British Writers In Support of Palestine

February 14, 2011

BWISP Open Letter to Ian McEwan

Dear Ian McEwan,

We, the undersigned, understand that you may feel you have said your piece to us; we are nevertheless disappointed at your lack of response to our recent letter to The Guardian critically dissecting your defence of accepting the Jerusalem Prize. In that letter we asked you three direct questions, including whether or not you would have taken a state-funded prize from Apartheid South Africa. We were very much hoping for a reply.

We remind you that the Jerusalem Municipality, which awards the Prize, openly pursues apartheid urban planning policies. To maintain Jewish demographic superiority in the city, the Municipality ruthlessly orders the demolition of Palestinian homes and approves the building of new dwellings for extremist settlers: another thirteen just last week in Sheikh Jarrah. This dispossession is enabled by racist Israeli laws that permit Jews, but not Palestinians, to reclaim property from pre-1948 – this in diefiance of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and often on the basis of dubious ancient titles. The result is internationally illegal enclaves of often physically aggressive settlers whose presence is intended to make it impossible to establish East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Ian McEwan, you claim you are opposed to these settlements, but committed to ‘dialogue and engagement’. Why, then, would you rather appear to be pandering to the architects of ethnic cleansing than hold a civil debate with your fellow British writers? We remind you also that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is not our own ‘line’, but a Palestinian-led initiative borne out of decades of fruitless ‘dialogue and engagement’ with the intransigent Israeli state. BDS seeks not to end political processes, but to pressure Israel to commit itself to genuine negotiations and respect for international law. BDS is endorsed by, among many others, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mariam Said, and the Israeli group BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within – the latter at risk of their jobs for expressing their views in The Guardian. Urgently, we need to inform you that under a proposed parliamentary anti-boycott bill, due to be debated again tomorrow in the Knesset, members of BOYCOTT! would also face criminal charges

We applaud the courage of our Israeli friends, and invite you to seriously discuss these issues and events with us on your facebook page, the BWISP blog, in private, or however would suit you best. Should you ignore or decline this invitation, we stress that you can reject the Jerusalem Prize right up to the moment that your hands are dirtied by receiving it. And please believe us, should you make this momentous personal decision, we will be the first to celebrate you.


Rowyda Amin
Prof Mona Baker
Hugh Dunkerley
Naomi Foyle
Dr Ghada Karmi
Judith Kazantzis
Wendy Klein
Eleanor Kilroy
Zoë Lambert
Diane Langford
China Miéville
James Miller
Jonathan Rosenhead
Seni Seneviratne
Tom Vowler
Irving Weinman
Eliza Wyatt


  1. Courage is a valuable human trait that sometimes is in short supply. As in this case, fear is enough to derail justice ! As always… there is strength in numbers… Jewish extremism must not be encouraged in anyway. The Aparthied Israeli Regime thrives to the detriment of Peace in the Middle East.
    That is an undenialable fact !! Just like when South Africa’s Aparthied Regime changed course for the betterment of man.
    And so will the mis-guided State of Israel !!


    Comment by Leo O'Brien — February 14, 2011 @ 7:19 pm | Reply

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michele Rousseau and Ziggy Stardust, PalestineFrdmProject. PalestineFrdmProject said: British Writers in Support of #Palestine : Open Letter to Ian McEwan: #BDS #UK […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention British Writers in Support of #Palestine : Open Letter to Ian McEwan: #BDS #UK -- — February 15, 2011 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  3. I have one question to members of the BWISP group : When will you ask to boycott British academia and artists because of the presence and acts of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past ten years ?
    Like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach it seems that the BWISP group maintains a strong sense of hypocrisy. Please take this question seriously. I don’t represent a political armed body of any sort or a settler, in fact I myself support internal boycott over settlers business and products as well as the absolute refusal to enter the West Bank Jewish Settlements, but I really would love to know what actions are you taking as consciences people in regards to UK’s direct involvement with the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people. Will you boycott the next London film Festival ? will Mike Leigh avoid going to Hollywood for his next nomination ? Will you writes avoid being sold at Barnes & Nobles stores in the USA as a protest against it’s actions world wide ?

    Comment by yoni Maron — February 19, 2011 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

    • Dear Yoni,

      Thank you for your serious question, and also for your principled stand against the Settlements. I hope I can make our own position more understandable to you. First, boycott is a political tool – a strategy, not a philosophy. While every individual is free to reject the goods or events of countries whose policies they disagree with, as a international political movement boycott is adopted in situations when it is deemed to be of practical use – ie, when the target country will feel the result, as the US or the UK, being large economies, might not. Second, the boycott of Israel has been expressly called for by the Palestinians themselves, a call to which BWISP is responding, as not to respond clearly puts us in the position of supporting the status quo. This is not the case in regard to Iraq and Afghanistan, terrible as those conflicts have been, and are. The Stop the War Coalition has other strategies, and for myself, if I am not a fully active members of STW, that is because I have decided to focus on one political issue in order to be most effective as an activist. Running BWISP takes a huge amount of time – I am committed to it, but apart from signing petitions, or writing to my MP on particular issues, I cannot take on other causes to the same extent. However, I have written, published and performed poetry protesting both recent wars in the Gulf, and Afghanistan, and if the people of Iraq or Afghanistan called for a boycott against the UK, I would be happy to join it, just as an increasing number of Israelis are joining BOYCOTT! I hope that clarifies our position for you. Best, Naomi Foyle

      Comment by Naomi Foyle — February 19, 2011 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

  4. […] Φιλοπαλαιστίνιοι Βρετανοί συγγραφείς ξεσηκώθηκαν, δημοσίευσαν επιστολές, συγκέντρωσαν υπογραφές, εκείνος ανένδοτος. Επέμενε […]

    Pingback by “Jerusalem, the most intense place I have ever set foot in” | Donteverreadme's Blog — February 21, 2011 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

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