About a month ago, renowned Japanese author Haruki Murakami arrived in Israel to receive the prestigious Jerusalem Prize at the International Book Fair in the capital. In a speech he gave during the event Murakami subtly criticized Israel for its policy in the occupied territories.
However, in an article recently published by the author in the Shunjuu Bungei literary journal, Murakami takes off the gloves and strongly condemns Israel's "unjust" treatment of the Palestinians.
"Israel has adopted a policy that seals off the Palestinians inside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a policy that denies the refugees' right to return to their land in order to protect the interests of the Jewish people; this is unjust," Murakami writes.
He explains that he decided to accept the Israeli prize believing this would allow him to speak freely in front of an Israeli audience.
Murakami accepts prize from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (Photo: AP)
While Murakami notes that "Israel isn't a tyrannical state and is founded on free speech," the encounters with Israelis he describes reflect a racist, militant and aggressive society.
"I sense a very strong patriotic approach when I talk to Israelis. The schools instill it in them through the official history, and three years of military service for boys and two years for girls is mandatory," he writes.
Murakami claims that Israelis fail to understand that their policy towards the Palestinians is wrong. "Palestinians have to undergo thorough security checks whenever they want to go somewhere and their economic activity is limited. They are not free to build their homes when and where they want to, and in fact have no sovereignty over their land," he explains.
'Israel suffers from trauma'The writer admits that during his trip to Israel he did not visit Gaza or the West Bank, but describes an incident he witnessed in Jerusalem: "At a junction in Jerusalem, without me realizing why, an Israeli soldier took an entire family out of their car and beat up the father in front of his children."
In another encounter with an Israeli taxi driver, "I asked him what was the purpose of the security wall that runs along the highway. He replied that it was there in order to keep the animals from crossing the border."
Murakami's visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum prompted him to come up with the following insight: "I think that the State of Israel suffers from some sort of trauma. The brain tells them that excessive self-defense is not good, but their body spontaneously responds to the slightest of provocations."
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in response to the article: "The State of Israel is proud for having presented the Jerusalem Prize to Murakami and respects his right to express his opinions on current affairs.
"However, Israel regrets the fact that the author, who is highly popular in Israel, preferred to adopt some inaccurate generalizations about the Middle East conflict, without knowing the facts. We would be happy if during his next visit in the country the author would find the time to learn more about Israel and the reality in the region."