Muslim intellectuals opposed to the choice of Israel as the guest of honour at this year's book fair in the northern Italian city of Turin launched a seminar Monday on "ethnic cleansing in Palestine."
The five-day book fair, which opens Thursday, is honouring Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state.
Several Muslim writers, intellectuals and artists as well as the Free Palestine association kicked off the two-day seminar at the University of Turin titled "Western Democracies and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine."
A spokesman for the organisers, Tariq Ramadan, on Monday criticised the planned presence of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the book fair, saying it made it "a political and not a cultural event."
Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan El-Banna, the Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Sunni Islamist movement.
Ramadan said last week that he would not "offer his support to 60 years of a policy of oppression of the Palestinian people."
More than 300,000 people visited last year's fair in Turin.
A similar dispute arose at the Paris book fair in March, where Israel was also the guest of honour.
Several Muslim countries boycotted the event, inaugurated by Israeli President Shimon Peres.