Apartheid = Immoral Order

Authors Margaret Atwood and Amitav Ghosh are well known for works centered around oppression and colonialism with an anti-war stance. Tel-Aviv University is one of the prime targets of the academic boycott, for its support and part in Israel’s violent occupation over the Palestinian people. The Dan David Prize is one of those high-profile awards (very similar to the Oscar or the Nobel) which makes celebrities out of artists, academics and and scientists, and kicks perceptions and economies out of whack, for the sake of prestige, in the name bettering the world, under a very capitalist premise. But most importantly, the Dan David Prize is co-sponsored by the Tel-Aviv University (which is of course funded by the government, as it should be) and the ceremony is attended by the president of Israel.

The First BDS Direct Action in Israel
Atwood and Ghosh accepted the prize and its one million dollars, in all its bloody glory, even though they were beseeched, time and time and time again, not to support apartheid. On May 11th they spoke at a symposium, following their acceptance of the prize and we, Israeli activists of BDS, were there to make sure our stance is clear:

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Ghoshwood’s Mendacity

"Keeping Doors Open" (Photo: Jon Elmer)

by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Claire Chambers

Novelists Amitav Ghosh and Margaret Atwood have accepted the Dan David prize at Tel Aviv University, an institution at the heart of Israel’s military-industrial complex. By doing so they have spurned Palestinian civil society’s call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on the Zionist state. Atwood has specifically ignored this wonderful open letter from the students of Gaza. The shared prize money amounts to a million dollars, of which 10 percent will be handed back to support Tel Aviv’s graduate students.

Of course it would be a mistake to expect writers to attain to higher moral standards or to to display more political intelligence than anyone else. Two things stick in the craw in this case, however. The first is that both Ghosh and Atwood have made names as ‘progressive’ and ‘postcolonial’ writers. We aren’t surprised when an openly-declared Zionist like Martin Amis visits Israel, but when writers who sell books on the basis of their opposition to oppression visit, the resultant hypocrisy is quite nauseating.

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Boycott Israel? Amitav Ghosh & the Dan David Prize

The call for academic and cultural boycott is clearly a way to encourage civil society to play a broader political role—that is why it has the support of wide sections of Palestinian civil society. One of the most significant questions that call poses to us is simply this: How could those of us who oppose apartheid, occupation, and colonialism not support such a call?

Dear Amitav Ghosh,

We wish to express our deep disappointment in your decision to accept the Dan David prize, administered by Tel Aviv University and to be awarded by the President of Israel. As a writer whose work has dwelled consistently on histories of colonialism and displacement, your refusal to take stance on the colonial question in the case of Israel and the occupation of Palestine has provoked deep dismay, frustration, and puzzlement among readers and fans of your work around the world. Many admired your principled stand, and respected your decision not to accept the Commonwealth Writers Prize in rejection of the colonialist framework it represented.

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