Two open letters published this week, urging Ian McEwan to reject the Jerusalem Prize:
From Rete degli Ebrei contro l’Occupazione (Italian Network of Jews against the Occupation)
Lunedì 31 Gennaio 2011 18:02 Giorgio Forti
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Dear Ian McEwan,
We heard that you have been awarded the Jerusalem Prize, and are expected to participate in the ceremony at the Jerusalem Book Fair. As readers of several of your novels, we certainly agree with the fact that you deserve a prize, as you are indeed an outstanding writer.
However, we think that there are strong ethical grounds to refuse both to participate in this ceremony and to accept the prize. In fact, this event is exploited by the Israeli political authorities to assess if and how they are accepted in the international culture Community, as gentlemen among gentlemen.
This Book Fair is organized by the Municipality of Jerusalem and managed by the Ariel Municipal Company Ltd.; it is supported by the Israeli Government and all its powerful propaganda apparatus. Ariel, as you probably know, is one of the biggest Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land after confiscating it from its legitimate owners. This is a consequence of 43 years of military occupation, which has become more and more oppressive, especially in recent times.
A number of United Nations deliberations has condemned the Israeli occupation, the building of permanent Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the building of the Wall on Palestinian land. Israel defines it as a separation barrier needed for security; Palestinians – and any sensible person in the world – calls it an Apartheid wall. You are certainly informed of the extremely oppressive character of the Israeli occupation: it deprives Palestinians of most human rights. In the last a few years it has even been impossible for Israeli Palestians to live with their spouse, if one of the two is a West Bank resident. It requires non-Jews who wish to become Israeli citizens to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish State. The list of violations of human rights and of international laws is very long; it includes the arbitrary detention in Israeli prisons of about 9.000 Palestinians, many of which are minors. Moreover, we cannot forget the extremely severe siege of the Gaza Strip and the massacre of 1400 persons, mostly of which were civilians, two years ago.
We hope that you will reconsider going to Jerusalem to accept the prize: this will mark your solidarity with the oppressed and your rejection of any complicity with the oppressor.
Wednesday, February 02
Dear Mr. Ian McEwan,
We are a group of Indian academics, writers, readers and artists who have come together as the Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI). A number of us who count ourselves among your readers have been saddened by your decision to accept the Jerusalem Prize at the Jerusalem International Book Fair on 20 February 2011.
You have told the Guardian: “I think one should always make a distinction between a civil society and its government. It is the Jerusalem book fair, not the Israeli foreign ministry, which is making the award. I would urge people to make the distinction – it is about literature.”
In response, we, like many other groups across the world, would like to call your attention to the following points once again.
1. The 25th International Book Fair that will take place in Jerusalem February 20th-25th, 2011 is organized by the Municipality of Jerusalem and managed by the Ariel Municipal Company Ltd. The Jerusalem Municipality has, since its inception, been a major instrument in the colonization of Jerusalem. It continues to be instrumental in the active discrimination against Palestinians in Jerusalem, including the demolition of Palestinian homes. In other words, the fair’s sponsor is a key institution of the Israeli state and very much part of its apartheid programme.
2. The book fair is an important occasion on the Israel-promotion calendar, serving to highlight Israel’s image as a patron of book publishing and the arts in general. The offer of visiting fellowships to young editors, agents and scouts from around the world aims to promote this carefully crafted image.
3. The Jerusalem Prize, to be awarded on 20 February 2011 at the opening evening of the Book Fair, is described as “the cultural highlight of the Jerusalem International Book Fair. The Prize is awarded to a writer whose work best expresses and promotes the idea of the ”freedom of the individual in society.” The theme was chosen both for its wider international appeal and for its internal Israeli resonance.” By honoring world-class writers, the Israeli political and cultural establishment is again promoting the state as a patron of the arts, literature, and culture in general. And by accepting the Jerusalem Prize you would be lending yourself and your work to the official hasbara effort—part of the Brand Israel campaign.
4. We are sure you will agree that there are some questions here that we cannot escape. Can an apartheid state promote and celebrate individual freedom? Can a prize planned, sponsored and used by an apartheid state be about literature?
5. Responding to their call for a boycott is one clear way to let the Palestinians know that we have heard their call for support from the international community. This is definitely something we can indeed do to assure the Palestinians that they are not alone. There is still time for you to reconsider accepting the prize. We urge you to refuse the Jerusalem Prize and support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Signatures available here.