Dear Coen Brothers, It’s Nothing Personal (It’s all Political)

Ethan and Joel Coen recieve the $1M Dan David Prize on May 15th 2011 at Tel Aviv University. ~ Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Ethan and Joel Coen recieve the $1M Dan David Prize on May 15th 2011 at Tel Aviv University. ~ Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen

On May 15th, while thousands of people were getting shot and gassed in the streets, the Coen Brothers (and many others) took a million dollars from Tel Aviv University, in the form of the Dan David Prize. I’m sure someone would have cared to protest, had  over 15 people not been killed and hundreds injured, during the Nakba Day commemoration demonstrations, that same day.

Update (17.5.11): 21 dead, and over 200 injured.

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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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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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