Earlier this spring, when Margaret Atwood refused to heed the call of BDS, accepting the Dan David Prize for Literature in Israel, many progressive Canadians felt they had lost a cultural icon. She shared a million dollar prize as well as an acceptance speech with Amatov Ghosh in which the authors showed what many thought was a naive understanding of the human rights abuses wrought on Palestinians by the Israeli state.
Many activists were deeply disappointed in Atwood, whose acceptance speech and dismissal of the principles of the cultural boycott of Israeli apartheid, were taken as a betrayal of her progressive principles (compare to Elvis Costello, for instance, who, a few weeks later, supported the boycott, cancelling his Israeli concerts). Activists expressed this vocally on twitter, facebook, blogs and in letters to Atwood herself.
Well, apparently her visit to Israel to accept the prize changed her, and in an article published in Haaretz yesterday, she shares some of what she learned, as we learned in a brief analysis of the article, shared this morning with rabble. In the message reproduced below, Ottawa based activist Monzer Zimmo encourages others to rethink Atwood, just as she rethinks the situation:
When Margaret Atwood considered accepting an Israeli prize, I was among those who wrote urging her to take a stand in defence of the common humanity of Jews and Palestinians and refuse the prize unless Palestinians are treated as equals to Israeli Jews. After she decided to accept the prize, I thought she had shrunk by acquiescing to the Israel lobby. I thought that we – in Canada – had lost a cultural icon on whom we were unanimous in love and admiration. I thought Atwood had sold her soul to the devil for the cheep price of pleasing the Israel lobby; there was no other explanation, for the likes of Atwood need not hear my lecture to understand the impact of cultural boycott on peacefully bringing about justice for all. I thought that I had read the last word written by Margaret Atwood.
Then, a friend – whose judgment I trust – sent me this link to an article by Margaret Atwood: The Shadow over Israel.
I “clicked” on the link and read Margaret Atwood again, after having concluded that she had died. In this article, Canada’s cultural icon is coming back to life. We have not lost Margaret Atwood who, from this experience of dealing closely with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has “come out altered.”
“None of this changes the core nature of the reality, which is that the concept of Israel as a humane and democratic state is in serious trouble. Once a country starts refusing entry to the likes of Noam Chomsky, shutting down the rights of its citizens to use words like “Nakba,” and labelling as “anti-Israel” anyone who tries to tell them what they need to know, a police-state clampdown looms. Will it be a betrayal of age-old humane Jewish traditions and the rule of just law, or a turn towards reconciliation and a truly open society?”
“Time is running out. Opinion in Israel may be hardening, but in the United States things are moving in the opposite direction. Campus activity is increasing; many young Jewish Americans don’t want Israel speaking for them. America , snarled in two chaotic wars and facing increasing international anger over Palestine , may well be starting to see Israel not as an asset but as a liability.”
“Then there are people like me. Having been preoccupied of late with mass extinctions and environmental disasters, and thus having strayed into the Middle-eastern neighbourhood with a mind as open as it could be without being totally vacant, I’ve come out altered. Child-killing in Gaza ? Killing aid-bringers on ships in international waters? Civilians malnourished thanks to the blockade? Forbidding writing paper? Forbidding pizza? How petty and vindictive! Is pizza is a tool of terrorists? Would most Canadians agree? And am I a tool of terrorists for saying this? I think not.”
Read and reflect…!!!
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