Talk by Pulitzer winner who backs Palestinians canceled by NY Jewish institution

(Reuters) -Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen said on Saturday a Jewish organization in New York City canceled a reading he was due to give on Friday without explanation, a day after he said he signed an open letter condemning Israel’s “indiscriminate violence” against Palestinians in Gaza.

Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American professor and writer whose novel “The Sympathizer” won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was scheduled to speak at the 92nd Street Y literary center’s Christopher Lightfoot Walker Reading Series event in Manhattan at 8 p.m.

Writing on Instagram, Nguyen said he learned at 3 p.m. that the event had been canceled by the 92NY. The center describes itself on its website as “a proudly Jewish organization.”

“Their language was ‘postponement,’ but no reason was given, no other date was offered, and I was never asked,” Nguyen wrote. “So, in effect, cancellation. Some people in social media comments say they heard it was a bomb threat. I’ve heard no such thing from 92Y staff.”

In a statement to Reuters, a spokesperson for 92NY confirmed it postponed the event, citing Nguyen’s stance on Israel as well as the Oct. 7 attack by militants of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and continued holding of hostages, which it said “has absolutely devastated the community.”

“Given the public comments by the invited author on Israel and this moment, we felt the responsible course of action was to postpone the event while we take some time to determine how best to use our platform and support the entire 92NY community,” the spokesperson said.

Nguyen’s representatives did not respond to messages seeking more details.

The unprecedented attack into southern Israel by Hamas two weeks ago killed 1,400 people, and resulted in Israel imposing a “total siege” of Gaza that has left the enclave’s 2.3 million people running out of food, water, medicines and fuel.

In an Instagram post on Thursday, Nguyen said he signed the open letter along with other authors because the effect of Israel’s policy was the inevitable death of civilians.

“That is wrong and it must stop,” he wrote, saying he remained a strong supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement that calls for economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land.

Nguyen said the organizers of Friday night’s event switched it to an independent bookshop.

“I spoke about my book, yes, but also about how art is silenced in times of war and division because some people only want to see the world as us vs them,” Nguyen wrote on Saturday. “And writing is the only way I know how to fight. And writing is the only way I know how to grieve.”

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, David Ljunggren and Joseph Ax; Editing by Daniel Wallis)