Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Palestinian Solidarity Quickdraw Pounce on Ian McEwan for Jerusalem Prize

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign was at the ready to pounce as soon as Ian McEwan was announced as the winner of the Jerusalem Prize for Literature. They have an admirable calendar alert system triggering immediate responses to any sign of cultural or academic interaction with Israel. If it's January it must be the Jerusalem Prize, if it's June, it must be the Tel-Aviv International Student Film Festival, etc., etc.

This is how McEwan responded to the PSC, "I certainly will accept the prize. It is a highly distinguished award and I am honoured to join the backlist of writers who are previous winners." Naturally, he added the caveat, ""I am not a supporter of the Israeli settler movement, nor of Hamas. I would align myself in the middle of a great many of my Israeli friends who despair that there will ever be peace while the settlements continue. I support the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's call for a freeze on the settlements. But I also have no time for Hamas lobbing missiles into Israel either."

And, naturally, PSC's Betty Hunter wasn't satisfied: "We welcome Ian McEwan's statement about his disapproval of the settlements but we would point out that accepting this prestigious prize is a way of giving support to the Israeli government, which is dedicated to pursuing illegal expulsion policies against the Palestinian people. His acceptance will be used as a public relations exercise by the Israeli government."

Given the escalating rhetoric about Jerusalem, I wouldn't be surprised if this is just the first salvo from the solidarity campaign and associated anti-Zionists. Many earlier recipients were warned off accepting the prize. Susan Sontag, for example, the 2001 recipient known for her critical stance on Israel, announced upon receiving messages from Israeli peace activists urging her not to come to Jerusalem, "There is a very large group of people here who don't agree with the government's policies. They're not leaving. ... So why can't I come and talk to people here?"

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