Pro-Palestinian groups in Japan and in other countries have called on popular Japanese writer Haruki Murakami to withdraw from the Jerusalem Book Fair, during which he is set to receive the “Jerusalem Prize” from Mayor Nir Barkat next week.
In an open letter to Murakami, author of the best-selling "Norwegian Wood" and "A Wild Sheep Chase," members of the Palestine Forum Japan wrote, "We ask you to seriously reconsider the social and political significance of a world-famous author such as yourself participating in the book fair, which is fully supported by the Foreign Ministry of Israel and the City of Jerusalem, and receiving the award from the mayor of Jerusalem, when Israel has just taken more than 1300 precious lives, injured more than 5300 people, including 500 who are seriously wounded, and destroyed a tremendous number of lives in Gaza and thus committed a series of war crimes.
"What we are particularly concerned about is the purpose of the 'Jerusalem Prize', being to praise one's contribution to "individuals' freedom in society". This concept is in total contradiction of Israel's criminal acts such as massacre, collective punishment, blockade policy, construction of settlements and building of the 'separation wall' in East Jerusalem that are effectively eliminating Palestinians' freedom," the letter read.
"If you receive the prize it will contribute to a false image of Israel respecting individuals' freedom in society which will be portrayed and spread by the media."
The letter goes on to quote Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Gaza, who said there was evidence that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza.
'Vindicating Israel's apartheid policy'
According to the Palestine Forum Japan, "groups in Europe are preparing to bring the persons responsible before an international tribunal. To avoid the recurrence of this massacre, which reminded us of the Warsaw Ghetto, the international community has to acquit the moral obligation, and send the message 'do not allow, condone or forget the massacre' to defiant Israel. We regard the receipt of the Jerusalem Prize as obviously contradicting this cause."
In the letter members of the pro-Palestinian group went as far as assailing Jerusalem Mayor Barkat, saying he is "in charge of this oppression" and "contributes towards hiding and vindicating Israel's apartheid policy."
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel joined the Forum in its appeal to Murakami.
Zeev Birger, the Jerusalem Book Fair's veteran director, said in response that "the people behind the letter are apparently unfamiliar with the facts and are unaware of literature's role in bringing people closer together.
"Had they bothered to study the facts they would have learned that the fair has been promoting serious and non-political cultural dialogue for the past 40 years," he said.