The following letter was issued by the Palestine Forum Japan on 29 January 2009:
Dear Mr. Haruki Murakami:
We ask you to withdraw from the Jerusalem Book Fair and receipt of the “Jerusalem Prize.”
We have heard the news that you are going to participate in the 24th Jerusalem International Book Fair from 15 to 20 February, and will be awarded the “Jerusalem Prize.” We are terribly shocked.
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 1,300 precious lives, injured more than 5,300 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. If you receive the “Jerusalem Prize” it will contribute to a false image of Israel respecting “individuals’ freedom in society” which will be portrayed and spread by the media. We fear that the unimaginable devastation of humanity which Israel has inflicted continuously and systematically upon Palestinians will be disregarded and Israel’s actions will be accepted. Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, has said there was “a prima facie case” that Israel gravely breached the Geneva Conventions during its 22-day campaign in Gaza. Citizens’ 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.
Furthermore, Mr. Nir Barkat, who was elected mayor of Jerusalem in November last year, is supporting the continued expansion of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, just as his predecessors. Making Jerusalem the capital, the annexation of East Jerusalem and the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem are all in violation of international law, but Israel claims these to be accomplished facts. This results in keeping true peace far away, and not only in Jerusalem but all Palestinians in the occupied territory become victims of the apartheid policy. We would have to say that Palestinians’ “individual freedom in society” is completely suppressed by Israel. Hence receiving the “Jerusalem Prize” from the mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Barkat who is in charge of this oppression, contributes towards hiding and vindicating Israel’s apartheid policy all the more. We believe that this is not your intention.
Please turn your attention to the Palestinians, who are being denied their freedom and dignity as human beings and resisting by surviving everyday life. We would humbly ask you to consider the effects your receipt of the “Jerusalem Prize” would have, what sort of message the world would receive in this Middle East situation, what kind of propaganda value it could have to Israel and the possibility of aggravating the critical situation Palestinians are facing.