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. (http://www.jerusalembookfair.com/main.html). 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.
(See http://jibffellowship.com/quick-facts-about-the-book-fair/ )
2. 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.” http://www.jerusalembookfair.com/the_jerusalem_prize.html) 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 (See
3. 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?
4. 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.
Posted on 31-01-2011