JERUSALEM (AP) — Acclaimed Spanish writer Antonio Munoz Molina said Sunday he would accept a prestigious Israeli literary award despite calls from pro-Palestinian activists to boycott the Jewish state.
Molina said that he did not believe he was an "accomplice" in Israel's policies toward Palestinians for accepting the Jerusalem Prize, an award given every two years to authors who dwell on themes of human freedom in society.
"I have absolute respect for Israel and people in Israel who are critical of their own country," said Molina. "It doesn't mean I have become an accomplice of anything horrible that happens in this country."
International artists often come under pressure by pro-Palestinian activists not to come to Israel or accept prizes, arguing that the country should be censured for its military rule over Palestinians.
Molina, whose prose was shaped by a working class upbringing in a provincial village under the rule of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, has resided in New York City for much of the past 13 years. He said he was honored to receive the award.
"The worth of a prize depends on the people who have received it before you," Molina told reporters. "I would like to be as good as many of them."
Molina, 57, said he felt an affinity for Israel, saying the country was often misunderstood like his homeland Spain. He also described his politics as reflective of those of award-winning Israeli author David Grossman, who frequently criticizes Israeli policies and its occupation of the West Bank, which began in 1967.
The Spanish writer said he had never visited areas where Israel maintains military control over Palestinians. He said he wouldn't have time on his four-day trip, but he intended to visit them in the future. "It's unfinished business," Molina said.
Molina said that he had come under pressure not to accept the prize, but that as far as he knew no Palestinians had tried to contact him.
The Spanish writer has three books translated into English: "Sepharad," ''In Her Absence" and "A Manuscript of Ashes." His latest novel, "Noche de los Tiempos" is currently being translated into English.