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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