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Antonio Munoz Molina 

Earlier this year an internationally renowned intellectual was invited to Israel. When his intention to accept the invitation was made public, he was showered with insults, accused of providing succor to Zionism and urged to disinvest from involvement with Israel. By interacting with the Israeli state he was marked as an enemy of the Palestinian cause and warned that he would be indelibly defiled if he shook the bloodied hand of his host, President Shimon Peres.

Yet unlike Professor Stephen Hawking the distinguished Spanish novelist Antonio Munoz Molina chose not to "respect" the demands of the boycotters. And upon arriving in Israel to accept the Jerusalem Prize, Molina could reflect that despite "the misunderstandings, the stereotypes, the malice and opportunism of politics, the mistakes and abuse of an occupation that has lasted too many years, there is in Israel a society that is alive, democratic, pluralistic and open, in which I can recognize myself as a citizen and where there are many people like me." Remarking that this discovery would be "insultingly obvious" to anyone who actually experienced life inside Israel, Molina observed that many watching from outside were unable or unwilling to recognize reality. Instead Israel was the only country where one was forced to explain, almost apologetically, that the vast majority of its citizens are "decent, cultivated, supporters of secularism, the rule of law, of equality between men and women, opposed to the dangerous mix of dual entrenchment that can come from nationalism and religion."

But the fact that Israeli society protects freedom of thought, expression and religion to a far greater extent than any other country in the region, and its pluralism is matched by few states around the world is immaterial to Hawking and the boycotters. Evidence that the majority of Israelis support a two-state solution and a withdrawal to some negotiated version of the 1967 borders is dismissed as irrelevant. And the decision by a number of Palestinians to attend the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, while Hawking boycotts it, is viewed as inconsequential. Even the hypocrisy of Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian leader of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement against Israel, enrolling at Tel Aviv University for his graduate studies is ignored. Instead Israel is isolated as unique in its inhumanity and subject to an irrational hatred, unrestrained by any attempt at reasoning or understanding. Singled out as incomparably evil, it is held to a moral standard not applied to genuinely authoritarian and repressive regimes, from Russia to China to Syria.

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June 3rd, 2013
7:06 AM
liberty Anonymous Frank: Israel was created for the local Palestinian JEWS. Jews, Christians and Muslims were the indigenous Palestinians. Palestine was divided into Jordan and Israel but Jews were not allowed to settle in Jordan but the Arabs were already in where Israel was created and had a majority of ARABS. Most Arabs left to escape the fighting egged on by the would be invaders. It is absurd to suppose that 100,000 Jewish fighters could drive out 750,000 Arabs in three months AND fight off five Arab armies at the same time; it would be like Iraq's Sunnis driving out the Shia whilst fighting off an invasion by Iran, Syria, Saudi, Jordan and Kuwait. Pre-Israel immigration of Jews was LESS than pre-Israel Arabs. Post Israel, 850,000 JEWS FROM ARAB LANDS were expelled with nothing doubling Israel's population. whilst the 750,000 Arabs that left had houses, food, schools, hospitals, etc. consuming 95% of the UN refugee budget, a proportion that persists to this day. Today, half of all Israelis either are refugees from Arab lands or their descendants; the Jews got their people and the Arabs got theirs, an exchange of population occurred, we should leave it at that.

June 2nd, 2013
10:06 PM
Molina is still perpetuating the myth of 'occupation'. First, if he is referring to the creation of Israel he should know that Israel was created for Palestinian Jews and Arabs by the UN, that Arabs were a majority in Israel at its creation and only left to escape the attempted invasion by five Arab armies. The notion that 100,000 Israeli fighters could expel 750,000 Arab men women and children in three months whilst fighting off five Arab armies bent on Israel's extermination is absurd. There was Jewish immigration prior to Israel but they were outnumbered by Arab immigration. Second, if he is referring to Israeli settlements in the West Bank he should know that the West Bank belongs to noone, it is unclaimed land. Prior to Israel it was run by the Brits, before them the Ottomans [deceased]. It was offered as a second Arab state ]the first being Jordan] but was refused. Jordan occupied it illegally in 1948 and gave up all claims in 1988. The PLO is not a government in waiting and meets none of the criteria for a state set out by the UN. It is legal to hold land in lieu of peace [see the Potsdam conference 1945 and the Helsinki final act 1975] but there is no-one to make peace with and hand it too, the Palestinian terms for peace is for all the Palestinians that fled in 1948 to return - plus all their descendants numbering 8 million for Israel's 8 million, absurd. Finally, the land settled by Israel was either unoccupied, uncultivated or bought from its owners. Only land for military use was bought compulsorily which is normal in every other country.

May 31st, 2013
10:05 PM
From what I can see, the main difference between 'bad' Apartheid South Africa and 'good' Israel is that the Israelis are smart enough to keep Israel as a Jewish ethno-state, whereas the Afrikaners weren't smart enough to make SA a Boer ethno-state and let us Anglos keep full citizenship. This puts Israel on a much firmer foundation.

May 28th, 2013
11:05 AM
"Israel has people who have only recently settled there, just like the USA, NZ, Australia, Canada and other places" Actually there have always been Jews in what is now Israel - bar I think, a brief period of expulsion during the crusades, but insofar as your point is correct, why then is only Israel boycotted and why is she alone called to account?

May 23rd, 2013
11:05 AM
Boycotting Jews is nothing new. The Germans and the Austrians all did it just over half a century ago. But then they also practiced euthanasia. Perhaps some of the boycotting professors will reflect on this.

Charlie in NY
May 20th, 2013
1:05 PM
To John Gregory: Your comment reveals some extraordinary (and bizarre) sensitivity. Marking the bombing of the King David Hotel was not a celebration of killing British soldiers. If you really believe that, then I suppose, by your lights our Independence Day in the US a celebration of killing British soldiers (and the occasional Hessian mercenary too). To Jeannie Mehta: perhaps you should emulate Molina and actually see for yourself what the state of affairs in Israel is, rather than spout propaganda. The Arab Israelis do have equal rights under the law, the Palestinians in the territories do not because the land is not part of Israel proper. Considering that, like the British, the Ottoman land law was preserved as the real property law in the area, land was not "stolen away" if by that you mean private property without due process of law. If you mean the territories themselves, then you might wish to re-read the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine to remember that it provide, under international law, the right to Jews to closely settle in the land that, at the time, included Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan. If you mean the lands conquered as a result of failed Arab attempts to destroy Israel, well, that is the penalty generally assessed on losing belligerent powers. To AnonymouFrank: Of course, China is a more authoritarian country than Israel. Which country better is described by the following: free press, open elections, independent court system. And that is the short list. There are many things worth discussing about Israel and the attempts to single it out, among all the nations, for a boycott. Those discussions are only helpful if they are based on facts and not simple minded and ill-informed commentary. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to show that you know the underlying history and information. What you then choose to do with it all would make for interesting reading, but please don't think you are scoring points by being so selective your bias is blindingly obvious.

May 14th, 2013
6:05 AM
So just because Hawking chose to exercise his choice, you Charlie Laderman chooses to denigrate China. Is China authoritarian? Or is Israel more authorian. China does not have walls running all across the landscape apart from the Great Wall whereas Israel does. While China has people who have lived there for thousands of years, Israel has people who have only recently settled there, just like the USA, NZ, Australia, Canada and other places. Before China was authoritarian, just 60 years ago, China was invaded and imposed upon by democratic and non authoritarian people. Why did you not write then? Furthermore, the only place Jews could go to was China during and after WW2. If you have to make a point about Jews, please leave China out of it.

Jeannie Mehta
May 13th, 2013
8:05 PM
How can the State of Israel call itself pluralistic when Palestnians do not have equal rights, and their land is stolen away, their water is taken by illegal settlements and children are arrested. Palestinians cannot even get to their own olive farms for harvest without going through many difficult checkpoints with disrespectful IDF soldiers making life very difficult for them? Shameful treatment of a people whose homes were stolen, land was taken and birthright snatched away! Why can't we see pluralism in action there? Why are new olive trees dug up and old established one bulldozed? Pluralism? shmuralism!

john Gregory
May 13th, 2013
5:05 PM
July 22 2006 Israel celebrated the success of its citizens in killing British soldiers during and after WWII. The occasion was the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the King David Hotel. The man involved in that attack was also responsible for killing our soldiers. The grateful citizens of Israel made him their Prime Minister. OK. things happen in war that are best forgotten, not Israel Killing British soldiers is a cause for celebrations. What a despicable country you represent. In his piece in the 'Times'Daniel Johnson forgot to mention those celebrations. He mentioned China and Iran, as far as I know they have yet to officially celebrate the deaths of our soldiers. Israel does.

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