Annual gala held by PEN America amid ongoing criticism regarding its response to the Mideast war

PEN America Gala Raises Eyebrows Amid Controversy

The annual gala for PEN America, a literary and human rights organization, is set to take place on Thursday night with a star-studded guest list including the likes of Paul Simon and Seth Meyers. However, the event has been the subject of controversy and criticism in recent months due to PEN’s response to the Israel-Hamas war.

Criticism has been mounting against PEN for what many see as a lack of concern for the suffering of Gaza residents and the deaths of Palestinian writers and journalists. This has led to the cancellation of several PEN events, including the spring awards ceremony and the World Voices festival. Despite this backlash, the gala remains a major fundraising event for the organization, with over $2 million already raised.

Key supporters from previous years, including major publishing houses and prominent organizations, are continuing to show their support for PEN. CEO Suzanne Nossel defended the organization’s partnerships, emphasizing the importance of finding common ground rather than holding every cause in common.

The gala, set to take place at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, will honor individuals such as Paul Simon, Wall Street Journal publisher Almar Latour, and Vietnamese dissident Pham Doan Trang. Authors scheduled to attend include renowned figures such as Robert Caro, Candace Bushnell, and Jay McInerney.

Despite the controversy surrounding PEN, supporters argue that the organization plays a vital role in promoting and elevating writers as a crucial force in society. However, protests against PEN have continued, with public clashes between writers and board members.

In response to the controversy, a benefit reading was recently held in downtown Manhattan, with proceeds going to a youth-led Palestinian non-profit in Gaza. The event highlighted the ongoing tensions within the literary community and the divisions over PEN’s actions.

As the gala approaches, the debate over PEN’s response to the Israel-Hamas war continues to simmer, underscoring the challenges faced by organizations seeking to navigate complex political and social issues while upholding their core values.

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