Israel boycotters continue to target Ian McEwan

By Jennifer Lipman, January 31, 2011
Ian McEwan's books include Atonement

Ian McEwan's books include Atonement

Pro-Palestinian campaigners have stepped up calls for author Ian McEwan to boycott an awards ceremony in Jerusalem at which he is to be honoured next month.

Despite the fact that Mr McEwan has already responded to a letter from British Writers in Support of Palestine, published in the Guardian, members of the group have sent a second letter demanding he reject the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society.

The writers said that Mr McEwan should “stay home and help to build a just Jerusalem” even though the Atonement author had previously told them that he did not consider their “line” to be the only one and asked them courteously to respect his decision.

Signatories of the letter include the anti-Israel critic John Berger, and Mona Baker, the Egyptian-born Manchester University professor who in 2002 sacked two Israeli academics from journals she edited as part of an academic boycott.

They criticised Mr McEwan for being “co-author” of “another disgraceful chapter in the west's ugly elegy to Palestine”.

They also likened Israel to apartheid South Africa and asked whether Mr McEwan would have been willing to collect an award from the latter.

The letter said: “Art, we believe, may change the hearts and minds of individuals; in the callous hands of politicians it is but a tin trophy.

“Boycott, however, worked in South Africa.”

Mc McEwan has also received calls for a boycott from the general secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, but has vowed to go to Israel for the ceremony on February 22.

He said in his letter last week that he was committed to looking for ways in which “literature, especially fiction, with its impulse to enter other minds, can reach across political divides.”

The prize is Israel’s most important literary honour for foreign writers. Given out biennially, past recipients include Bertrand Russell and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Last updated: 3:09pm, January 31 2011