A majority of this year’s finalists at the national book awards made a collective statement calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war at the ceremony in New York on Thursday, amid a storm behind the scenes as sponsors pulled out in anticipation.

Twenty of the 25 finalists up for the five categories – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s literature and translated literature – got on stage as author Aaliyah Bilal, nominated in the fiction category for her novel Temple Folk, read out the prepared statement.

“On behalf of the finalists, we oppose the ongoing bombardment of Gaza and call for an humanitarian ceasefire to address the urgent humanitarian needs of Palestinian civilians, particularly children,” Bilal read.

“We oppose antisemitism and anti-Palestinian sentiment and Islamophobia equally, accepting the human dignity of all parties, knowing that further bloodshed does nothing to secure lasting peace in the region.”