Ian McEwan and the implications of accepting the Jerusalem prize


The Guardian | Monday 24 January 2011 |

Isreal has illegally occupied East Jerusalem since 1967. The Arab residents of what ought to be the capital of a Palestinian state are instead subjected to house demolition, routine humiliation at checkpoints, and arrest and/or expulsion for peacefully demonstrating against these injustices. Considering also the continuing illegal settlements in the West Bank, the siege of Gaza, the detention of Palestinian children, and the murder of nine aid workers on the Mavi Marmara, and the Jerusalem prize – awarded to writers whose work explores the theme of « individual freedom in society » – is a cruel joke and a propaganda tool for the Israeli state.

We, the undersigned, deeply regret the decision of Ian McEwan to accept this corrupt and cynical honour (I will accept Jerusalem prize, says McEwan, 20 January). McEwan believes that the Jerusalem book fair, which awards the prize, represents a blameless civil society. In fact, the fair is organised by the Jerusalem municipality, a key institution of the Israeli state and a major instrument in the illegal colonisation of East Jerusalem. The fair also works in concert with the national government and its dignitaries.

In its philosophy of « business as usual » in an apartheid state, the book fair is as boycottable as Carmel Agrexco or Caterpillar Inc. We urge McEwan to reject the prize, and join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, a worldwide civil society campaign aimed at pressuring Israel to comply with international law.

For the full list, see guardian.co.uk/letters

Rowyda Amin, Mona Baker, John Berger, Prof Rasheed El-Enany, Naomi Foyle, Fred Johnston, Judith Kazantzis, Eleanor Kilroy, Wendy Klein, Diane Langford, Tom Leonard, Prof Nur Masalha, China Miéville, Jonathan Rosenhead, Seni Seneviratne, David Swann, Tom Vowler, Irving Weinman, Eliza Wyatt, Robin Yassin-Kassab

British Writers in Support of Palestine