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Murakami slams Israel for treatment of Palestinians

13 Mar 2009 - 17:26

Distinguished Japanese author, who visited Israel last month to receive literary prize, publishes critical article against Israel's policy in occupied territories.

IBNA: According to Mondoweiss, Last month, the Japanese author Haruki Murakami accepted the Jerusalem Prize as part of the Jerusalem International Book Fair. Murakami was widely criticized for attending and rejecting calls to boycott the event.

At the award ceremony Murakami addressed the controversy in his acceptance speech:

I chose to come here rather than stay away. I chose to see for myself rather than not to see. I chose to speak to you rather than to say nothing.

Please do allow me to deliver one very personal message. It is something that I always keep in mind while I am writing fiction. I have never gone so far as to write it on a piece of paper and paste it to the wall: rather, it is carved into the wall of my mind, and it goes something like this:

"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg."

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: it is "the System." The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others -- coldly, efficiently, systematically.

Murakami's speech was greeted with some confusion in the Israeli press. He is now making his point a bit clearer back in Japan.

Murakami has written about his experience in a recent article in the Shunjuu Bungei literary journal. Murakami says he witnessed "an Israeli soldier [take] an entire family out of their car and beat up the father in front of his children." He also describes seeing the Separation Wall driving 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 continues, "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.