Author Salman Rushdie on Friday called for a “stop” in fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, saying he was filled with “horror” and “premonition”.
According to Israeli officials, the Hamas group stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, maimed or burned.
Israel said about 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed before the army regained control of the attacked area.
More than 4,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in Gaza in brutal Israeli bombings in retaliation for the Hamas attack, according to the latest figures from the Hamas Health Ministry in Gaza.
Rushdie made a rare public appearance since a near-fatal stabbing attack in the United States last year and said he was shocked by the escalating conflict.
“I am filled with horror at the attack by Hamas,” the British writer told a news conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest publishing trade event.
“I am filled with forebodings about what (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu might do in return.
“I just hope that hostilities can be cessated as soon as possible.”
Rushdie lost sight in one eye after being attacked by a knife-wielding assailant who jumped on stage at an art event in upstate New York in August 2022.
The author, a naturalized 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 black-lens glasses over his right eye, Rushdie said Friday: “It’s obviously been a difficult year.”
“But I am happy that I am reasonably healthy again,” added the author, who will receive the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade on Sunday.
The knife attack “was quite a harsh and sharp reminder” of the fatwa issued against him, he said.
He added that it was “somewhat surprising” as “the temperature had cooled.”
“I’m just glad I’m still here to say it. It was close.”
Threats to democratic values
The award-winning author, 76, was stabbed multiple times in the neck and abdomen during a literary conference before attendees and security guards brought the attacker under control.
Earlier this month, Rushdie’s publishers announced that he would release a memoir about the attack in April, titled “Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder.”
When asked about the new work, he said it seemed “impossible to write anything else”.
“It would seem a bit absurd to write anything else before I had dealt with this subject.”
He also expressed concern about threats to democracy in some parts of the world, referring to the “madness of the (American) Republican Party”.
“It is deeply concerning that one of the major political parties in the United States appears to have deviated from democratic values and moved toward some kind of personality cult,” he said.
Rushdie mentioned India – where he was born in 1947 – and said there is “an increasing risk to journalists and anyone who opposes or criticizes the government”.
He also criticized recent moves to prosecute Booker Prize-winning Indian novelist Arundhati Roy.
“She is one of India’s great writers and a person of immense integrity and passion,” he said.
“The idea that she should be taken to court for expressing those values is shameful.”
Earlier this month, Indian media reported that Roy – a sharp critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government – could be prosecuted for a 2010 speech on Kashmir.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)