The Arty Semite

Margaret Atwood Rejects Cultural Boycott of Israel

By Ezra Glinter

  • Print
  • Share Share

As we saw with the Batsheva Dance Company in 2009 and the Jerusalem Quartet in March, when it comes to Israel, even the most straightforward arts organizations have the potential to become the subjects of political controversy. The most recent flare-up centered around Canadian author Margaret Atwood, who accepted the Dan David Prize for literature on Sunday at Tel Aviv University, despite protestations from Palestinian groups who urged her to turn it down.

“By accepting the prize at Tel Aviv University, you will be indirectly giving a slight and inadvertent nod to Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide,” read an open letter issued on April 4 by “the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel.”

Atwood rejected the demand, however, arguing that cultural boycotts constitute “a form of censorship,” and that “to boycott a discussion of literature such as the one proposed would be to take the view that literature is always and only some kind of tool of the nation that produces it — a view I strongly reject.”

Atwood, who is the international vice president of PEN, a literary and human rights organization that promotes freedom of expression, was cited by the prize committee for “exploring both national and transnational issues, such as colonization, feminism, structures of political power and oppression, and the violation and exploitation of nature.” She shared the award, which is worth $1 million, with Indian-Bengali novelist Amitav Ghosh.

In her response to the boycott campaign, Atwood also called attention to a less remarked upon threat to the Middle East — climate change. “Unless some immediate and shared thought and work is done soon, there will not be a Middle East to dispute about,” she wrote.

Atwood Accepts Israeli Prize, Defends ‘Artists Without Armies’ [Bloomberg]


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Batsheva Dance Company, Batsheva, Amitav Ghosh, Books, Boycott, Canada, Canadian Literature, Climate Change, Dan David Prize, Electronic Intifada, Ezra Glinter, Israel, Jerusalem Quartet, Literature, Margaret Atwood, PEN, Tel Aviv University

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.