"It was announced yesterday that British novelist Ian McEwan has been awarded the Jerusalem Prize, awarded biennially at the Jerusalem Book Fair, to a writer whose work explores the theme of the ‘freedom of the individual in society’. The Book Fair is notable for its Fellowship scheme, in which selected ‘promising’ international editors and agents are treated as guests of the Fair, and offered tours of the city and environs. The Prize, which comes with a trip to Jerusalem and $10,000, has been awarded to authors including Susan Sontag, Arthur Miller and J.M. Coetzee. Five previous winners have gone on to be Nobel Laureates, giving the Prize a prestige beyond its relatively modest cash reward.
BWISP reacts with dismay to today’s further announcement that McEwan intends to accept the Prize. The writer stated in 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.
“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.”
In a sign of how far the BDS movement has come, The Guardian solicted a response from Betty Hunter, the general secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who said: “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.”