Boycott activists in Spain and Palestine, and a cadre of world-renowned artists and authors including Alice Walker, Ken Loach and Roger Waters, have appealed to Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina to not accept the Jerusalem Prize he was awarded and is due to receive this Sunday, 10 February.
As The Electronic Intifada reported, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued an open letter to Molina, asking him to reconsider his upcoming visit to Jerusalem to accept the prize from Israeli President Shimon Peres.
PACBI stated, in part:
The book fair you will be attending is sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality, a key node in the official Israeli structure of colonialism and apartheid, and a leading violator of Palestinian rights. The Municipality has, since its inception, been a major instrument in the colonization of Israeli-occupied Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
Spanish BDS activists with the solidarity organization RESCOP (Red Solidaria Contra la Ocupacion de Palestina) have also urged Molina to cancel his visit.
In a letter, posted on the RESCOP website, activists say that:
The Solidarity Network against the Occupation of Palestine has received with shock, sadness and indignation the news of your trip to Jerusalem next month, in order to receive from Israeli President and Mayor of Jerusalem, the Israeli Prize of literature called Jerusalem Prize. We are writing to you on behalf of all people who advocate for peace, human rights and international law who have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israel system of occupation, colonization and Apartheid.
… As Director of Cervantes Institute, we understand that you are well aware of how culture can be used for propaganda, ideological and political purposes. Although it is not publicly discussed, nor in Spain neither in the United States, Israel’s case is perhaps one of the most remarkable examples of cultural institutions subordination to governmental priorities. Israeli authorities spend huge amounts of money to send Israeli artists and intellectuals in the world, and to organize international cultural and artistic events in Israel and invite representatives of art and culture mainly from Europe, U.S. and Latin America.
The cultural project “Brand Israel,” which is joint project of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ministry of Culture, was created in 2006 in order to wash the image of Israel abroad and to cast a smokescreen over the illegal occupation of Palestine, Israeli violations of international law and war crimes it commits with impunity.
Additional numerous appeals to the writer can be viewed (in Spanish) on the RESCOP website.
Meanwhile, a letter penned by noted artists, authors and scholars Alice Walker, Ken Loach, Roger Waters, Stephane Hessel, Paul Laverty, John Berger, and Breyten Breytenbach was also issued to Molina. Their letter stated, in part:
[The] Jerusalem Prize is central in the Israel propaganda and its deceptive campaign of diverting attention away from its persistent crimes and violations of international law. Prominent writers who accept to participate in official Israeli events and receive the state’s honors are, in fact, unwittingly lending their names to the state’s hasbara effort, which is part and parcel of the “Brand Israel” campaign.
What is particularly offending basic principles of humanity, respect and honesty, is the declared purpose of the Jerusalem Prize, being to praise one’s contribution to “individuals’ freedom in society.” This concept is in total contradiction of Israel’s criminal acts such as massacre, collective punishment, blockade policy, construction of settlements, by-pass roads and annexation wall, and Apartheid policies which hinder cultural, social, educational, health and economic development of Palestinian people, which are effectively eliminating Palestinians’ freedom.
If you receive the Jerusalem Prize it will contribute to a false image of Israel respecting “individuals’ freedom in society” which will be portrayed and spread by the media. We fear that the unimaginable devastation of humanity which Israel has inflicted continuously and systematically upon Palestinians will be disregarded and Israel’s actions will be accepted.
… Aware of Israeli authorities purposes of whitewashing its crimes and normalizing occupation trough culture, world personalities dedicated to art and culture, have publicly stated their refusal to perform in Israel and participate in cultural events sponsored by Israeli institutions, and proclaimed their commitment to cultural boycott as leverage to end this colonial regime.
We believe that our role, as writers, artists and intellectuals, is to reveal to the public what the oppressors try to keep in the darkness, and to claim loudly for justice, freedom and dignity of the oppressed.
Convinced as we are that you share this vision, we ask you, dear colleague, to reconsider your position and heed the BDS call by rejecting the Jerusalem Prize.
The original Spanish version of the letter, with English translation, is posted on the RESCOP website here.
Israeli boycott campaigners with Boycott from Within have also written a letter to Molina, saying, in part:
By accepting the Jerusalem prize, you will legitimize the actions of Jerusalem’s racist mayor, Nir Barkat, who pursues and defends the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, in order for them to be occupied by Jewish settlers. Right now, the Shamasneh family from the east East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarah is facing a violent eviction from their home.
In addition, just ten minutes away from the book fair venue, children in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan are abducted from their homes, detained and even tortured by Israeli police acting in the service of Israeli settlers. Mayor Nir Barkat bears responsibility for these crimes!
Furthermore, you are expected to receive the prize from President Shimon Peres, who has been a member of and a senior propagandist for Israeli governments which have used cluster munitions, flechette artillery shells, and white phosphorus bombs in densely populated civilian areas in Gaza and Lebanon.