Toni Morrison, the Nobel-winning author who has accused Israel of perpetrating genocidal policies, is to be awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Morrison is one of 13 recipients of the prize this year, alongside Israeli President Shimon Peres and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
In 2006 Morrison and 17 other writers signed a letter stating that, Israel’s aim “is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.”
The letter denounced public “outrage” over Hamas’s kidnapping of Gilad Shalit while there were “approximately 10,000 [Palestinians] in Israeli jails.”
“That this ‘kidnapping’ was considered an outrage, whereas the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the systematic appropriation of its natural resources—most particularly that of water—by the Israeli Defense (!) Forces is considered a regrettable but realistic fact of life, is typical of the double standards repeatedly employed by the West in face of what has befallen the Palestinians, on the land allotted to them by international agreements, during the last 70 years,” the letter alleged.
The Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals "who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the Unites States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours," according to the White House.
President Obama said, "These extraordinary honourees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our nation."
"They've challenged us, they've inspired us, and they've made the world a better place. I look forward to recognising them with this award," the president added.
The White House called Morrison one of America's "most celebrated novelists." She was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993.