There was impassioned statement from Michel Moushabeck, founder and publisher of Interlink Publishing, at the end of an overview of the Arab publishing scene.  “We are entering toxic times,” he said.  “Publishers have an important role to play in publishing books that inspire and lead to informed debate.  The political influence of literature can be great.  My country [the USA] vilifies Muslims.  The vast majority of Americans have never met anyone from the Arab world.  When President Trump issued his executive order [banning people from Muslim countries coming into the US] we were the only publisher with books on our list from all those countries.

“Speaking through literature is the loudest voice around.  It can speak with a voice of connection, of compassion and of understanding – and yes, of activism too.  Literature is universal.  Your work – our work – matters.  Translation matters.  In fact, right now, I would say that translation is more important than ever before.”

Among the panellists was Baker Ramadan from Al-Shamel Publishing in Nablis, Palestine.  He said the Israeli occupation made life difficult – “it is a bitter fact” – and that book fairs were “out gateway to the world”.  He had special thanks for the Jordanian Publishers Federation who helped “take our books out to the world”.