a syndicated feed.)