‘Is your fav author a zionist?’: Viral list sparks antisemitism fears among authors

List posted online categorizes writers as ‘Pro-Israel/Zionist,’ ‘Pro-Palestinian/Anti-Zionist,’ various types of ‘It’s complicated,’ or ‘Both sides-ing it’

A screenshot of a Google spreadsheet titled, "Is your fav author a zionist" that shows a list of authors that the document's creators deem pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. (Google screenshot)
A screenshot of a Google spreadsheet titled, "Is your fav author a zionist" that shows a list of authors that the document's creators deem pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. (Google screenshot)

JTA — Novelist Talia Carner’s agent got in touch on Thursday morning to let her know she was on a list that had gone viral.

Usually, that’s good news for an author. But Carner knew better: Since December, she said, she has faced harassment from people who believed the content of her latest book, set in the aftermath of the Holocaust, proved that she supports Israel. Now, she had landed on a viral Google Doc titled “Is your fav author a zionist?” — firmly in the “yes” category.

She didn’t dispute the conclusion, but she feared the consequences. While the adage says all publicity is good publicity, “it’s not for me. It gives me agita,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The antisemitism is eating me.”

The spreadsheet, created earlier this week by an X user named Amina, compiles social media posts, public statements, and close readings to sort authors into categories: “Pro-Israel/Zionist,” “Pro-Palestinian/Anti-Zionist” and various shades of “It’s complicated,” including “Both sides-ing it.”

The spreadsheet also offers suggested responses to the title question. “If YES, it’s suggested you do not give them any money (purchasing their books, streaming their shows/movies) or promote their work on any social platforms,” a key reads. “If UNCLEAR, at the end of the day it’s up to you. I suggest refraining from buying/promoting until more evidence is out.”

To advocates for Jews in the literary world, the spreadsheet offered bitter confirmation of a climate of intolerance in which authors who are perceived to be pro-Israel are facing exclusion and harassment.

A screenshot of a Google spreadsheet titled, “Is your fav author a zionist” shows how to use the list of authors that the document’s creators deem pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. (Google screenshot)

“We’ve been hearing about lists like this one for months now. Seeing this one publicly, and the explanations, is truly chilling,” Naomi Firestone-Teeter, CEO of the Jewish Book Council, said in a statement.

“This is shades of the 1930s. Calling for a boycott of Jewish authors and their books achieves the same effect as book-burning,” the group’s president, Elisa Spungen Bildner, said in a statement. (Bildner is also on the board of 70 Faces Media, JTA’s parent company.)

The list adds to extensive turmoil in the literary world as prestigious literary prizes, leadership at the Jewish New York cultural center 92NY, major awards ceremonies and the staff of Artforum magazine have all been upended by tensions over the seven-month-old Israel-Hamas war. Last month, the literary free-speech group PEN America canceled its annual awards ceremony and festival after most of its award nominees called for a boycott of the group, citing insufficient criticism of Israel.

The spreadsheet, which had grown to nearly 200 names by Thursday, suggested that simply not weighing in on the divisive war was enough to earn skepticism. Karen McManus, the author of “One of Us is Lying,” was labeled “unclear” in her views, with the comment, “Seemingly not engaged with any discourse.” So was Salman Rushdie, the Booker Prize-winning novelist who was almost killed in 2022 by a man enraged by his criticism of Islam; Rushdie has supported a Gaza fundraiser but also participated in a PEN America event, the document says, leading to the conclusion that he is “at best, both sides-ing it.”

Most of the authors on the list are identified as pro-Palestinian because of social media posts expressing concern about Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. Some participated in a February event in which authors auctioned signed books to raise money for child amputees in Gaza. One, Antonia Angress, is included because she posted an Instagram graphic from the Jewish non-Zionist group IfNotNow calling for a ceasefire and because a character in her novel “Sirens & Muses” expresses opposition to Israel’s military rule in Palestinian territories. “Actively supports palestine and is also jewish so they deserve extra support,” the spreadsheet says.

Many of the authors who are identified as pro-Israel or Zionist are Jewish, but not all of them. (Most US Jews feel a sense of connection to Israel, surveys show, though a growing number of younger Jews say they do not or hold harshly critical opinions about Israel.) Some are open advocates for Israel, but others were assigned to that category on the basis of a single post deemed pro-Israel, such as an October link to a fundraiser for an Israeli emergency services provider, in the case of bestselling novelist Kristin Hannah. Another author, Annabel Monaghan, is deemed a Zionist because she “created a pro israel instagram post with no mention of palestine.” The linked post, dated October 12, expresses concern for Jewish friends alarmed by Hamas’s devastating onslaught on Israel and antisemitism.

Hamas-led terrorists murdered 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 252 people from southern communities in a massacre that sparked the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“I’m in good company, if they put someone like Kristin Hannah on it,” Carner said. “The question is how effective this list is going to be, and the longer it gets the better we all are, especially if it contains people like that.”

The list seemed likely to swell further as views to the tweet announcing it topped 1 million — with more than 8,000 shares — and it was being viewed by dozens of people at a time. The spreadsheet’s creator, identified within the document as Amina Hossain, was updating it on Thursday afternoon.

She did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday but acknowledged on X that her document had gone viral — and was eliciting criticism.

“As this is straying past its intended audience I urge my followers to not engage with some of these rage-bait accounts,” she wrote. “It is not worth your time and energy and that’s exactly what they want.”

Firestone-Teeter said the list underscores the need for the council’s efforts to support Jewish authors who face antisemitism, which include a new system to report concerns.

“This list, coupled with the many ways in which our authors have been targeted — review bombing, Jewish book event cancellations, online abuse and harassment, censorship — is deeply troubling, and is a part of our concerns about wider scale antisemitism in the literary world, and more generally,” she said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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